Clowning around in the hospital

The aim of the Lyon-based organisation set up in 1995 is to entertain children in hospital paediatric units and bring a smile to their faces. They may not be healthcare professionals, but they care for the children. Recognised as an organisation of public utility, Docteur Clown has been selected as this year’s charity cause for the Festival of Lights. Laurence Chanove, who has been the director since 2012, answers our questions:


What does Docteur Clown actually do?

The visits are designed to entertain children and brighten up the impersonal hospital environment. When the organisation was created in 1995, it carried out 56 hospital visits a year, now the number has risen to 1,340 with clowns interacting with as many as 14,000 young patients aged from 0 to 18.

Docteur CLOWN sends performers to 14 hospitals in the Rhône, Ain, Isère and Loire departments and employs 17 professionals including clowns, actors and musicians. Hospital clown is now a recognised profession and there is even a charter and national federation.

Are the clowns given any specific support when they perform in a hospital environment?

All newcomers are mentored by an experienced clown for a 6 to 12-month period. They always work in pairs. They usually arrive at around 9 am and are briefed on the children’s age, gender, language, disability, and illness which enables them to adapt their performance to the particular needs of the young patients.

What role does the Festival of Lights play for Dr CLOWN?

Docteur CLOWN can count on the valuable support of 80 volunteers in our 3 regional branches in Bourg-en-Bresse, Saint-Etienne and Villefranche as well as a network of corporate sponsors, schools and ambassadors. We are always involved in fundraising efforts in order to continue our work in the region and publicise our actions. Our involvement in the Festival of Lights is a fantastic way to put the spotlight on what we do. The funds raised will allow us to increase the number of performances and ensure we can keep up our good work. What matters to us is seeing a smile light up the faces of sick children!