Hearts & Minds

Image: Hearts & Minds
Image: Hearts & Minds

Established in 1997, Hearts & Minds is a Scottish charity that helps vulnerable people overcome feelings of powerlessness, anxiety and isolation through the art of therapeutic clowning. In 1999 we launched our Clowndoctors Programme that supports children and young people to cope with life in a hospital or respite care setting and in schools for learners with complex additional support needs. In 2001, we went on to develop the Elderflowers programme, which helps people living with dementia or dementia related conditions in hospitals and long-term care. This programme is at the forefront of delivering arts in dementia care in Scotland inspiring and supporting the development of similar programmes across the globe. 

We use arts practitioners that are specially trained in therapeutic clowning to deliver artistic engagements of the highest quality to build meaningful connections with the children, young people, and people living with dementia, in a variety of medical, educational and community settings and furthermore to include their families, care staff and all who provide a supporting role.

Our vision is for therapeutic clowning to make a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable individuals when they need it most. Our ambition is to improve lives by delivering and embedding the professional practice of therapeutic clowning in Scotland’s healthcare provision and promoting its benefits.

Our programmes are delivered thanks to a vigorous year-round fundraising programme and a large portfolio of funding sources made-up, broadly, as follows:

Trusts & Foundations – 65%
NHS – 15%. (Each regional unit tries to match fund at least 25% of the delivery costs per Unit).
Scottish Government – 10%
Corporate Giving – 5%
Local Authorities/Education Dept. – 2%
Individual Giving – 1%
Other – 2%  (includes small project support e.g. UK workshop fees / International conferences/workshop training)

Details of the project participants

Individual participants are predominantly referred to us by health-care staff, relatives and sometimes children can self-refer. In certain units we are encouraged to contribute to the medical notes of individuals living with dementia.

Our main programme of activity is delivered throughout the year in the following settings:-

Barnardo’s (Edinburgh) 
Crosshouse Hospital (Kilmarnock)
Forth Valley (Stirling)
Maggie’s Centre (Dundee) 
Ninewells Hospital (Dundee) 
Raigmore (Inverness) 

Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital
Royal Hospital for Sick Children (Edinburgh) 
Royal Hospital for Sick Children (Glasgow) 
St. John’s Hospital (Livingston) 

SPECIAL BRANCH (work in special schools & hospices)
Beatlie School (Livingston) 
Calareidh (Edinburgh)

Mavisbank School (Airdrie) 
Oaklands School (Edinburgh) 
Rachel House CHAS (Kinross) 
Robin House CHAS (Balloch) 
Royal Blind School (Edinburgh) 
Sunndach (Livingston) 
Borders General Hospital (Borders) 
Clackmannan (Forth Valley) 
Findlay House (Edinburgh)  
Murray Royal Hospital (Perth) 
Royal Edinburgh Hospital (Edinburgh)

Stirling Community Hospital

Project management

Michelle Armstrong is CEO of Hearts & Minds and the Artistic Director is Suzie Ferguson. There are currently 22 practitioners working across the Clowndoctors and Elderflowers programmes.  They each work, on average, 3 days per week, 40 weeks of the year.  All practitioners are PVG checked

Our practitioners undergo comprehensive full-time training, developed by Hearts & Minds, before starting their work with vulnerable people. In addition they attend on-going year-round training, workshops and rehearsals in specialist areas to refresh and improve their skills. There is NO CHARGE to any of the participants

Evaluation methods and findings

To ensure we are performing artistically and administratively, we conduct a yearly Strategic Programme Review, which solicits the views from key members of staff within each unit we visit.  Our management team also make frequent visits to the units, and have regular meetings with Health Care Unit staff.   
Practitioners fill out end-of-day records. These are collated, analysed and used as evidence of how well the programme is working and/or what needs to be reviewed. 


Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England