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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"

at the University of Bristol


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?



Exploring Difference in Clowning

As well as our 3 days of in-person workshops, discussions and explorations into the future of clowning, we have an online programme running over the same period.



Laughing Through the Tears: An Online Dialogue between Michelle Matlock and Danielle Levsky

Saturday 28th October

Available to view online from

7pm (UK time)



Danielle Levsky and Michelle Matlock discuss their own personal clown approaches to the harmful stereotypes experienced as Black and Jewish women. In this wide-ranging dialogue they will asking each other such questions as:


How has clowning historically reduced identities to stereotypes which do harm?


How can clowning expose and heal reductive representations in order to tell the truth about our histories and celebrate our full humanity?


Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Clown Pedagogy

Saturday 28th October

Available to view online from

7pm (UK time)



Aitor Basauri, Amrita Dhaliwal and Dashia Magee discuss some of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work undertaken recently by Spymonkey and Clown Practitioners in Los Angeles.

What lessons can be drawn from their experiences which everyone in the global clown community might be able to learn from?



Lost, the New Found- an online workshop with Patrick van den Boom

Sunday 29th October

6.30pm-9pm UK time

Cost: £26 per person


Who are we and what is our clown identity in community? 


A workshop that aims to bring us to a connection with ourselves, with our clown partner and with each other. Some get back to that by individual work and some because of deep partner work, and many because of community.

This workshop mixes physical and voice work.

Tickets available on Eventbrite:




Finding Your Fool: Exploring Identity for Clown & Physical Theatre - an online workshop with Danielle Levsky

Monday 30th October

Monday 30th October

7.30-8.30pm UK time

Cost: £8 per person


A lively, hands-on workshop exploring how our diverse identities and lived experiences influence our comedic voices and physical comedy.

Through physical theatre exercises, writing prompts, and lively discussion, we'll tap into our rich cultural backgrounds and lived experiences to create original clown scenes and characters. Leave with new insight into how your unique identity can inform your clown persona.

An interactive session welcoming all levels - no experience required, just an openness to create!

Tickets available on Eventbrite:



Have you got your tickets to the Clown Congress 2023 yet? They are selling fast so grab yours quickly


@jondavisonclown @aerialmel @robynonfire13 @bristolclownschool @michellenmatlock

@dashiamagee @amrithatha @aitorbasauri @aitor_basauri_ @the_mammy_project @daniellelevsky @patrickvandenboom

#clowncongress #clownworkshop #clownresearch #clownidentity



Participant Biographies


Dashia Magee

My name is Dr. Dashia Magee. I’m a Black writer, actress, and professional clown based in Los Angeles. I started performing at the age of 4, gracing the stage as a "Strawberry" at the local community theatre in Tacoma, Washington. After living all around the United States (California, Iowa, New Jersey, and Minnesota) my family relocated to Los Angeles. I’ve performed my one-woman clown and character show, “Donkey: A Cultural Biography of A Public School Teacher” for the Black Women in Comedy Festival and at Upright Citizen Brigade in Los Angeles.  I also co-wrote and starred in a web series, “Staying Together”  (, played my one and only slave in “#TMI”, played a witch in “Pick a Card”, and wrote and shot, “Dr. Magee: Clown Shorts”. You can also find me performing live at various theaters in Los Angeles.


Patrick van den Boom

Clowning is in my bloodstream. It was a wish to be a clown since I two years old. Sometimes it is clear from the start! I am very happy that I managed to make my profession out of my passion. It means a lot to me and I see it as a luxurious position. After a period of theater and dance I decided at the end of the nineties to go to a Dutch Clown School. This was the start of a lot of clowning! I started clowning in hospitals, elderly homes and also became a teacher/trainer. In 2009 I moved from the Netherlands to Norway. There I started working at the Sykehusklovnene (hospital clowns) in Oslo. And I have started up the new group for clowning in elderly houses in Norway; Klokkeklovnene. Here we clown for people in dementia care. And the Dutch Clownschool I had in the Netherlands, became Clownschool International! Now I give training and workshops all around Europe. To be honest, I feel like a lucky bastard to inspire others. It makes me very happy.


Amrita Dhaliwal is a Punjabi Sikh American comedian and educator based in Los Angeles. As an educator, Amrita has taught with BlackBox Acting, and is currently the Managing Director of the Idiot Workshop in Los Angeles and an Adjunct Lecturer in Comedy at University of Southern California. Her work as a comedian explores the core themes of humanity through a lens of the current cultural climate. Most recently Amrita won Best Comedy at the 2019 Melbourne Fringe Festival for The Living Room, a comedy about death and grief. Amrita is a graduate of the School for Theatre Creators, a Lecoq based physical theater program. She has trained extensively in clown with Paola Coletto, Philippe Gaulier, John Gilkey and more. She is also a graduate of various improv/sketch programs; including: Second City Chicago, iO Chicago, Annoyance, UCB and Groundlings.


