A WOMAN who grew up on her family’s farm in South Gippsland but left to join a traveling circus is now entertaining online via the 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined.
Shirley Billing’s performer profile says she “had a crack at getting a ‘proper job’, but soon decided joining a travelling circus was more her style”.
An actor, song writer, comedian and cabaret performer, Shirley is half of the long-running Ukulele Ladies roving comedy act. She also visits aged care homes as an Elder Clown.
“One of the reasons I love working with older people is they’re very kind,” Shirley says in her profile. “And they’re also happier with a slower pace so when I am at work I don’t have anyone saying, ‘Hurry up, can’t you go any faster?’ and I’m like, ‘No, this is top gear,’ and it’s like, ‘You’re fired, we’re going to restructure you’, and I’m like, ‘Oooh no’,” Shirley jokes.
But being an Elder Clown is not all laughs.
“Not everyone’s happy to be in aged care. Some people are angry, and some people are frustrated,” Shirley said.
“At one of the homes, there was a lady and no one could get in her door because she’d throw library books at them and they sent me in because I had a good reputation for being able to get people to talk to me. So, I opened the door a crack and said, ‘So what are you reading at the moment?’. I thought, she’s not going to throw it at me if she’s talking about it…we became friends.”
Check out Shirley’s performance for the virtual festival at seniorsonline.vic.gov.au/news-opinions/video/Festival-reimagined-Shirley-Billing.