We hospital clowns are putting clear distance between us and these people who are going around striking fear into children and adults while dressed up in distorted clown masks. We find it hard to put into words the disgust we feel over events where the sole purpose has been to behave threateningly towards innocent people.
They have kidnapped and twisted a comical, lovable figure into an abominable mask of horror. The clown has a history as a friend to children who spreads happiness. As such it is particularly cynical and malicious to try to associate clown masks with evil acts.
In hospital you encounter a lot of worry and fear. Our professional clowns work perceptively in improvised meetings where kids and their families get to control what happens.
It can be a very happy and uplifting thing, but also an encounter where the kids get to feel strong and validated for a while at a time where they are at their weakest and most vulnerable.
Glädjeverkstan’s clown medicine (clownmedicin) has since 1998 taken charge of hospital clown work at Astrid Lindgren’s Children’s Hospital in Stockholm.
We work together with hospital staff at the SABH department, which cares for seriously ill and isolated children at the home. We meet families at Lilla Erstagården Children’s Hospice in palliative care, and have been invited to attend memorial services because the clown’s visit meant so much to families.
At Glädjeverkstan 12 professional artists work six days a week to try and bring out and nurture the healthy core within hospitalized children and their families. We protect the sick and their families at a time in life where they are at their most fragile.
Our artists wear light clown make-up and colourful clown costumes which enhance the clown’s personality in order to help those we meet have a positive experience.
Clowning is an artistic profession which demands the mastery of many disciplines: comedy, improvising, juggling, acrobatics, slapstick, song and more. On top of that, hospital clowns are trained in hygiene, hospital routines, personal treatment and crisis handling.
The clown works to be spontaneous, heartfelt and builds on their shortcomings. The unique thing about hospital clowns is our perceptiveness, empathy and ability to mirror a child’s feelings and needs in this vulnerable situation.
We are proud of our work, and are happy every day to be able to help gravely ill children, their siblings and families through the long and difficult experiences at hospital.
The intimidating “clown types” we have seen in pictures and mobile phone videos in the media recently are scary to anyone.
They call themselves clowns, but they are not.
The people behind those masks know nothing about clown work, and should not be associated with all the serious and hard working clowns who are working at children’s hospitals, on stage, at refugee camps, and who do everything to spread warmth and humour to those who need it most.
This article was written by Anne Marie Möller and Eva Riepe, artistic leaders who also work as clowns at Glädjeverkstan. It was originally published in Swedish by SVT.