Clown Doctors celebrate 20 years of service at Czech hospitals

Clown Doctors (Zdravotní klaun in Czech) recently marked 20 years of visiting Czech hospitals and nursing homes. Over that period the organisation says it has spent a total of nearly three million hours cheering up patients of all ages. I discussed the past and present of Clown Doctors with director Kateřina Slámová Kubešová.

“We started 20 years ago with one man, Gary Edwards, a visionary clown and musician.

“He had the idea of bringing joy to hospitals and he started visiting hospitals and joined some people together.

“Now after 20 years, after starting with one clown and one hospital, we visit 63 hospitals, eight homes for the elderly and one hospice.

“And we have 86 professional clowns.”

Somebody told me that it’s quite difficult to become a clown in your organisation. How does it work if somebody wants to do it?

Kateřina Slámová Kubešová | Photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International

“Yes, it’s true. It’s not easy.

“You can’t just say, Oh, I would like to be a clown.

“You have to apply and we organise some rehearsals – it’s really interviewing people.

“And then we have quite long workshops. It could be three days and we can see how they can improvise, how they can move, if they are mature people.

“It’s not only about artistic qualities but it’s also not about trying to save the world but really being helpful in service in the hospitals.

“And after this for example 100 people apply and we choose, for example, four.”

Do they tend to be actors? What kind of people apply usually?

“They don’t have to be actors, but usually they are. They have some artistic background.

“Mostly they are from universities, from the artistic field, or musicians.

“But we also have some teachers at secondary school or kindergarten.

“We also have one Evangelical priest.”

Photo: Zdravotní klaun,  o. p. s.

Soon we will be reaching two years of the Covid situation here in the Czech Republic. How is it now with Zdravotní klaun visiting Czech hospitals? What are the conditions like now?

“It’s a difficult time for everybody and we were really grateful that we could go back to hospitals very soon.

“Not only long-time cooperation, but big trust from the hospitals – and also our very strict hygiene code – helped us to go back very early.

“We are back from last year in the majority of our hospitals, or all of them.

“So we can work at them, but of course it’s not easy, not only for clowns but especially for the staff.

“We also created new programmes thanks or due to Covid.

“We provide online visits, so people can order clowns and invite clowns, through online tools, into their house.

“Or when we couldn’t visit homes for the elderly last year, because it was very strict and they were closed, we wrote letters in a clown style to the people, and they responded to us.

“And we also had some Skype visits for them.”