Chief Encounters – Michelle Armstrong reveals her favourite clown to Third Force News

Our CEO Michelle Armstrong was recently interviewed by Third Force News about her role as Chief Executive of Hearts & Minds and working with hospital clowns!

Here she reveals who is her favourite clown…what makes her the office grump…and the rewards of working for a charity.

What makes a good day at work?

Hearing feedback and stories from the friends and families of people we visit. Bringing joy and happiness to the people we visit, that is what it’s all about.

What do you procrastinate over?

Nothing really at work, but a home it would have to be writing greeting cards. I never seem to know what to write in them. I think my family are used to receiving belated birthday cards that are often dog-eared after sitting in the bottom of my bag for too long.

What turns you into the office grump?

Sometimes I can get a bit hangry. I always keep a stash of fruit on my desk at work to stave off the grump.

What’s great about Hearts and Minds?

We use therapeutic clowning to offer support, friendship and create connections to people; particularly the vulnerable or disadvantaged members of society. We embrace our humanity with humour and relate to others with openness and kindness.

Is the third sector a calling or an accident?

I honestly have no idea. A few years ago I was living in Canada and in the middle of moving to Spain with work, during this time I lost a couple of friends to cancer. This made me stop and reevaluate what was important to me. So, I decided to quit my job and started volunteering for Cancer Research UK. I’ve never looked back since.

What happens during your perfect weekend?

A road trip down to see my family to spend some quality time with my lovely nieces and nephews, who are all growing up far too quickly. I also love cooking, so if I’m able to spend some time in the kitchen cooking and enjoying a glass of red wine, that would be the perfect end to the weekend.

What’s your favourite film?

Stand By Me. I’ve got great memories of watching it with my best friends, we were about the same age as the main characters in the film when it was released on VHS.

Aren’t clowns scary?

No, I don’t think so. Clowning comes in many guises and I think people often picture circus clowns when they think of clowns. Remember Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Mr Bean, The Marx Brothers, The Keystone Kops and Mr Tumble. They are also clowns. I don’t think you would call Mr Tumble scary.

Would we all be better off if charities did more in our society?

Undoubtedly charities already do amazing work within our society. I think there is great potential to make positive changes through empowering and enabling communities, and we shouldn’t view charities as purely delivering services with a top-down approach.

What’s the best thing that’s happened this year?

My wife became a teacher. She decided to change her career and went back to university to train to become a teacher. I think she’s amazing and will make a fantastic teacher, I’m so incredibly proud of her.

And the worst?

Hearing that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now three times the size of France. It’s shocking seeing the devastating impact we are having on the world’s oceans in such a short amount of time.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
When I was 18 I was studying biology to become a geneticist, so needless to say, things have changed somewhat since then. I guess my advice would be not to worry about having a set career plan, it’s not really that important. The best things that I’ve done in my life have been the result of just saying yes to exciting opportunities that have presented themselves to me, none of which were ever planned. What is important is to always act with kindness, compassion and integrity.

Who’s your all-time favourite clown?

Lucille Ball from I Love Lucy, some classic clowning at its best.

What’s your dream job?

Either being a photographer for The National Geographic or running an owl sanctuary.

Which Brian Cox?
The physicist, things certainly did only get better after D:Ream.

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This article was first published in Third Force News on 22 May 2018