Clowns Without Borders UK

WHO WE ARE

We are seriously funny.

A large group of children watching a performance and interacting with a clown, in Bangladesh

About us.

Founded in 2014, we’re part of an international network of humanitarian clowns ready to serve in the immediate aftermath of a conflict or crisis.

We are experts in creating safe, joyful spaces where children feel welcome, find rest, and begin to play again.

Three clowns and two children take a bow to an audience of children

Our story.

We exist because children’s ideas were taken seriously. When no adult would have thought that sending clowns into a war zone was a good idea, a collaboration between Spanish and Bosnian children in 1993 resulted in performers visiting refugee camps in Croatia.

Thirty years later, Clowns Without Borders International continues to share laughter and play with hundreds of thousands of children every year in over 20 countries. We are members of this network, each with its own identity, but united in a commitment to make children laugh.

Two humanitarian clowns walking with a smiling child with a crowd of displaced people in the background

We know what children like because we are children and we know how to make children laugh.

Child member of our UK Advisory Board

Our team.

Clowns Without Borders UK is run by a small dedicated administrative team. Our artists volunteer their time and expertise.

Our humanitarian clowns

Our artists are highly skilled professionals. They work across comedy, clowning, circus, physical theatre, drama, dance, music and facilitation. The common thread that ties us all together is a powerful belief that laughter, joy and play can make the world a more hopeful and peaceful place.

Our team of artists also work with communities in hospitals, prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters and conflict-affected areas. High levels of sensitivity and awareness are necessary to work effectively in these settings. And that is why our teams are experts in creating safe, joyful spaces where children feel welcome.

We have a global team of 47 artists and counting.

Two humanitarian clowns playing with children in a forest in Serbia

Our staff

We are a small team with a big impact. We are meticulous about how we use every donation and make sure every penny works as hard as possible.

Samantha Holdsworth speaking

Samantha Holdsworth

Chief Clown and CEO

Samantha is the Founder and CEO of Clowns Without Borders UK. She is passionate about how the arts can support social justice, with an MA (Distinction) in Advanced Theatre Practice. Samantha’s experience as a trained clown, facilitator and producer spans two decades and includes an Edinburgh Fringe First and an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. She is a Clore Leadership and a Churchill Fellow and recipient of a Creative Entrepreneur Bursary from The British Council and a Point of Light Award from 10 Downing Street.

Rwitoban Deb smiling wearing a white shirt

Rwitoban Deb

Communications Manager

Rwitoban is an experienced communication professional who specialises in amplifying underrepresented voices for a more compassionate society. He aids children’s charities through workshops, campaigns, and teaching, with experience in journalism, crisis communications, and Indian politics.

Bea Perry headshot

Bea Perry

Creative Producer

Bea originally trained as a performer and then specialised in producing large-scale immersive and experiential projects. Former Head of Entertainment at Bearded Kitten, Bea has a wealth of talent in international PR-led events and managing humans.

Our children’s board

Working with children between the ages of six and eleven from Mayflower Primary, our Children’s Board guides us on how the charity should be run. We meet regularly and work through play so that children’s ideas can be included in our strategy and programmes.

An adult listening to three children.

We make sure what Clowns Without Borders UK does is good and not wasting time

Child member of our UK Advisory Board

Our trustees

We are governed by a Board of Trustees.

Headshot of Wendy Lanchin

Wendy Lanchin

Chairperson

Wendy has over two decades of experience in communications and was Head of Marketing at Channel 4 and The Design Council.

Rutendo Rumano headshot

Rutendo Rumano

Treasurer

Rutendo is a seasoned finance professional (ACCA) with experience in accounting, finance management, and strategic planning. She is a keen advocate for children’s rights in Zimbabwe.

Headshot of Annabel Morgan

Annabel Morgan

Artist representative

Annabel is a clown, facilitator, and storyteller from Swaziland and Malawi. She knows Clowns Without Borders inside out and upside down as she’s worked with the South African chapter for 18 years.

Matthew Downer headshot

Matthew Downer

Matthew is an experienced humanitarian researcher and policy expert currently working as Senior Insights Manager of The Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation programme for GSMA. Matthew is also Vice Chair of Citizen Advice East End.

Sharon McClenaghan headshot

Sharon McClenaghan

Sharon is an international development expert, with 20+ years’ experience in gender, human rights, and private sector partnerships. She leads global research and evaluation projects.

Mil Vukovic-Smart headshot

Mil Vukovic-Smart

Originally from Yugoslavia, now Serbia, Mil is a professional fundraiser and policy maker for the not-for-profit sector. Currently, she raises funds for arts and health projects in the NHS. Mil is also an art researcher and performance artist with an ongoing teaching practice at the University of the Arts London.

Our ambassadors

Our ambassadors share a commitment to the power of laughter and play and its place at the heart of crisis response.

Headshot of Unni Krishnan

Dr Unni Krishnan

Unni works on humanitarian and health issues, on front-lines where people encounter hostile forces, including disasters, conflict, and terror. He’s worked in senior management, leadership, and governance positions for Action Aid International, Oxfam and the Sphere Project on humanitarian minimum standards, and the People’s Health Movement. He is currently the Global Humanitarian Director at Plan International.

Our values.

We all have a vital role to play in helping children recover after experiencing uncertainty, displacement and loss. We do it with:

Joy

Joy is our highest value. We take play seriously because we believe that laughter changes lives and we work hard to see happiness on the face of every child.

Creativity

We are highly skilled in the art 
of the imagination to solve problems, build connections 
and deliver serious fun.

Courage

We face challenging circumstances for the sake of crisis-affected children and boldly take to the stage to shine the spotlight on a child’s right to play.

Collaboration

The children we work with are not spectators. We cannot do what we do without their permission and participation – from our child-led, UK-based advisory board to those children we see affected by crisis. And, we do all this with global, national and local partners.

Our partners.

Save the Children
Plan International
UNICEF
Oxfam

Help us bring joy to children in crisis today.

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