This week, Fiona Ferrier and I went to the Healthcare Clowning International Meeting in Vienna. Here are my initial thoughts. For sure to be mulled over some more and expanded on at a later date, after a nap.
1. Organising one of these conferences must be a mammoth and daunting task. Red Noses Clowndoctors International/Austria did an amazing job and I thank them wholeheartedly.
2. I've not done a statistical analysis, but I felt that in general women were more equally represented across the board, the programme was packed and the quality of the workshops offered was fantastic.
3. Vienna is very clean.
4. Meeting Healthcare Clowns from around the world is hugely inspiring and exciting. I fell in love about 5 times a day. I am bowled over and full of gratitude for the support and well wishes I received, and for the friends I have made from around the world.
5. The artistic interventions at this conference were totally excellent and perfectly pitched. I was laughing for about 80% of the three days I was in Vienna. For the other 20% I was involved in deeply serious conversation...
6. Vienna is bad for Vegans and good for palaces.
7. I wonder! Can we be more creative in the way that we actually conduct the content of these meetings? It is nice to feel inspired and to have the chance to celebrate about best practices, but I'd like to invite and generate discussion that includes ALL the voices present so that the conversation can move forward. I crave the chance to really dig-in and deepen my understanding and interest ('Networking lunches' don't count. They need to be planned in advance - if you don't know anybody when you arrive, how can you know who you want to speak to or what about? It can easily become a club of those in the knows generating the debate and conversation. Hashtag echochamber). There are creative & responsive ways of running panels to make sure that people who have travelled at huge expense across the world, or who have valuable input to offer that doesn't fit the bill for an Abstract submission can contribute in a meaningful way to the debate. Break-out sessions from Panel discussions, for example. Or The Open Space model. This gives space, time and value to all who contribute. We talk about being inclusive, but I think we need to work harder to make sure that we really are. Have the courage to be responsive to who is in the room, ask the difficult questions and really listen to the answers.
8. While of course it is nice to feel like we are all doing the right thing, for me these conferences represent more than an opportunity to connect with what we do well. I am really interested in hearing about our failures. I'd like us to move more confidently towards difficult conversations and debate. Does our tendency to avoid this 'conflict' belie a lack of confidence? We are a strong profession - let's jump in and see what comes up!
9. FOMO is real.
10. Being an Artistic Director DOES NOT make you magically good at Directions. That Fiona didn't throw me in the river the third time we arrived at it by accident is a testament to her great patience and good humour.
I have come home with new friends, new tools, much food for thought, and a new appreciation for Scottish cuisine ;)
Thank you again especially to Monica Culen, Giora Seeliger, Edith Heller & Martin Kotal!
I am a therapeutic clown and performer. Writing here is part of my wider practice and reflection on clowning as an (therapeutic) art form.