2023 Review

Dec 28 2023

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly with a pig-chef in Sidmouth, by Ben Murray

Welcome to my 2023 review, as I look back on a year of transition, exploration, not knowing and discovering. This was a year where I welcomed joy, learned to make less effort, completed my year of volunteering at The Barn, found my way back to facilitation, sweatily hatched plans in my dad’s attic in France, exploded out into a French street theatre festival, drifted around England and Wales looking for home, did an awful lot of experiential learning and training (including gaining my IFS level 1 certificate!), applied for several jobs (and didn’t get an interview!), birthed a new workshop, opened the doors for 20 fantastic online one-to-one clients, parachuted into a few places for some lovely guest teaching gigs, returned to Fooling and found a new home (for now)…

New Year Retreat

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Selfie in my room at Sharpham House

I woke up on January 1st 2023 in a huge king sized bed, in a massive ornate room, at the glorious Sharpham House, the big posh meditation retreat centre over the other side of the Devonshire estate from where I was living and volunteering. At that point I’d been at the smaller and more down-to-earth Barn Retreat Centre for six months, helping to deliver back-to-back 6-night meditation retreats with a wonderful team. Having just passed the half-way mark of my year at The Barn, I was well and truly in need of a rest!

Deep Play Retreat

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Deep Play Retreat at The Barn

The Sharpham House New Year retreat helped me fill up my joy reservoirs. They bubbled over into the first ever Deep Play Retreat at The Barn, where I’d invited a selection of playful friends to come and co-create a spontaneous emergent creative play retreat in the gap between meditation retreats. We danced, laughed, sang, wrote, dressed up, played games, ate food, talked big and roamed around the estate together. I wrote a blog about both retreats, called Opening To Joy.

Making Less Effort

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: No effort selfie in the first light of day, Torquay

As the buds and flowers began to peep their little heads out, wincing at the cold, Barn Life continued. Watching myself deliver the same 6-night retreat over and over again, I began noticing all the ways I habitually made more effort than necessary. I began to get curious as to why that might be and started experimenting with making less effort. I wrote two blogs about my findings, How To Make Less Effort and The Power Of Not Giving A Shit.

Coming Back To Facilitating

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Me facilitating the morning movement at The Barn, by Lindsay Alderton

Part of why I took a year out to live at the Barn was to explore my relationship with work and burn out. For the first half of my Barn year, I’d taken an intentional pause from any facilitation or teaching projects outside my Barn duties, to give myself a total break. But as 2023 unfolded, my inner facilitator began to jump up and down, demanding opportunities to do her thing.

I facilitated creative writing, mindful communication and nature inquiry workshops for the retreatants at The Barn, designed an Embodied Voice workshop for Sharpham teachers and coordinators at the staff training retreat and offered trainings in facilitation skills and The Clearness Committee for volunteers and staff at The Barn and The Coach House. It was great to have these opportunities to practice facilitating with less effort, within the steady container of retreat land.

Reviewing Barn Life

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: My brain all over a roll of wall paper, my dad's attic, eastern France.

In June, I finished my year at The Barn and set off for pastures new. I wrote a blog called Holly Has Left The Barn, as I hurtled my way through the French countryside on a train heading towards my dad and step mum’s place in the east of France.

I spent a month in their attic, in the sweltering heat of mid-summer, reading through all my Barn journals in the hope they would tell me what to do next. By the end of the month, it was clear that in order to figure out what to do, I needed to commit to a period of Not Knowing As A Lifestyle Choice. To support this, I picked through all the advice I’d received from the Dharma teachers at The Barn and wrote a blog called How To Stay In The Unknown.

Chaos In The Streets

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: One of five brass bands I saw at Chalon this year!

Having spent all that time in deep reflection, I was ready to be back amongst noise and colour and play and music and risk and randomness, so I took myself to Chalon Dans La Rue festival in eastern France, where all sorts of amazing theatre, puppetry, clowning, circus and music explodes through the streets of an ancient riverside town. I’d last been there 15 years ago when I was a singer in a comedy punk show band, but that’s another story.

Chalon 2023 highlights included: Los Galindos’ MDR: three clowns trying to murder each other in increasingly ridiculous ways, Usse Inne’s Boume! where a group of young dancers invited the audience to dance with simple offers and lots of eye contact, resulting in a huge sober rave / ceilidh in the town square, and Compagnie On OFF’s Le Chant De L’eau, where a group of women dressed in matching yellow two piece suits and bobbed wigs, blindfolded the audience and lovingly led us to deckchairs where we were bathed in beautiful four-part harmony singing. 

Searching For Home

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Me in a tree in Sidmouth, by Ben Murray.

