2022 Round Up

Dec 12 2022

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Luci Edwards / Holly holding a chicken and laughing in a floral 50's swing dress

2022 has been a year of big change! I supported a couple of bus-loads of artists, facilitators and therapists, developed three new courses, finished my training as an arts therapies clinical supervisor and moved to the country to live and work at a meditation retreat centre!

Read on for an overview of my year.

New Year Meditation Retreat

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly Stoppit / candles, photos and flower petals scattered on the carpet

2022 began dowsed in candle-light, sitting on my meditation cushion in my Bristol home, alongside an assortment of meditators beaming in from all over the world to Martin Aylward’s New Year meditation retreat. Martin’s clear and kind holding allowed me to safely sit with my grief, exploring letting go through letting be. I wrote a blog sharing some of the practices we explored together called Letting Go, Letting Be

Artists Retreat At Hawkwood

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Dominique Fester / Holly lying face down in the mud at Hawkwood

I was ridiculously lucky to start my working year with an artists’ residency at Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking, near stroud. I took along two generous collaborators and together we jumped into a week of creative investigations exploring how nature meets the body and how the body meets the page. Our big challenge was to keep a sense of spaciousness and softness in our process. My blog, Start Close In - An Artists Retreat at Hawkwood, captures our process.

Creative Consultancy

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Beccy Golding / Holly with book and pen, ready to start a Creative Consultancy in a round house

Feeling well-nourished and energised from my two New Year retreats, I launched back into offering one-to-one and group Creative Consultancies to a variety of performers, facilitators and therapists, both online and in person. 

This year, I supported 24 individuals and designed bespoke workshops for students at Bristol Uni, members of Apus Theatre Company in Hull, the Clown Doctors in Norwich, members of Taking Flight Theatre Company in Cardiff and Performers Without Borders South Africa (online). It was a joy and privilege to hold space for all these people to explore, discover, remember and evolve.

Inner Voice Outer Voice

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly Stoppit / participants in another round house, exploring text and movement with the strap line: "a crash course in keeping it real"

The Creative Consultancies drew out a new strand in my work; three different artists came to me, asking for support with bringing their authentic voices onto the stage. In response I developed a new in-person workshop, which went through a few iterations, before becoming known as, ‘Inner Voice, Outer Voice’. It offered playful, body-based, audience-connected approaches to improvising authentic, free-flowing text. I enjoyed teaching this workshop so much, I decided to run it again for two groups of bold explorers. Here’s how some of them described it:

“An invitation to express yourself more fully and inclusive of all parts of you. Challenging in a gentle manner. Taking off the layers of shame and guilt throughout the workshop whilst making space for love and kindness.”

“a deep and playful exploration of being seen and heard”

“Like being put in a beautiful, nurturing and strong blender, whizzed up and allowed to settle.”

Inspired by the conversations that took place on the ‘Inner Voice, Outer Voice,’ course, I wrote a blog exploring the pros and cons of telling your story in the public realm: Public Shedding: Do It, Don’t Do It.

Mindful Play Online 

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly Stoppit / 'How to Play' poem in bubbles on a background of crocuses

It was a pleasure to run my Mindful Play Inquiry course again. A wonderfully adventurous group of international play enthusiasts gathered online once a week to explore their relationship with play through meditation, play and reflection. Here’s what some of the participants said about the course:

“Inspiring and transformative”

“THANK YOU your warm, generous playful spirit was a delight to dip in to weekly.”

“It worked amazingly well over zoom. In fact the best zoom event I have experienced. The connection and play was raw authentic and real.”

To capture the essence of Mindful Play, I published a poem on my blog, made from the group’s thoughts on play, harvested from the Zoom chat box during session two: Why Play? Why Stop? Play More!

In-person Fooling Courses

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Aisha Ali / Beccy Golding grinning and waving in a tree

Over Easter this year, in a quest to find more sustainability in my teaching practice, I piloted a new 3-day Introduction To Fooling course to potentially take the place of my 5-day course. Here’s how some of the participants described what happened to them in those 3 days:

“You are very gently steered into a space where you are allowed to be your genuine self. A safe space for you to play, where your inner world can be opened up, and where surprising discoveries are made. In the liminal space between performance and drama therapy, hidden aspects of Self are encouraged to have their voice through the outer expression of your inner masks.”

“i'm not quite sure what i was expecting, i didn't really know what fooling was, if i had known it was that i would probably have done it years ago”

“The workshop gave me a kickstart and some guideposts in my personal journey and working on my self-esteem issues. I want to carry on with this momentum.”

Easter 2022 also saw the birth of a new advanced 5-day Site-Specific Fooling course for returning students, where we explored how to allow our solo improvisation to be impacted by its surroundings. Here are photos and poems capturing the week. 

