Belfast Telegraph

Clowning around to put smiles on young faces

by Natalie Irvine

A south Belfast ‘clown doctor’ has hit the small screen in a BBC documentary programme.

Elaine Duncan, who is originally from the Ravenhill/Lower Ormeau Road area, is featured in the television programme which trains newly-inducted clown doctors, in a bid to brighten up childrens’ stay in hospital.

Elaine, who is an actress, tells the Community Telegraph her role as ‘Dr Twinkle‘ differs greatly to any perfomances gone before. She said: “I have met some lovely children over the years, including some great children who are sadly not with us anymore. But we have to remember the happy times, the laughter, and the giggles — it’s a wonderful job, and I feel grateful that I can do it.”

Northern Ireland clown doctors are an organisation that bring smiles and fun to children and young people in hospitals and other healthcare settings. A troupe of 10 skilled and specially-trained performers visit hospitals and centres spreading merriment and laughter, and helping children in acute hospitals and other facilities cope with the often difficult experience of lengthy medical treatment.

Eamon Quinn from Arts Care, the charity that runs the project said: “People will see how laughter makes a hospital stay easier, and hear some moving stories from and about the children, myself, and the other clown doctors along the way. Viewers will follow a new batch of six clown doctors as they are trained, make their first visits to hospitals, and learn about the transformative power of the red nose!”

Elaine is already familiar with being on the small screen, as she has previously featured in Give My Head Peace, The Midnight Hour, and Byker Grove. However, during the filming of the documentary, she said the camera crew really took a step back, and let things happen as they would normally do.

“Our perfomance is not scripted, it’s improvised for play and silliness — it’s child-led,” she said. “We have to be aware of medical procedures hospital staff carry out on the children’s wards while we perform, and work around them. In turn, the cameramen filming the documentary then worked around us, and didn’t interfere with our work.

“We are very lucky — we always seem to recruit the right people. There is a great deal of work involved to become a clown doctor — training sessions, work shadowing for six months, and then pairing up with an experienced clown doctor on the wards. The value of our work is very precious to us.”

Coinciding with the programme, the NI Clown Doctors are making a public appeal for funds to help them make more hospital visits. The funds raised will result in more visits, helping to improve the lives of children and young people across Northern Ireland.

By logging on to www.niclowndoctors.com, the public can learn more about their work and also contribute to increasing the number of children whose lives are touched by the clown doctor’s antics. Members of the public can also send funds by post, payable to “Arts Care”, posting them to the NI ClownDoctors, Arts Care, BSO Building, 2 Franklin Street Belfast BT2 8DQ.

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