After Chalon, I returned to the UK on a mission to find HOME. For six months, I roamed around the southwest of England and Wales, putting my body in various different places, hoping to get a sense of “YES! I LIVE HERE!” It was wonderful to have a chance to spend proper time with friends and family in a variety of environments, I am so privileged to have such an incredible support network, but a clear sense of “YES! YOU LIVE HERE!” never came. So I continued my commitment to Not Knowing, writing another blog titled How To Stay In The Unknown Part 2.

Learning and Exploring

During my many months of marauding, I have been learning and exploring all sorts of stuff, I have:

  • trained in Internal Family Systems (IFS) at The Penny Brohn centre with IFS UK.
  • attended an at-home writing retreat in Beccy Golding’s house and garden.
  • had an intensive week in Cornwall with a group of European fools under the tuition of our beloved Fool teacher, Franki Anderson.
  • sat with an amazing range of meditation teachers via Sangha Live online.
  • danced monthly at a punk yoga sober rave with Get Out Of Your Head, Get Into Your Body in Cardiff.
  • yoga’d my arse off with Cole Chance and Echo Geiser Widmer via youtube.
  • explored embodied learning and unlearning with Florence Peake and a bunch of philosophy professors from UWE at The Watershed, Bristol.
  • attended the British Association of Dramatherapists (Badth) Conference in Birmingham.
  • attended the Childless Collective Summit online.
  • been immersed in a meditation and insight dialogue retreat led by Jenny Wilks and Laura Bridgman Gaia House. 

I could write several blogs or even a series of books about all these experiences, but the fruit is evident in the work I’ve been developing…

The Gift Of Rejection

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Me looking dejected at The Wardrobe Theatre as part of a Beyond The Ridiculous show in the olden days. By Alex Tabrizi.

During my home-seeking, research phase, I realised that connection, collaboration, community and support was what I was really looking for and I began to wonder whether I might get these things from a job. I’ve been self-employed for most of my working life and have largely created my own projects. I wondered if having a job might be the key to living a more sustainable life, so I poured my heart and soul into applying to be an artist in residence, a university lecturer and a summer school teacher, but didn’t get an interview! It was an interesting process to go through, each rejection paradoxically brought me closer to what I really want. I wrote a blog called The Gift Of Rejection, outlining my shit-to-gold reflection process.

The Birth of Creative Clarity

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Creative Clarity For Crones day-long workshop in Bristol

As 2023 progressed, the direction in which I want to take my work has been getting clearer and clearer. I knew I wanted to return to facilitation, but with more sustainability and with a stronger focus on creative, embodied, therapeutic reflection rather than performance training or directing theatre. The name ‘Creative Clarity’ came to me back in July, during my Big Barn Review.

I began designing a new weekend workshop, bringing together meditation, play, creative reflection, IFS and The Clearness Committee (a form of group inquiry), to equip groups of people with the tools to support themselves and others through life’s dilemmas. 

The big dream was to travel around the UK, offering the Creative Clarity workshop to local communities. I would collaborate with local hosts who would hire a space and bring together a group of friends, peers or colleagues, then I’d turn up and facilitate the workshop. This would mean that whole communities could learn spacious, compassionate support structures that they could continue to use beyond my input to support each other, plus I could do less organising and admin, freeing up my time to do more of the work I love!

I put out a call-out for hosts and began chatting with several potentials, but for one reason or another, none of them came to fruition. So I went back to the drawing board and began creating a step-by-step comprehensive host-pack. I invited the brilliant Beccy Golding (who used to be my administrator) to road-test the host-pack, by hosting a one-day version of the workshop for her friends in Bristol, which we dubbed Creative Clarity For Crones. Here’s what the participants said about that workshop:

“A safe and comfortable space to explore whatever you want /choose to uncover. A mixture of fun, expressiveness, movement, conversation and reflection.”

“A chance to step away from the day to day and explore where you're at, using creative exercises, mindfulness and movement to look at things from different angles and find new perspectives.”

Beccy and I did a review of the host-process, tweaked the host-pack and brainstormed ideas for how to market the weekend workshop. I organised a weekend version of the workshop in Bristol in December, so that I could feel the shape of the workshop and invited photographer / videographer Simon Abel to capture the workshop with photos and footage. Here’s what the participants said about the workshop:

One to Ones

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Me at the nerve station during an online Beyond The Ridiculous show in 2020. Photo by Joe Rosser.

From October to December, I worked with 20 individuals online, offering Creative Clarity therapy, Supervision and Creative Consultancy. I had started to do this type of work during the pandemic and found a real delight in holding space for individuals to untangle knots and gain perspective. Back in 2021-22, I trained as a Creative Arts Clinical Supervisor with Relight, to add greater depth my one-to-one work. It felt mervellous to come back to it with a year of steady meditation practice, a new level of comfort with staying with The Unknown and shiny new IFS tools. Here’s what some of my clients said about our sessions:

"Holly listens with compassion…. She has a great tool box of skills and insights and I found working with her to be very supportive and beneficial. I feel that they have already helped me to make some shifts and changes and moving forward will continue to positively influence my decision making."