Danielle Levsky is a Post-Soviet Jewish multi-disciplinary storyteller who seeks to infuse the world with discovery, wonder, joy, and truth. Danielle’s experiences in teaching, performing, and writing connect through her use of humor, physicality, and interactivity. She loves all of these manifestations of storytelling for how they connect her to all the souls in a room, to all the souls in the world.

Danielle is a certified clown teacher from The Clown School and has trained wtih Cirque de Soleil, Theater Unspeakable, Viola Spolin, and Commedia dell'arte master Antonio Fava. She infuses Jewish humor into her teachings, inspired by comedic geniuses like Sarah Silverman, Bette Midler, and Joan Rivers. To foster a remote clown learning community during the pandemic, she hosted a weekly Clown Watch Party and created a community-sourced comprehensive clown watch list. Clown Yoga, also known as The Fool’s Yoga ©, is Danielle’s creation: a fusion of Clown and various yoga practices that improves emotional intelligence, authenticity, physicality, and public speaking skills.

Danielle created and hosted The Holy Fool Day Retreat on April 1, 2023. The day included workshops on Clown Yoga, introductory clowning practice, miming, and the art of mask. Participants also enjoyed curated clown ritual meals, tarot readings, accordion tunes, and other foolish activities.

Danielle has also developed the course Clown and Traditions in Judaism, which explores humor in Jewish tradition, the spiritual symbol of the Fool, the role of ritualism in clowning, and what clowning looks like for Jewish people in the 21st century. It is presented as a high-level overview or intensive focus on Clown in Holy Jewish Texts, The Schlemiel as a Jewish Fool/Clown, Jews on the Stage, and Today’s Jewish Fools.


Michelle Matlock is a performing artist, creative coach, teacher, director, producer and founder of Circle Up Productions (CUP), a live entertainment and performing arts education company based in Tacoma, WA.

Michelle has been a part of the entertainment industry for over 25 years and had the honor of being the first African American Person to create a main character for Cirque du Soleil. They toured with Cirque's big top show OVO for close to 10 years.

Currently Michelle is an Adjunct faculty member at Dell’Arte International School for Physical Theater and a member of the Puget Sound Revels creative team. Recently Michelle was Clown Director/Consultant for Circus Bella and Emmy nominated actress' Carolyn Ratteray’s solo show Both And…A Play About Laughing While Black.

Michelle has continuous teaching engagements and collaborations with organizations across the nation including, Clown Gym, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, The Clown School, Laughter League, Circus Amok and Tacoma Light Trail


Aitor Basauri is joint artistic director and a performer with Spymonkey.

Aitor is an acclaimed teacher of clown, regularly holding Spymonkey masterclasses in London, New York, Berlin, Los Angeles and around the world, and for the Clown Doctors organisation in Germany, Austria and France.

Performed in The Servant of Two Masters at Sheffield Crucible (1996), Axomate at the Seville Expo (1992), Eulenspiegel (1991) and in Karl’s Kuhne Gassenchau’s Grand Paradis and Stau in Zurich (1997 and 1998). Director of Little Prince for Donkey Productions (1997), Un Vento Impetuoso for La Canoppia (1996) and Meci Y Me Fui for Pez Enraya ( 1997). In 1999 he appeared in Circus Knie, the Swiss State Circus, and in 2000 formed his own company Punto Fijo, based in Bilbao. Appeared in Cirque Images’ 2003 series Solstrom for Bravo Cable Network. Appeared in Bertold Brecht’s Senor Carrera’s Rifles at the Young Vic, directed by Paul Hunter (2007).

Directing credits include: ‘Lily & Marlene’ for La Dinamica (Spain 2015); ’Looking for Duende' for Teatro Entre Escombros (Spain 2015); ’Hondycops' for Squadra Sua (Czech Republic 2015); ’Ferucchio Peru is Extraordinaire’ for Leebo Luby (UK 2015); Manifest Destiny (New York 2015); Fabulous Bäckström Brothers (Finland 2014); Entre Escobros '600 Teatro' (Spain 2014); 'Gloriator' for Skipstick Productions (London 2013); 'NMIIDP' Simone Riccio, (London 2013); 'Herr Ist Immer Der Natur' for Die Drei Auf Den Baum (Berlin 2012); 'Discombobulated' for Publick Transport (Bristol & UK tour, 2011); 'Ramshackadelicious' (Bristol 2011); 'Shake' for The Last Baguette (Switzerland 2010).

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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