I am just back from a session of detached youthwork in North East England, and there is a new terror that is dominating the discussion and conversation, in a way that actually Pokemon Go! never really did. Its Clowns, or more to the point it is people dressing up and facepainting up to look like the nasty looking clowns.
(just one example)
Its being picked up as a craze by the national press, and over the weekend a few news outlets started to talk about it after sightings were made: Clowns in the news. Schools have been on high alert, and some police have been around schools to help and give some advice to pupils as they leave.
But tonight it was hot topic on the streets. Hot topic as in what should they do, and what would we do when confronted by a clown face.
It felt as though the same young people who are normally confident on the streets were nervous. The same young people who normally walk home from youth club needed their parents to walk them home. And when they saw us from a distance their first thought wasnt that they knew who we were, but that we werent clowns.
Because of the clowns as an issue, we had to become more vigilant, no jumping out from the side of walls like we would usually (not that we ever did 😉 ) – but extra vigilance is possibly needed from us to stay in lighter areas, so Young people see us as being safe, and also that we give young people facial and eye contact longer from a distance, so that we are more recognised. Also to make sure we have ID badges – as its not as though clowns have them…
what else could we do – have torches, or high viz jackets? especially in the duskier darker evenings to let young people know that we are not clowns! (mad, daft, crazy for being on the streets, but not clowns..)
But – the streets might be emptier for a few weeks whilst this phase catches on, and then drifts away during the known silly season of halloween. In the intermittent few weeks, especially this one, young people are having to deal with how they might react, with rumours of the actions of these clowns being rife, local and circulating wildly and ultimately fear.
What might be the best advice? As an adult in the situation my reaction might be different to theirs, but at the same time how might we help young people try to disempower the clown? just stand there? just walk away? maybe laugh at them? How might we help young people to not play the game the clown wants them to play? How might we use the issue to help young people talk about fears – maybe this is for the ‘inside’ youthgroup – not the outside moments when as there was tonight there was panic in their eyes…
Most years Trick or treating is bad enough.. but clowns as well.. but this one is affecting the whole environment..