Three months has gone so fast, this all still feels brand new. Being asked about a hundred times a day 'how is it going' at the Healthcare Clowning conference this week ramped up my self-refection to frankly unhealthy levels! Someone even said to me that I was too young to be the Artistic Director of Hearts & Minds (I wonder if they would have said that if I was a man?) My response was, 'you think 75 is too young?? Yeah maybe I'm rushing things'. Guh!
I guess 'Artistic Director' has connotations of someone who has a huge amount of expertise and experience. And let's be honest, probably a man. But I think that we have to get away from this idea that to be in this kind of role we have to be the finished article - a great clown with a huge reputation, a teaching circuit and a methodology all of our own. In my mind, that way the perils of Ego and Power lie.
So I experimented with saying the following; 'wonderful! Everything is fantastic!' and 'I feel overwhelmed and under qualified' and 'good, i think?' These feel like honest answers, but they don't do me or Hearts & Minds justice. The truth is that putting it into words is difficult and always inaccurate. I am still navigating, feeling, sensing my way through it. I feel as though I am riding a huge wave - when it feels right there is nothing better and nothing else, but when I loose my footing the stakes are high and the responsibility weighs heavy overhead. I have always had a strong sense of the path I am walking on when I call myself Clown. I know that path is long, I know I am just at the beginning. And I know I want to stay on it. So being given the title Artistic Director is uncomfortable for me. My biggest fear when taking on this job was that the Director part of the role would divert me away from my centre and my soul.
And the Director stuff is HUGE. We work with so many different groups of people, with different needs and priorities, it is endless.
In the last few months, I have had days or even the odd week when I have felt my delicate, sweet, precious practice hanging on by a thread. And so I have to take a breath and pause. Because it is my strong conviction that whatever my qualifications, the most valuable thing that I have to offer in this role is the fact that I am a clown, and more than that, a clown who is still learning. If I don't continue to work on the floor, and don't continue with my own clown practice, then there is absolutely no point in me being in the job. How can we expect our clowns to have a healthy and strong artistic practice if we don't have one ourselves? If they don't see me trying and failing and learning, how can I expect them to? How can we know what path is the right one, unless we have a strong physical connection to the work? If clowning is our form of creative expression, then how can we be expected to think creatively without our clown practice?
I am so lucky that my partner and CEO Michelle is fully supportive of me in this. I work one day in hospital per week, and carve out time each week to be in my studio - with no goal other than to practice. I met other Artistic Directors this week who don't have this support and I find it worrying. Practice is a hard won thing and easily lost. We have to insist on it and protect it. And of course use it when we are sat in front of our computers, planning, problem solving, supporting & researching.
I am a therapeutic clown and performer. Writing here is part of my wider practice and maybe some of my thoughts will trigger some thoughts of your own and I hope that helps.