When are you going to bring back Intro to Clown?

Apr 24 2024

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Photo: Participant Tom, dressed as a banana, pouring custard over his head, during a clown showcase on my 10 week Clown To Performance course in the olden days / by Paul Blakemore.

This blog charts the story of my Introduction To Clowning course, from it's circus beginnings, through it's therapeutic development, to it's rising success, to it's online version, to it's resting phase and finally to it's rebirth as The Mindful Play Weekend!

Q.) When are you going to bring back your Introduction to Clowning weekend?

Hey, nice of you to ask. I remember facilitating my first ever version of ‘Introduction To Clowning’ back in 2007, when I was a director, collaborating with The Invisible Circus on their ridiculously-ambitious, site-specific, circus-theatre extravaganza, Carnyville. 

The Introduction To Clowning workshop went through a number of iterations before I began studying for an MA in dramatherapy in 2010. Of course, clowning worked its way into my study! My final dissertation was a collective case study, exploring the therapeutic benefits of clown skills training for people with mental health issues (Clown-o-therapy).

Intro To Clown then found its true form as a jam-packed weekend workshop, combining meditation, movement, explorations of the states of play, flow and connection, explorations around seeing and being seen, playing with rhythm, objects, hats, noses, breath, following impulses and audience contact.

People travelled from far and wide to discover the way of the clown and by 2019, my workshops were generally three times oversubscribed. 

Then covid hit. 

Q.) Did Covid stop play?

No way! Before the first lockdown, fellow clown teacher, Robyn Hambrook, and I had formed The Online Clown Academy, offering a series of free ‘Clown Workouts’- mini clown workshops for clowns in isolation. We set up a facebook group, where people shared photos and videos of themselves doing stupid things, which led to the creation of our Zoom Clown workshops, where clowns from around the world could connect and play together. We went on to organise two online clown conferences exploring the personal and political applications of clowning: ‘Clowns In Crisis’ and ‘Clowning Out Of Chaos’.

As the restrictions eased, we returned back to the world, Robyn following her passion for Clown Activism and I, well I had some (well documented) “personal shit” to deal with. 

Q.) But did you come back to teaching your Introduction To Clowning Weekend?

Well no, grief and burnout drove me to my edge and from summer 2022 - summer 2023, I decided to take a break from teaching and went off to live and volunteer at The Barn meditation retreat centre in Devon. That year had a profound impact on me, leaving me with a desire to slow down and leave more space for The Unknown in my life and in my work.  

To ease my way back into work, I trained in Internal Family Systems (IFS), which equipped me with a wonderful new shiny toolkit to help people explore their inner worlds (If you’d like to know about what IFS is, or how I’ve been integrating it into my work, check out this blog).

Q.) Then did you come back to teaching your Introduction To Clowning Weekend?

Well no, after a year in Devon, I couldn’t imagine teaching at the pelt required to get through all the content I used to cram into my Intro To Clown Weekend. So I focussed instead on creating new courses (Creative Clarity, Creative Clarity Online and Creative Resourcing) and re-opened my online Creative Clinic for all kinds of people all over the world to explore themselves and their creativity. 

This body of work has allowed me to offer slower, deeper, more spacious experiences to participants, which has felt deeply satisfying and more sustainable than my old way of working!

Q.) OK great, so now you’re going to come back to teaching your Introduction To Clowning Weekend?

Well no, but my love of play never diminished! My clown is never far away; she popped up relentlessly during that year at The Barn, dancing wildly in the woods, turning the weekly washing up demo into a performance and wearing fancy dress and belting out 80’s classics on her ukulele at the Friday night bonfire. 

Since leaving The Barn, I’ve been exploring ways to bring my love of play together with Internal Family Systems. This is where my heart is now. You can read about some of those discoveries here

The Introduction To Clowning Weekend feels too full and frantic for me right now. My brand new Mindful Play Weekends will be an opportunity for me to come back to the playful side of my work, whilst allowing space and depth for more self-discovery and integration for you and more sustainability for me! Win-win!

Q.) What is 'Mindful Play'?

Mindful Play is all the good stuff from my clowning methodology, but without the performance training aspect. During each weekend course, there'll be opportunities to:

1f970.pngBe in a beautifully guided and well-held space where you'll get to explore and improve your relationship with play and connection.

1f979.png Move, rest, think, feel, talk, listen, witness and be seen.

1f978.png Play in a variety of ways - eg move, embody, dance, make sounds, make art, write and play with objects. Everything is optional and adaptable and you can’t get it wrong.

263a.pngExplore meditation and its impact on your relationship with play; discovering ways to bring curiosity and compassion to your body, heart and mind, bringing more permission to play your way.

1f929.pngReflect on yourself as a playful being, through structured dialogue and creative inquiry. You’ll gain a sense of what stops you playing, define strategies to help you move through blocks to play in the future and develop more of an understanding about the conditions that support you to live a playful life.

Q.) Hmm, sounds interesting, but I heard that The Introduction To Clowning Weekend was a gateway to the rest of your courses!

Yes, you’re right, it used to be - people needed to have completed the weekend before moving onto any of my 5-day intensives (Deep Clown, Fooling, Comic Storytelling, etc). But The Mindful Play Weekend will take the place of the Intro To Clown and will open up access to my 5-day courses from hereon in.

Q.) Oh OK, but do I need to have done something before I can sign up?

No! The Mindful Play weekends are open to everyone over the age of 18.

Q.) Really?

Yes really! Come! You’re welcome!

The Mindful Play Weekends will take place in Bristol in May, June and July 2024

• Play (May 18th and 19th)

• Flow (June 22nd and 23rd)

• Spontaneity (July 20th and 21st)

You can book for one, two or all three weekends!

More info and bookings here.

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