‘We believe in the vital role of clowns as truth tellers, entertainers, subversives and communicators in the arts, in society and across the world.’

Angela de Castro

What we do

The Why Not Institute is the UK’s only organisation totally dedicated to contemporary clowning. We are a community, offering resources, developing performance, and nourishing support networks for clowns and others interested in the approach of its founder, Angela de Castro (as well as that of a growing band of collaborators and associates). The Institute is dynamic, shaping and responding to the resurgence in modern clowning, with a special focus on clowning within theatre traditions.

The Institute runs a variety of activities, including Angela de Castro’s now-legendary clown training ‘How To Be A Stupid’. Internationally recognised and delivered from Australia to Finland, Brazil to Nepal, Germany to China, ‘How To Be A Stupid’ attracts participants from all over the world to its renowned London Workshops.

What are we here for?

The Why Not Institute is an organisation with a passion for the art form of clowning and an obsession for promoting the work of clowns in the UK and beyond. We seek to validate, celebrate, investigate, develop and reclaim recognition for clowning. We enjoy many forms of clowning but the purpose of The Why Not Institute is to promote, study and experiment with theatre clowning and theatre traditions.

Despite a long and honourable tradition of clowning, it is still a misunderstood and undervalued art form. The art of clowning is one of the greatest and most difficult of them all. It is about communicating the truth in its purest, rawest form and demands great courage and discipline from the performer. Yet it reaches out with simplicity and laughter to engage the audience.

Clowning is a performance tradition which has developed over the last few hundred years. Over the last century, ‘theatre’ or ‘character’ clowning developed alongside circus clowning. In recent decades, theatre clowning has been linked with the development of other art forms, such as physical theatre and mime. New clowning includes comedy and tragedy on a metaphysical level. Its focus is character, feelings, meanings, and ways of seeing the world, alongside the more familiar slapstick or ‘gags’. Britain has strong traditions in all these art forms, which nowadays often merge, performers using skills from all of them.

Clowns and Gender

by Miranda Porter Gender is, “a system of classification rooted in social ideas about masculinity and femininity.” (Mardell, 2016). Gender is considered, by some, a binary concept. A binary has only two states with no existing spectrum between. Therefore, gender as a...
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’The clown links two worlds:
the contemporary world of the day-by-day where we live most of the time
and the non-verbal land of the imagination which we sometimes visit.
We call this land of imagination ‘The Land of Why Not’.

Angela de Castro

Angela de Castro founded The Why Not Institute in response to a question posed by students who came to her clowning master classes: ‘What next?’ Students and professionals find themselves jumping from class to class, teacher to teacher, until they are left alone, out on a limb. A de Castro had a dream to create a space for theatre and clowning practitioners (as well as others) to investigate, research, develop and progress in this art form. In 2000, this dream became The Why Not Institute.

The Why Not Institute creates a space for people to try out clowning; and for clowns to be recognised and validated. It runs a unique space called ‘The Land of the Why Not’ – a ‘clown’s playground’ where artists have space to experiment, or simply exist with their clown personas outside of rehearsal and performance.

See WHAT’S ON for information on our upcoming courses…