Greetings from Holly Stoppit, Clown in Residence at Bristol Museum

Hello Clowns and friends of clowns! I’d like to share with you a little bit about my world and what I’m about to get up to inside Clowns: the Eggshibition at Bristol Museum.

If you didn’t already know, Bristol museum are currently hosting a large quantity of clown eggs from the clown egg register, along with costume pieces, archive film and photos and various clown paraphernalia. It’s great there! The eggs are all beautifully housed with their own tiny little spot lights and there’s loads of interactive stuff for kids to do.

Bristol Museum got in touch with me, as a local clown / teacher / academic to create a programme of live events to bring the exhibition to life.

But who exactly am I? (You might ask)

Well, thanks for asking. I’m originally from a circus family, I grew up on the road with Arts Play Umbrella. Our red, yellow and green canvas tent was called The Merryweather Marquee and we travelled around the UK, offering circus skills workshops and circus-theatre shows for families.

I left the circus in my early 20’s to focus on theatre and street-theatre clowning, training with clowning and improvisation teachers all over the world and performing with umpteen companies, including Nofit State Circus, Oily Cart, The Honk Project and Ramshacklicious, the company I co-founded with my brother, Jack.

In my early 30’s, curious to better understand the healing nature of creative process, I began training as a dramatherapist. I remember that thunderbolt moment – dressed as an elf in Bristol city centre, trying to cajole Christmas shoppers into singing Christmas Karaoke, I suddenly thought “what if one of my clients sees me like this?” So I stopped performing for 7 years.

To be honest, it was a relief to get off the stage. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always suffered with terrible stage fright and it was wonderful to put my focus into learning how to skilfully hold space for other people. But my clown wasn’t entirely down with the plan; she started turning up in my dramatherapy sessions, of course she did! What better way to connect with children with emotional / behavioural disorders, elders with dementia, adults with learning difficulties and / or mental health issues? So my final dissertation focussed on exploring the therapeutic benefits of clown skills training for adults with mental health issues and I’ve been using my research to teach clowning through a therapeutic process ever since.

Last year saw the end of my 7-year stage hiatus, when I decided to face down my stage fright by making three full-length Work-In-Progress solo shows in three months, entitled Stage Fright, Vulnerability and Connection. The process generated incredible amounts of research, insight and healing, which I blogged about incessantly! I found my way back to performing, but in an entirely new way; I now put connection at the heart of all my performance choices, which makes my clown softer, warmer and more able to go with the flow.

What will I be getting up to in my Clown Residency at Bristol Museum?

Each morning of my residency, I’ll perform an hour of improvised clowning, using the results of this survey: starting points. Feel free to pitch in your ideas! I’ll be using these sessions as performance research and writing up all my findings on my blog.

In the afternoons, I’ll be offering family play sessions and adult-only walking tours of the exhibition.

I’ll also be offering a one-off Laugher Yoga Session.

Come and play!

Holly’s website:

Clown In Residence dates and times:

Clown in Residence Facebook Event:

Info about Clowns: the Eggshibition:

Tickets for the Laughter Yoga Session:

Photos by Joe Rosser photography: