As at ONV, the clowns give 2 months notice for 2 months of work. Continuity of partnerships and hospitals is ideal, but not always possible as many of the clowns are involved with other activities outside of the organisation. And it being France, as artists they are well supported by the state on the days they are not employed by Le Rire Medécin.
They can also put 'Clown' as their profession on their I.D cards and no-one bats an eyelid. Oh France!
They also run a hospital clown school. It is not a direct route into work with the company, but does totally prepare individuals to take the work out to hospitals on their own if they so wish. Le Rire Medécin do take on a percentage of new recruits from the course, but it's main focus is to maintain a high artistic quality of hospital clowning in France in general. It is a full time course, 19 weeks long, 665 hours of training in total...
The clowns on the team meet once a month for training and a catch-up, and have coaches who support them artistically. They don't have a formal emotional hygiene session, but instead, are each allocated a 'guardian angel' (another experienced clown on the team who wants to take on this role) who they meet with twice a year, and who is available to them whenever they need to talk about the emotional content of the work.
The whole operation feels huge and I have to keep reminding myself how small Scotland is - that in many ways we are not comparing like with like. Paris alone has 21 services and 48 clowns working in them.
In my 2 days in Paris, I got to see 2 of them, Le Hôpital jean-Verdier and Hôpital Trousseau and 4 wonderful clowns: Lory Leshin is an extremely experienced clown, has worked with the company for years, teaches, directs, and is co-creator of the companies coaching programme (more on this later). Patrick Dordoigne has also been with the company for many years, and outside of this work is Artistic Director of Adhok street theatre company. Selena McMahon is the President of Clowns without Borders USA, and Marie-Elisabeth Cornet used to perform with Cirque du Soleil (and trained at the École Philippe Gualier with Magdalena all those years ago!) Paris is at the centre of the explosion of Theatre Clowning across Europe, and I can't help but be impressed by the breadth of experience Le Rire Medécin has at it's fingertips.
First up - I observed Lory and Patrick or Tata Jeep & Broccoli at Le Hôpital jean-Verdier in Bondy. But now I have to get on a plane to Barcelona, so more on that tomorrow!