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The Clown Congress

Workshops, discussions and big ideas exploring the future of clowning

2nd Clown Congress

28th-30th October 2023 "Clowns and Identity"

The 2nd Clown Congress will take place on 28th-30th October 2024 at the University of Bristol.

Fatina Cummings.jpg

Congress Contributor:


Discomfort and how to clown it – white and black artists working alone and together

Call for Contributions

We are now seeking additional proposals for contributions that address questions of clowning and identity. We welcome proposals from anyone with an interest in clowning: performers, practitioners, researchers (academic or otherwise), teachers and encourage you to distribute this call as widely as you can to your networks.

We envisage this as an event which can advance projects concerned with clowning and how this practice goes forward.

see here for more on how to contribute

Al and Amelia promo.jpg

Congress Contributors:

Quiplash - @QuiplashArts -

Exploring clowning made by disabled and neurodiverse artists


Congress Contributor:


Sharing insights from "The Mammy Project" which transforms an oppressive stereotype into a celebration of the power we gain from knowing and understanding our history.


Exploring Difference in Clowning


Join us for 3 days of workshops, discussions and big ideas as we explore the future of clowning


We’ll be interrogating our practice asking:
• Who am I when I'm clowning?
• Who has the privilege to clown?
• How does clowning redefine my experience?
• How is clowning different when I do it to when you/she/he/they do it?
• And what is clowning like when we do it together?


This year's congress will focus on the themes of Identity and Clowning. We want to understand how our differences and who we are impact the way we clown. Instead of thinking of clowns as all being the same, we want to explore how clowning is influenced by our individuality and how society sees us today.


We will also look at how black, disabled, queer, trans, neurodiverse, white, and neuro-normative clowns, are similar or different from each other. By doing this, we hope to discover what makes each group unique and what they have in common.


The Congress serves as an interactive platform to put these questions into practice. It’s an incredible opportunity to deepen our understanding of clowns and the art of clowning. Who knows? We might even revolutionise the way we perceive clowns forever!



In times of crisis and change, the old models of our art-forms may need re-imagining to suit the times we are in.


The Clown Congress is a curated meeting place to:

* share practice;
* have conversations about issues big and small;
* explore developments of the art form;
* ask our key questions; and,
* challenge our thinking around the possibilities and power of clowning




Saturday 28 - Monday 30 October 2023



Wickham Theatre, Bristol University, Cantock's Cl, Bristol BS8 1UP


Robyn Hambrook, Jon Davison and Jan Wozniak

Congress Contributors:

Quiplash - @QuiplashArts -






Over the three days we will engage with contributions by invited practitioners who are actively working on issues of clowning and identity.


Contributors will lead sessions which invite us to explore in practice the key questions of the congress.


Sessions will be in a mixture of formats including exploratory workshops, focused discussions, open spaces, informal get-togethers and sharing individual projects and personal artistic experiences.



9.30am - Arrival & registration

10am - 11.30am - Session one

11.30am - 12:00pm - Break - tea & coffee provided

12.00pm - 1.30pm - Session two

1.30pm - 2.30pm - Lunch - lunch provided for all participants

2.30pm - 4.00pm - Session three

4.00pm - 4.30pm - Break - Break - tea & coffee provided

4.30pm - 6.00pm - Session four

6.00pm - 8.00pm - informal gathering and some evening presentations.



Clowns, performers, activists, therapists, teachers, students, clown doctors, applied drama / improvisation practitioners, researchers, artists, dreamers and anyone who uses play in their work



£50 - per day includes lunch & refreshments
£125 - for 3-day conference includes lunch & refreshments

Ticket link coming shortly

We are committed to making the conference as inclusive and supportive as possible. So we have some low cost options:



We have 5 bursary places available for those who would otherwise be unable to attend due to financial barriers. We trust you to self-identify as needing the place and will support you as much as possible during the 3 days.

