Famous In Bristol, Me

Oct 23 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: The Spark Magazine

I'm in the current edition of The Spark Magazine!!! AAAAAAAANNNNNNNNDDDDDD.... I've been on Made In Bristol TV!!!

Holly in Print

The Spark Magazine is Bristol's finest alternative listings paper and it's back in print after a three-year lull. The article, titled "You're having A Laugh!" is about the benefits of clowning and laughter yoga for health and well being. Hannah Vickers interviewed both laughter yoga guru, Joe Hoare and me to get our unique takes on the subject.

Joe Hoare runs a laughter club in Bristol, which I thoroughly recommend. In the article, he explains how regular bouts of laughter can improve wellbeing; "The overriding benefit is the quality of life - a life that is more mindful, more resilient, more connected, 'lighter' and more enjoyable."

My published thoughts were taken from the following full interview, explaining why I do what I do and how I think it might be useful to others:

  • What are the benefits of clowning (for the clown and the audience)

Clowns thrive on connection. They offer an audacious quality of connection that disregards the 4th wall of kitchen sink theatre and reaches directly into the audiences eyes. Through this connection, clowns share everything they’re feeling, moment to moment, allowing audiences access to their own feelings in response.

Through fully inhabiting their reality, clowns invite the world around them to spend time without the socially appropriate masks they’ve learned to wear. Like toddlers, clowns feel what they feel intensely, but are likely to feel something else in a matter of seconds. Clowns and clowning can teach us not to be afraid of feeling what we feel and to find a lighter, more playful relationship with our emotions.

  • Why is it important to be able to laugh in the modern world?

You’ve GOT to laugh! No really! Mirthful shared laughter diffuses tension, draws us closer to each other and encourages empathy, joy, pleasure and fun; all the essential ingredients of a happy life. Being able to find the mirthful viewpoint is the closest thing there is to freedom in my book.

  • What do you love about clowning? Why do you want to pass the skill on?

I love clowning because it encourages people to explore being seen in their authenticity. This has been an incredibly important part of my own journey, my clown has really helped me learn to take my space in the world.

Through my teaching, I love watching the process of people finding the ground beneath their feet, finding their breath in their bellies and finding their moment to take off their masks and allow their weirdness, pleasure and vulnerability to be seen and celebrated. 

To me, all people are incredibly beautiful and to have the skills to be able to hold the space which allows people to see the beauty in each other and in themselves is an incredible honour.

  • What can new clowns expect from the class? What responses have you had from participants?

Introduction To Clowning is a weekend course I’ve been developing for the last 10 years. It draws on my 20 year history as a performer and director in circus, theatre and on the streets as well as bringing in aspects of my dramatherapy masters dissertation research; ’Clown-o-therapy.’ 

The weekend starts by gently leading the group into the state of clown through mindful movement, voice play, group games and self-reflection. Together, we dissolve the blocks to playfulness and build confidence to be seen. On the second day, we explore rhythm and discover how to use rhythm and connection to keep an audience laughing.

Introduction To Clowning serves as a foundation to all my other training. If you like what you experience, then you can come back for my summer schools or weekly courses. I’ve taught people from every walk of life, from plumbers to politicians, age 18-80, whoever’s called to do this work, I’ve got something for you!

Here’s some feedback from the last intro to clown weekend:

“I enjoyed it all. Nicely packed out with lots of space / room to experiment with new ideas, games, tools as well as reflections.”

“I will definitely take the mindset to consider yourself and the new level of comfort I feel with being vulnerable with me. Along with a renewed sense of freedom that allowing myself to play brought along.”

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: The Crunch

Holly On The Telly

In other news, I was recently invited to go on The Crunch, a magazine internet TV programme dedicated to all things Bristol. They were interested to hear about what I do with my days and they wanted me to teach them how to be clowns. All in the space of 4 minutes. 

I said yes and then immediately remembered that I'm terrified of being on the telly. The thought of something of me that I have very little control over, existing Out There forever, fills me with dread. After lengthy Facebook discussions on what I should wear and an extended crisis meeting with my inner cast (We all agreed that Healthy Me would handle it, with the help of my Inner Academic and my Playful Hostess.) I was ready. 

Sweating in the waiting room, watching the women I'd just been nervously chatting with, mutually calming each other down, now on the telly in the corner, I wondered whether I'd be sick live on air.

I heard my name being called. 

The living room sized studio had 2 fixed cameras, with no-one operating them, it was just the presenters and me. She repaired her make up, using a secret lipstick stowed under the coffee table, while he asked a few questions, letting me know he might be interested in the things I had to say. They agreed that he would lead on this. Deep breath, 3,2,1 rolling.

It was over in a flash. 

Watching it back, it seems alright. I said some things, did a little clown workshop, gave them the footage they wanted for their 'best of' montage. 

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: The Crunch

I am learning to be seen

You can see the Crunch TV interview here I'm on at around 1 hour 10 mins.

If you live in Bristol, pick up your free copy of The Spark Magazine from alternative shops and cafes.

You can find out about Joe Hoare's Laughter Club here.

There are still a few places on my autumn Introduction To Clowning workshops. Find out about them here.

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