Start Clowning Around

Not so long ago, I signed up for a clowning workshop called “Spring Fool” ( It was one of a series of adventures in the lost art of letting go (later chronicled in my book Urban Worrier), and I comforted myself that it couldn’t possibly be any scarier than wingwalking on a bi-plane. But actually, clowning turned out to be uncannily similar to diving at 150mph towards the ground, in a psychological sense at least.

Clowns, I discovered, die and resurrect themselves many times each day – die in the sense that a stand-up comic can die on stage. It was less about greasepaint and custard pies, more about learning to step into the unknown. Over two days in rural Perthshire, a mischievous and wise woman called Angela managed to coax a small group of normally sane, middle-aged types into doing things which were mortifying,  liberating and profoundly relevant to our personal growth.

According to Angela, the red nose was just there as a kind of permission to be whoever we wanted – and with no script, we just grabbed whichever persona came to hand. Stepping into the void, I danced, laughed, played, wept, corpsed and rediscovered a childlike playfulness I had lost. The moment when Angela got us to look into a mirror was particularly strange and exhilarating. It took me a moment to recognise the man I saw grinning at me in Woody Allen spectacles and a bright red Afro, but actually, I quite liked what I saw. It was his eyes – they had a sparkle and a mischief in them that I didn’t often see staring back from my bathroom mirror.

Behind the slapstick and the fun, a revolutionary truth suggested itself: that this happy fool was just as much a part of me as the furrowed, responsible adult. It somehow seemed to relativise and loosen all the other roles I habitually play in life: the friend, the hack, the lover, the writer. Were any of them actually true, or just masks that I had chosen to wear through habit or convenience? Is there actually any such thing as “the real me” – or indeed the real you?

Why am I telling you all this? Because Angela is back, running three workshops, starting with an Easter residential in Warwickshire that’s rather appropriately over the weekend of April Fool’s Day. There’s another here in Edinburgh on June 15-17, and later in Suffolk from 6th-10th August. More details about Angela here at

Why not try it? You have nothing to lose but your frown…

Posted on: 06 Mar 2012 in General, Spirituality, Urban Worrier
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