Clowndoctors bring smiles to faces of children in hospital

Charity Hearts & Minds is set to expand across Scotland thanks to a new business and digital strategy.

Monday, 21st January 2019, 2:41 pm
Updated Monday, 21st January 2019, 2:58 pm
Clowndoctors are used in the Sick Kids hospital in Edinburgh. Photography by NeonEight Ltd.

To coincide with the 20th anniversary of its Clowndoctors programme, which uses therapeutic clowning to improve the lives of children in hospital, the Edinburgh-based charity plans to bring the scheme to hospitals across the country by 2020.

Support for the expansion has come from several partners, including Business Gateway Edinburgh, which helped the charity to develop a new digital strategy.

Business Gateway – a Scottish Government resource – offers free advice to businesses, charities and social enterprises aiming to expand or develop.

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Services include business information toolkits, one-to-one business advisers and key skills workshops covering marketing, finance and e-commerce.

Susan Harkins, head of Business Gateway Edinburgh, said: “Hearts & Minds is a fantastic charity which really makes a huge difference to vulnerable people in care.

“We are delighted to be able to help them with their business development plans and provide digital consultancy to help them to expand their fantastic programme.”

Throughout its anniversary year in 2019, Hearts & Minds will run fundraising events to allow it to roll out the Clowndoctors programme further.

The events, including parties for children and their siblings, will coincide with the launch of a new project Play Cope Care aimed at teaching carers of people with chronic illnesses techniques to alleviate stress, anxiety and isolation brought on by the responsibilities of caring. Founded in 1997, Hearts & Minds was set up by a group of Edinburgh artists, who decided to bring the ‘Big Apple Circus’ concept of hospital clowning in New York to Edinburgh.

Clowndoctors sends professional performance artists into hospitals, respite centres and schools. The artists use a mix of music, singing, slapstick, puppetry and magic to entertain children.

This helps children improve self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as bringing laughter to otherwise distressing or painful treatments. Hearts & Minds visits over 23 hospitals, care units and schools, including the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

Hearts & Minds chief executive Michelle Armstrong said: “Our aim is to deliver laughter, friendship and support to those who need it most through therapeutic clowning.”