“I signed up for six sessions with Holly, during which she guided me through some creative blocks using IFS. It's always a joy and a privilege to work with Holly, and proof is in the pudding, I feel the blockages cleared and creative juju is flowing.”

Guest Facilitation

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: The stage is set for a fooling workshop in Stroud.

This autumn I was invited to offer a weekend fooling workshop for a group of fools in Stroud, a day of Clown-o-Therapy for students on the Arts Therapies Degree at City of Bristol College and an online authentic play session for Clown Spirit. I love guest teaching, I love dropping into existing groups, creating bespoke workshops to celebrate, shake up, smooth out and deepen group dynamics. I especially love discovering how IFS integrates into my existing tool kit…

Clown Congress

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Happy Clowns at the first of three Creative Clarity workshops at Clown Congress. By Jay Levroine.

The Clown Congress took place at The University of Bristol in October. For three days, 50+ clowns met to play and discuss the theme of identity in clowning. As well helping to hold the space and facilitate the Open Space sessions each day, I offered three Creative Clarity sessions. I wrote two blogs about what happened in these sessions: Playing with Not Knowing and Playing With Needs. I also wrote a blog about day one of the congress, describing workshops from Jeremy Linnell and Saskia Solomons, which is published over on Robyn Hambrook’s website, alongside descriptions of the rest of the Clown Congress, photos and poetry

Coming Home To Fooling

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Me standing on one leg on a rock, by Claire Dennis.

This year I have come back to Fooling (solo impro where I embody all the voices that live in my head) as a playful embodied process for understanding more about my inner parts. In May I had a beautiful studio day at Dartington with dear friend Jess Langton, who is studying there. We explored structure and freedom as supports for creative process, through movement, play, embodiment, writing and sharing. 

In July I fooled for my Barn family as part of my farewell extravaganza, showing them what the Barn had done for me through storytelling, dance and character play. In August while I was in France, I’d been reading about IFS in preparation for my study. Wanting to embody the learning, I spent chunks of time fooling in the forest all by myself.

In September, I spent a whole week fooling in Cornwall, with a group of Euro-fools, exploring where Fooling and mythology meets Compassionate Inquiry (the work of Gabor Mate). In October I fooled for my IFS course-mates, celebrating my body with song and dance and inviting them to celebrate theirs, as part of our end of course party. In November I had a day exploring how Fooling and IFS smash together with fellow Beyond The Ridiculous fools Chez Dunford and Dominique Fester AND I had another day of IFS/fool exploration with IFS therapist / fool, Sarah Burns. I’m excited about where this is all heading…

Finding Home (for now)

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: selfie on the sofa of my new house

At the beginning of December 2023, after five months on the road, I moved into a little house in Cardiff, round the corner from my mum’s house. It’s a just a 3-month sublet, but enough time to take a much needed pause from travelling and to feel into whether Cardiff could be my home town again…

What next?

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Me on top of the world by Sarah Smith

I’m loving facilitating and I’d like to continue to offer online and in-person services to a variety of interesting folks. I’d like my work to open up some fun adventures, taking me to fascinating places, with exploration time factored in.

I’m loving Creative Clarity and I’ll be offering an online weekly version in January and the whole Creative Clarity weekend workshop in Bristol and Cardiff in February. The host-pack and marketing tools are now ready and I’m looking for hosts to collaborate with to tour the weekend workshop through the year.

I’m loving the one-to-one work and I’m going to carry on with another term of 6-session / 3-session packages from January to April. I’m hoping to get a clear idea by Easter whether I want to keep offering these short term packages or commit to offering longer-term therapy slots later in the year…

I’ve got some lovely workshop collaborations coming together for the summer…

There’s definitely a fooling / IFS workshop brewing…

I’ve had a number of requests for The Well-Held Space facilitation training course. I’d really like to do that course again. I am currently figuring out where and when and how…

I’m loving the writing and I’ll keep on blogging and maybe this year I’ll get something published in an actual book…

I’d love to do more guest teaching / facilitation for universities, businesses, theatre companies, creative organisations, retreat centres and community groups. Get in touch if you'd like to connect or collaborate on a project.

Oh and just so everyone knows, I’d also like to have plenty of time outside of work to play, connect, create, learn, travel and rest.

Watch this space for more details or sign up to my mailing list below for monthly newsletters.

See you somewhere along the road this year!

Big love,

Holly x

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