What Happened at The Clowns in Crisis Conference?

Dec 03 2020

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Original image by Jeremy Fennel / Clown: lara_bell_millinery / Graphics: Robyn Hambrook

This account was originally written by Bee Golding, Holly Stoppit Workshops' Radministrator and Poet in Residence, as part of our December newsletter. I have edited it a little for this context (all spelling and grammatical mistakes will undoubtedly be mine!).

We're so proud of what we achieved on the weekend of November 6th, 7th and 8th - it was an amazing adventure into producing our first ever online conference, hosted by Holly Stoppit and Robyn Hambrook as The Online Clown Academy, supported by Holly's Radministrator Bee Golding. 

We received a deluge of advance media coverage, which was rather thrilling, including Holly's debut appearance on This Morning - the flagship breakfast show on one of the UK's big 4 TV channels - where she gave an up-for-it presenter a mini glimpse into what happens at Clown School. Sadly that footage only stays online for a few days, but you can read about the rest of the media frenzy here.

We got some great feedback from the attendees, which will be peppered throughout this blog. Let's start with a couple of beautiful nuggets:

I was impressed by how you use Zoom to connect people from all over the world.”

Thanks for doing great stuff and being inspiring people that remind people to 'wake up' in such a joyful way. Play reminds me there's a world beyond governmental bullshit and the trappings of adulthood, so I appreciate what you lot offer in terms of that.”

Overall I just want to say thank you for putting this on and I really appreciate all your work on the zoom to make us feel welcome. You all have really lovely energies and could really feel the warmth from the whole team.”

I have more of an idea of what clowning can look like”

Holly and Robyn's workshops

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Photographer: Joe Rosser / Clown: Holly Stoppit / Graphics: Robyn Hambrook
Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Photographer: Robyn Hambrook / Clowns: The Bristol Rebel Clowns / Graphics: Robyn Hambrook

Holly and Robyn presented two brand new 2 ½ hour workshops: Holly created and delivered 'What Can Your Clown Do For You?' a workshop exploring the personal benefits of clowning and Robyn collaborated with Hilary Ramsden and Sabine Choucair to offer 'What Can Your Clown Do For The World?' a workshop exploring the political applications of clowning. Both workshops sold out well in advance (we're looking at ways we can feed that interest in the future) and we were delighted at the levels of participation and engagement of those that attended.

What participants said about Holly's workshop:

I saw how easy it is to play with your emotions and how to take clowning one step further. I want more of this!”

What participants said about Robyn, Sabine and Hilary's workshop:

Facilitation was fantastic, it worked so well between the three of you”

My wife said: Listening to you in there was like hearing the neighbours have really loud sex, when you think "OMG, I don´t want to know this" while at the same time you are really happy for them.”

[What I got from this workshop was] The power of humour to disarm, subvert expectations and potentially make audiences (and authorities) reassess their beliefs and actions”

Personal & Political Clown Cabaret 

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Photographer: Paul Blakemore / Clowns: Holly Stoppit's Clown Performance students / Graphics: Robyn Hambrook

Hat's off and woop-de-doo to our clown performers at Friday night's Clown Cabaret! These were international students of our 6-week Zoom Clown level 3 course - all playing with their ideas on personal & political clowning. 

Robyn has amazingly edited the whole show down to an fabulous 11 minute highlight reel - so those who missed it can have a gander, and those who were there can relive their favourite moments!

You can read about the course and watch the highlights of the show here.

What audience members said about the show:

Hilarious or captivating throughout.”

“I really enjoyed the clown who did the piece about "Nothing." It was poetic, funny, and very meaningful. [another clown's] use of the close up was an intimate moment, [another clown's] emotional/political piece was funny and angry at the same time. I thought transitions were seamless, and the pace of the show was good.The pre-show polls were a lot of fun, and a great way to connect to the audience you couldn't see. I think you did a really wonderful job with using the technology in a way that connected the audience, and gave the clowns a chance to share together, and be a support to one another. It was obvious to me the thoughtfulness, care, and planning that went into this event. I loved it.”

Variety of clown acts. Emotional and moving, simple and lovely play. I loved how everyone had created a playful space.”

It distracted from the world for a while, it was a nice way to spend a Friday evening when we aren't allowed to play outside.”

Clowns in Crisis Panel Discussion

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Photographer: Joe Rosser / Clown: Holly Stoppit / Graphics: Robyn Hambrook

More than 100 people signed up to attend the Saturday night panel discussion - it was a fascinating, wide ranging and generous discussion with Holly chairing the panel of four articulate, thoughtful and funny female clowns. Massive thanks, once again to our panel Rachel Caine, Faith Tingle, Hilary Ramsden and Sabine Choucair.

More info on the panellists and a recording of the Clowns In Crisis discussion here.

I have a better feeling for what is possible as a clown, how to play in a political spaces with others and what an amazing contribution clowning has and can make to people's lives and to the world in general.” - listener response

Clown in Crisis Conference Open Space

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Photographer: Robyn Hambrook / Clowns: The Bristol Rebel Clowns / Graphics: Robyn Hambrook

Sunday's Open Space was a chance for an international group of clowns and clown enthusiasts to come together and discuss what was relevant to them personally and professionally, on the theme of clowns in crisis. Our breakout room format allowed people to come and go depending on what inspired them, and we even catered for the random conversations that happen at events like these - with foyer and cafe spaces, and even a meeting point behind the potted plants in the corner, for the socially-awkward clowns. 

Read more about the Open Space concept, what was discussed, and peruse notes from attendees here.

Here's what the participants said about the Open Space event:

The Open Space discussions were brilliant, connecting with others, sharing stories and listening to some amazing souls.”

[I benefitted by] being connected to other clowns all over the world; being together in this crisis”

You did a great job, also technically; it was as if it went very naturally, which always means there was a LOT of work behind the scenes !!!”

A Big Thank You

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Your Clowns In Crisis team, Bee Golding, Holly Stoppit and Robyn Hambrook

Most of all we are sending our thanks to every single one of you that attended - some came to just one session, some were with us for the whole weekend - in all there were more than 225 of you! Thank you for joining us, and considering how clowning can help each other, and the world, in these crazy times.  

We're still keen to hear your feedback – feedback form here.  We made this event happen without any funding because we felt the need to create a space for  connection between clowns all over the world in this most bizarre of times. If you are in a position to support us financially, we are still welcoming donations via paypal here. Thank you.

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