In 1997 a group of Edinburgh-based artists, including former Artistic Director Magdalena Schamberger, came together with the idea of using their theatre and clowning skills to help children experiencing the stress and boredom of being in hospital. Taking on the characters of hospital doctors, the group put on small red noses and adopted funny names to make the children smile and laugh. From this small but heartfelt start, the charity Hearts & Minds was born.
Our Clowndoctors Programme
In 1999, we launched our Clowndoctors Programme and began working with hospitals, hospices and respite centres, visiting babies, children and young people with short, long-term and, sadly, sometimes life-limiting conditions. We also work with children who attend schools for learners with complex additional support needs.
"It's amazing that you can get him to focus like that for so long."
Our Elderflowers Programme
We introduced our Elderflowers Programme in 2001, to bring the benefits of therapeutic clowning to older people living with dementia and dementia-related conditions; it was unique to the UK at the time. Then and now, we aim to create magical moments for ladies and gentlemen in hospitals, hospices and residential care homes.
"It's always great when the Elderflowers come - I can see that you really make a difference."
An open and inclusive approach
Our programmes are open and inclusive and our Clowndoctors and Elderflowers are professionally trained specialist practitioners – not entertainers – chosen for their empathy and intuition as much as their performance skills. Therapeutic clowning isn’t about bouncing into wards and telling jokes, it’s about making genuine and heartfelt connections. Our interactions are entirely patient-led - from the most gentle conversation to the silliest slapstick - and we work closely with the medical and care staff who refer us to the people in their care. Every intervention we carry out is based on a detailed understanding of the individual’s circumstances and personality.
Raising smiles from the Borders to Inverness
We deliver our two programmes throughout Scotland and each year we run approximately 640 sessions, at 30 settings, across 10 healthcare regions, from the Borders to Inverness. Our team of 23 Clowndoctors and Elderflowers reaches a direct participatory audience of around 17,000 people a year, and our programmes run six days a week with visits to different settings varying from once a quarter to twice a week.