Doing one 3-day and one 5-day course instead of two back-to-back 5 day courses was a radical decision and I’m glad I tried it. It definitely felt more sustainable to have a lovely 4 day gap in between courses to rest and recharge. Who knew?


Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Max Cavallini in conversation with Holly Stoppit

This year I was asked to do an interview with Max Cavallini, an Italian clown and fool, living in the Netherlands. We discussed the place where the Clown meets the Fool. You can listen to that interview here.

I was also interviewed, alongside a wonderful assortment of clowning and fooling teachers  by Art-Clown Jamie Wood, for an article entitled ‘Joining The Dots’ in Total Theatre Magazine. You can read that article here. 

Creative Supervision Training

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Relight / Holly in massive polkadot dress and cardie with a cap on, offering an object to a fellow group member during an exercise

I completed my Creative Arts Therapy Supervision training with Relight in June. I found the training to be deliciously nourishing, inspiring and life affirming. For one weekend every month for a year, a collective of dramatherapists and dance movement psychotherapists gathered together in a beautiful space in a Bristol park to learn how to support arts therapists and facilitators to be safe and healthy in their practice. We learned experientially, through play, embodiment, artwork and interacting with objects, before reflecting on our experiences on the page and in discussion with each other. 

I loved the spacious, slow, tender pace of the course. I loved having explicit permission to read loads of theory on therapy and supervision. I loved getting to practise my new skills on two wonderful, willing guinea pigs, both facilitators who use clowning in their practice and I loved working with a kind and astute supervisor called Bruce to support this work.

The course culminated in a 20 minute presentation and an essay about my discoveries, which left me both academically and personally pummelled and stretched! I learned heaps about my practice and my relationship with work; with so many pairs of compassionate eyes on me, it was impossible not to! 

I’m unendingly grateful to the group, to the course facilitators, Rosie Strain and Linsey Clark, to the guest teachers and to my two supervisors, Bruce Guthrie and Tone Horwood for an incredible, transformative year.

Moving To A Meditation Retreat Centre in Devon

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Amerie Rose / Holly in a massive black and white polkadot dress on the lawn in the sunshine outside The Barn retreat centre

At the beginning of July I made a radical life-change and moved from the vibrant city of Bristol which has been my home for 22 years to the rolling green hills of Devon. I took up the role of volunteer coordinator at The Barn Meditation Retreat centre.

I’d been sitting with the idea of moving to Devon for a year, but the decision to apply for the role was made over the course of one evening, straight after Martin Aylward’s New Year retreat. My grief had told me loudly and clearly that it needed simplicity, nature and community, so I started googling ‘Devon communities’ to see where I could put myself. Then, out of the blue, I received a text from Nina, a retreat facilitator I had met last summer, who told me that The Barn was looking for a new coordinator. I applied that night.

I had an interview via Zoom, then in March, I travelled down to Devon on a reckie to find out if this was a crazy idea or a stroke of genius. My gut told me it was the right thing to do. I wrote a blog about this journey, “Don’t resist grief, she has much to teach you.”

Returning to Bristol, I started tying up all my loose ends: I made my big announcement, brought all my consultancies to an end, gave away loads of my stuff and moved what remained into a storage unit. I cleaned my house from top to bottom (with a lot of help from my friends) and handed the keys back to my landlord, before heading off for the hills. Here’s a blog about the transition.

Blogging My Barn Journey

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly Stoppit / Sunrise over Sharpham

Since being here in Devon, I’ve been blogging once a month, sharing a taste of my experience. In August I offered a day-in-the life of a retreat coordinator, which ended in a description of a ritual I performed to mark the one-year anniversary of my partner leaving: Dancing With A Bull On My Deathaversary

In September and October, I became interested in the role of storytelling as a way of creating connection and how storytelling can trap us into old versions of ourselves. I experimented with not telling my personal story to the retreatants and blogged about my discoveries. In the first of these two blogs, Who Am I Without My Stories? I explored the types of stories I often find myself telling and mused on why I tell those stories and how it would be to not tell them at all. In the second of these blogs, Who Wants Me To Tell My Stories? I explored the inner parts or voices that had a vested interest in having me tell those stories and pondered on how storytelling may have trapped me in a myth called Holly Stoppit. 

In November, I wrote a blog called Grief Rituals, detailing how creativity, nature and embodiment have been supporting me to process the grief of child loss. This blog contains a series of invitations for simple rituals for anyone who is living with any type of grief.

What Next?

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly Stoppit / today's view across the valley

Who knows! I’ll be here in Devon until the end of May and will continue to blog my journey as it unfolds. Thanks for following my journey. If you’d like to be kept updated, swing by my blog again or sign up to my mailing list at the bottom of this page for monthly newsletters into your inbox.

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