This is the inspiring wee story of Oscar the Clown – a friend of 25 years and counting.
Twenty five years ago, I had some very shy children in my music classes. They didn’t respond to being sung to in the 'Hello Song' and would either hide behind their parent, or in one case, a child would run away from the group when I came around to sing to him. It was clear that I had to take the focus off the child through use of a puppet. I wanted to use a colourful marionette that had child appeal, a real sense of nurturing and character that children could reach out to and hug, dance and interact with.
In 1995, I found beautiful little clowns at the Arts Centre in Christchurch New Zealand. The makers of these clowns Beulah and Neil Cairns were so interested and intrigued when I asked if they could make me a clown marionette with real child appeal that could be walked around to greet each child, and could dance and play through use of the puppet strings in my music classes. We tested the size of feet, the way he could be moved, the height and weight. We considered durability, ease of cleaning and transporting him when he wasn’t in use.
Little did we dream that over the course of twenty five years, Oscar would reach and touch thousands of children, be the star of my DVD “Musical Journeys”, have songs composed by me especially for him. His sleeping bag is vital for him when he is transported in the car and to keep him clean and safe when he is not busy in classes. Sadly his sleeping bag was getting worn after being in constant use for 25 years.
I asked our wonderful administrator Helen Powell if she could make him another sleeping bag. A week later she presented him with his beautiful new bag and I’m sure you will agree it is a work of art. Children appreciate beauty, wonderful sensory experiences and they reach out to give Oscar a cuddle and delight in watching him dancing and playing with them. If he comes to a shy child, I use him to model back to the child that he too is shy and week by week as they see Oscar the clown inch closer to them in the “Hello” or “Goodbye” song, they eventually develop the courage to reach out to him and give him a hug.