In January we were delighted to welcome Suzie Ferguson as our new Artistic Director. Although Suzie is a well kent face at Hearts & Minds having been a Senior Practitioner with us for a number of years, we thought you would like to know a little bit more about Suzie and her background in clowning and her thoughts for the future.
H&M: You have been a Senior Practitioner at Hearts & Minds for 8 years, did you see becoming Artistic Director a natural progression of your talents and skills?
SF: Yes, I think so – although I can’t say that I saw it coming when I was performing on the streets of Barcelona all those years ago! I have dedicated my professional life to clowning and its application in non-theatre settings, and I am so passionate about Hearts & Minds and the work it delivers. This role combines my love for clowning, and my firm belief in the power of clowning as a therapeutic artform.
H&M: You recently completed your Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship which took you to South America, Spain, Portugal and France to observe other healthcare clowning organisations. Did this also play a part in the decision to take over the artistic reins at Hearts & Minds and what inspired you most?
SF: It was such an inspiring trip, and an amazing opportunity to immerse myself in the wider community of healthcare clowning around the world. It was so interesting to see what we do the same and what we do differently -and how clowning really is a universal language. My Fellowship certainly played a part in my decision to go for the role – I came back full of ideas and a real drive to put the best practices I had seen abroad into place in Scotland. It is hard to pick out one thing that was most inspiring about my trip – I suppose the fact that there are all of these organisations out there, around the world, using clowning as an artform to improve the wellbeing of people in hospital – and that it works!
H&M: What is your artistic vision for the development of Hearts & Minds?
SF: This is a big question! I am really ambitious for the development of Hearts & Minds and can see that we have a bright future ahead – and we are lucky to be building on the solid foundations that Magdalena left behind. In a nutshell, I’d like to make us an indispensable part of the healthcare units and schools that we work in. I want to make sure that we are not only making a positive contribution to the wellbeing of children in hospital, people living with dementia and children with learning disabilities, but also deepening our integration into the units we visit so that staff of all levels see us as a part of the team, and see and feel the benefits of the work themselves. We will be adhering to high artistic standards at all times, so that we are consistent in delivering a quality and unique service to all stakeholders.
H&M: Will you still be a practitioner as a Clowndoctor & Elderflower & why is that important?
SF: Absolutely. I couldn’t give up working as a practitioner! Apart from the fact that I adore the work, it will really inform how I support the rest of the team. Clowning is a practice that requires constant learning, and for me to be able to support the team artistically, I need to have a good and healthy practice myself!
H&M: What is the most rewarding aspect of being part of Hearts & Minds?
SF: For me it is this incredible privilege we have of transforming spaces and environments with the people we meet. That every interaction we have is an exchange, is unique and un-repeatable. So if a visit is funny, beautiful, playful, sublime – it is so because of the unique combination of the practitioners and people in the room at the time. We are vulnerable with people when they are at their most vulnerable, and together we find laughter and joy. To work for Hearts & Minds is a tonic and a treat.
Read Suzie Ferguson’s blog Is Laughter the Best Medicine
Best Practices in The Integration of Hospital Clowns into the Healthcare Environment – Suzie Ferguson’s report for her Winston Churchill