A bursary place will give you free access to all 3 days of the Clown Congress. It does not include the cost of the food so we will ask for a small fee of £/day

Ticket link coming shortly



We have 6 places for those who would like to attend the Congress, reduce costs and give something back.

A Congress Comrade place will give you free access to 2 days of the Clown Congress in exchange for one day in a support role. Tasks could include meet and greet, supporting facilitators, setting up for lunch etc.

Congress Comrade places do not include the cost of the food so we will ask for a small fee of £21.

Ticket link coming shortly



For more information please contact for more information




In 2023 we will be building on the success and momentum of last year’s Clown Congress; the growing community; our international conversations; the research and the courage to tackle big questions, this year’s theme is Clown & Identity. We’ll be asking:

• Who clowns? Clowning has often been dominated by privileged identities. How are we

changing the artform in ways that enable greater diversity and inclusion?

• How do we understand clowning? How do we expand our understanding of what clowning is beyond rigid dominant definitions? How do we cultivate diverse approaches that emerge from our diverse identities?

• What potential does clowning hold for staging of our identities, of our hopes, anxieties and debates around who we are?

1st Clown Congress 2022

"What is the future of clowning?"

The 1st Clown Congress took place from 29th August to 1st September 2022 at the Arts Mansion, Bristol.

It was hosted by Robyn Hambrook, Jon Davison and Hilary Ramsden, with invited contributors including: Fatina Cummings, Bim Mason (Circomedia), Samantha Holdsworth (Clowns Without Borders UK), and Eva Ribeiro 

The first three days each focused on a theme. On the final day we will drew together threads and ideas arising from them and explore where to go next.

The days will included a mixture of formats including games and warm ups, exploratory workshops, focused discussions, open spaces, informal get-togethers and time to share our individual projects.

Monday 29th August: Power, Protest and Authority
Tuesday 30th August: Anti-Racism and Decolonisation
Wednesday 31st August: Climate and Planet
Thursday 1st September: What next?

Robyn Hambrook's blog has all the info about the 1st Clown Congress here

And here is a report on what happened

In times of crisis and change, the old models of our art-forms may need re-imagining to suit the times we are in.
As we face shifting and transitioning political power systems, climate breakdown and urgent issues of social injustice we are gathering to ask what is the future of clowning in these turbulent times?

The 1st Clown Congress asked the questions:
* What does it mean to be a clown in this current era;
* How can clowns and clowning address issues of diversity and decolonisation so we can have a meaningful impact on issues of equity and social justice; and,
* How might these things be expressed in a post-pandemic, post-Brexit world where the political, economic and cultural landscapes are in flux?

The Clown Congress was a curated meeting place to:
* share practice;
* have conversations about issues big and small;
* explore developments of the art form;
* ask our key questions; and,
* challenge our thinking around the possibilities and power of clowning

Clown Congress Online Panel Discussion Clowning, Equity and Social Justice

Significance of the Clown Congress - a historical perspective:

In 1959 The First National Conference on Clown Craft, known popularly as the Congress of Clowns, was held in Russia. An assembly of circus clowns, government officials had met earlier and found the circus to be lacking in satire and trivial in comparison to earlier figures such as clown satirist, Vladimir Durov. Under Stalin clowns had had their rights to parody and their targets limited by the Party. But the result of the Congress, and agreed by Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev, clowns could now mock low-level bureaucracy, as well as idlers and incompetent doctors, with state approval.
Our context is very different. The USSR in the late 1950s was moving from brutality to wanting to compete with the consumer societies of the West, with a veneer of choice and the promise of material comfort. But the principle is the same: in times of crisis and change, the old models for our artform need renovating, so that they might match the very particular circumstances we find ourselves in.
Today we are emerging from a global pandemic, the aftermath of BLM and a new war in Europe. All this added to the emergent awareness of the urgency for action in the face of climate change, the yet to be known effects of Brexit and the dumbing down of national politics across the world.

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