Smile and the ward smiles with you

Smile and the ward smiles with you

The Laughter Specialists have been spreading their brand of traditional fun through the children’s wards at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, thanks to a grant from the Evelyn Trust.
Annie and Patrick looking up at camera in their outfits

Annie and Patrick

It’s an old cliché that laughter is the best medicine. So old that no one know who coined the phrase (answers on a postcard, please). Like so many old sayings, there’s more than just a grain of truth in it. A study at Oxford University in 2011 found that laughter increases our pain threshold. Researchers found that subjects who had watched comedy videos could withstand 10 per cent more pain than normal. At the University of Arizona researchers found that laughter improves cardiac health. It has been shown to release endorphins and lower levels of stress hormones.

So when experienced comedy duo The Laughter Specialists bid for a grant from the Evelyn Trust to provide comedy, clowning, magic, songs, music, puppets and improvised fun to paediatric patients, the trust was keen to help.

“My partner Annie Aris and myself have more than 20 years’ experience in this field, having both worked as clown doctors entertaining children at Great Ormond Street” explains Patrick Jacobs. “So we know what it takes to get children and young people giggling. We have learned to be very empathic with children who are shy, or really suffering, so we tailor our act to individuals and work hard to find what will distract and entertain without overwhelming them. We have been visiting Addenbrooke’s children’s wards regularly for over two years now and we feel the children really welcome what we can offer.”

Annie adds: “The Evelyn Trust grant helped us to a great start at Addenbrooke’s and we have built on our initial success by reaching out to the Eye Clinic and their Patch Club. We have built strong relationships with staff and now work in various settings,from individual bedside visits to group work and also provide workshops such as balloon modelling.

The Laughter Specialists is a registered charity, set up by Patrick and Annie to provide fun and laughter at times of illness when people need it most. They have been providing such a worthwhile and popular service at Addenbrooke’s, that ACT – the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust - has recently provided funding for them to continue their work with young patients for a further two years.

“Of course having some light-hearted fun is a great release at any time, but there is a growing body of evidence that supports what we have known for years – laughter is genuinely good for you.”

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