Tears and laughter of life as a clown in lockdown

Lucy Wilkinson bringing the laughter as Louby Lou

With laughter in short supply amid the uncertainty of the pandemic the 40-year-old found herself holed up at home like millions of others.

As a professional clown her income all but dried up overnight with events cancelled, birthday parties stopped and hospital visits not allowed.

After pondering what to do next Lucy – better known by her stage name Louby Lou – decided to put the skills honed over a 22 year career to use online by sending video messages to customers.

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Louby Lou on Chorley Market

From there she moved the party online and helped lead the celebrations with virtual parties streamed into people’s homes.

Calling on her pals from the entertainment world she was joined by the likes of Hacker the dog from CBBC, close pal Ella Chadwick, of Children’s Hospital, and Robbie Williams Tribute, Tony Lewis.

This online shift enabled Lucy to reach audiences around the world and since lockdown and she has delivered virtual parties as far afield as Dubai, Australia and America. But Lucy admits the change was not without its challenges.

Before becoming an entertainer she suffered from anxiety and burn out which caused panic attacks. She says, “It was a very scary time in my life as I had to dig deep into my triggers. There has been no quick fix, and it was a long process she had to endure to feel confident and well again.

Lucy Wilkinson prepares for show time

“Thankfully, I have managed to regain control of my life through support and personal development and now I strive daily to be a better version of myself, a better mum and a better entertainer, all while prioritising self care and daily routines and practices.”

When lockdown came Lucy feared her mental health would take a dive and her anxiety did start to creep back as initially panic and stress started to get the better of her.

But she was able to tap into some of the practices she had learned to help deal with the problems using daily morning routines of yoga, listening to podcasts, running and also setting goals led to the reassessing of her business and set a new goal to achieve.

Lucy says, “Initially panic and stress started to get the better of me, but I knew I had the take hold of this and keep up my positive mindset and use experience to work it out, as there is always a way.

Louby Lou with Pride of Britain winner Ella Chadwick

“I knew I could still make a difference, so I did daily live shows on my social media, birthday messages and invested the time into learning new skills. I had to adapt really quickly to the online shows, it isn’t an energy I am used to, as I bounce from a real audience and reactions.

“At first I wasn’t comfortable at all, but I like breaking out of my comfort zone, so I made it work. I’m far more at ease with it now and I have adapted to suit any age, doing weekly nursery and school parties, family bingo nights, fun for company team meetings and magic mindset masterclasses.”

Lucy was born into a showbiz family with her father Arnold Cheetham a popular clown around the North West and from the age of six she was already following in his footsteps. She says, “From a very young age I was educated in a variety of entertainment such as magical illusions, stilt walking, dance and balloon modelling. I was strongly influenced by my father who was well known as Trumble the clown and Arnoldo Dupree.

“My ethos of hard work came from working from a very young age and understanding the value of earning money. My appearance on TV as a clown began from when I was six-years-old, and this is where the magic began. Our family were often in the local newspaper and radio, as they starred at lots of events.”

Lucy Wilkinson with her Giggles on Wheels van

Lucy has worked at parties across the region and is well known in the Chorley area having entertained on the town’s market for the past three years.

She has also toured nurseries and schools and shared her brand of magic with the youngsters at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital since 1999.

And the mother-of-three has also performed for the stars, including Victoria and David Beckham, with a then baby Brooklyn and pop royalty Sir Bob Geldof.

Lucy says, “In 1998, I ventured to London to train as a Clown Doctor for Theodora Children Trust. This is where Doctor Lou Lou was created and I cart-wheeled into Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital in 1999 and got rewarded for my work by Cherie Blair at 10 Downing Street in 2004.

“Twenty years later I am still spreading the joy and laughter around the children’s wards. Laughter really is the best medicine. This is what makes her job so rewarding.”

But the easing of lockdown in recent weeks has not open the door to a return to how life was before Covid-19 with many venues still closed and social distancing restricting the size of gatherings.

Entertainer Lucy Wilkinson out of costume

So Lucy has moved her show on to the road and is performing on people’s doorsteps. She explains, “Once lockdown began to ease I knew I needed to adapt my Louby Lou shows to follow government guidelines and keep clients safe and so the show ‘Giggles on Wheels’ was born.

“It is a mobile entertainment platform providing 10 minutes of magic and giggles on the doorstep, for all ages. You can hear us coming before you see us in our new jazzed up van with the Louby Lou song playing loud and proud.

“This has made whole streets smile and then when I get my saxophone out, families would burst with excitement that they could experience something live again, albeit socially distanced. It’s just amazing for me to see people giggling and smiling again during such a tough time.”

To find out more about Lucy’s work visit www.loubylou.co.uk

— to www.wigantoday.net

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