Holly's on the BBC!

Feb 25 2019

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: "...and now for the news!"

I'm on the telly! Saying stuff and doing clowning! On the telly!

A few weeks ago, I was approached by BBC journalist, Caroline LeMarechal. She'd read my interview in The Guardian and was interested in making a short film about me and my work. Well, if you've ever done any clowning, you'll know, a clown simply can't resist an offer of a game...

One week later, I arrived at BBC Bristol with a bag of clown tat and a carefully curated look-I-know-what-I'm doing outfit in red, ready to play the game of making a film. Nobody told me we'd be filming against a red wall!

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Look! I know what I'm doing!

Caroline and I had chatted on the phone and brainstormed a loose storyboard to keep us on track. The plan was for her to interview me as myself and then I'd change into my clown, to generate some visual footage to back up my points.

I warned Caroline that my clown is not 100% within my control, that I'd try my best to get her the footage she's asking for, but I couldn't promise my clown would do exactly what she's told.

The interview went well, largely thanks to my boyfriend, Joe, who'd offered to ask me the interview questions non-stop the night before, fun night for Joe! I'm not used to the pithy, soundbite pace of TV and needed a lot of practice to boil my complex theory down to its essence. Joe could probably do my part of the interview standing on his head, the amount of times he heard it.

We finished the interview and headed to the studio to film the clown bits.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Caroline filming me as my clown

Caroline set up the camera while I got changed into my favourite outfit from the Museum Clown Residency, the classic frilly dress and flying hat combo that my 6 year old self would have chosen for me. 

Before I put my red nose on, Caroline went over the shots she was looking for, starting with a very simple request, "Please could you stand still and look at the camera for 10 seconds?"

"Not a problem", I told her, turning around to put my clown nose on and enter into the state of clown. 

Now, this was the first time my clown has met a camera in a TV studio. She felt a bit shy at first and it took her some time to turn around, but when she did, she was immediately drawn towards the camera. 

"Could you just stand on that spot and look into the camera?"

Aha! A play cue! Thought my clown. Which spot shall I stand on? This one? This one? This one?

"Can you just stand still and look into the camera?"

Aha! Another play cue! She wants me to play the game of standing still! Look how still I can stand! [bringing in so much body tension, I made myself wobble]


My clown stropped and humphed. I turned around and took off my red nose.

"Ah, I'm sorry, she's not very good at doing what she's told, I've spent my whole life freeing her up to feel, play and follow her own flow, I've created a bit of a monster, to be honest."

Caroline looked at her mentor, her mentor glanced back and in that swift moment, I swear I could hear their brains screaming distress signals at each other "IS SHE ACTUALLY A PROPER MAD PERSON? SHE'S TALKING ABOUT HER CLOWN LIKE SHE'S ANOTHER PERSON! WHAT HAVE WE DONE? HOW DO WE STOP ALL THIS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?"

To put them at their ease, I said, "Look, my clown is a bit like a toddler, you've got to speak gently to her and coax her with a game or she won't want to play." 

I laid some of my clown's familiar, colourful toys on the ground, hoping they'd help her feel at home and we tried again.

Caroline and her mentor were much softer with my clown and managed to draw out the footage they needed to make the film.

What, you wanna see it? Oh OK, click here and have a look if you must!

I'm chuffed with what we made, Caroline's editing has made me sound like I actually do know what I'm taking about and I think the clown footage does the job of illustrating the theory. 

I feel like I've learned / remembered something important about the value of safety in clowning. It's only when my clown feels safe that she can really play. It's up to me to cultivate the conditions, both in myself and in my play space. 

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