100 Voices – My Story

Earlier this year I was asked by the brilliant Miranda Roszkowski to take part in her project 100 Voices – a podcast featuring 100 Stories by women to celebrate 100 years of some women getting the vote. My story was about a group of awesome people I met around 6 years ago – here’s the transcript.

You can download the podcasts from I Tunes for free, there are brilliant stories from a whole range of brilliant women.  Definitely have a listen.

There was a time in my life when I very much felt I couldn’t. Or I wasn’t. Or I didn’t know how. I worked in theatre and had always looked out to that world and saw people doing the things that I wanted to do, and felt that I wasn’t clever enough or confident enough, and sometimes I felt I just wasn’t male enough – by my mid 20s it seemed to be all of my friends that were men were getting ahead in the business, and I just didn’t know how to. I used to try and fail at things often. I’d haphazardly chase after my dreams believing that they would always stay out of my reach. I didn’t know how to get ideas off the ground and I often felt quite intimidated by the industry.

Then in 2012 was introduced by a good friend to this incredible group of people, mostly women.  And they were bold and mighty and vulnerable.  And I worked with them for 2 years on a theatre project called The Chaosbaby. We were all different ages, different generations and I’d not experienced that kind of friendship before. And through working with them and alongside them I learnt how to do things and they taught me that there was no secret, just hard work and resilience and a bit of confidence in yourself.  And it was in spending time with them that for the first time ever I started to understand feminism and how to challenge an industry and society that structurally holds not only women, but all minority groups back.

I also began to consider that that even the most successful or seemingly confident people have days where they feel like they can’t, or don’t know how or aren’t good enough.

The more time I spent with this incredibly supportive group of people, the more I felt I learnt how to become myself. I became more confident in my ideas and putting myself forward, and that was a gift from them to me. To not be afraid of failing, but to try, to not give up and through trying things I found a part of me that had never quite fully revealed itself. I’m not saying we live in a meritocracy and I know I have lots of privilege in lots of ways.

In 2014 I decided to launch my own website, called The LGBTQ Arts Review – a website that documented and examined LGBT+ theatre. I had recently come out myself and I realised I felt that I’d been really limited in the role models I’d had on TV and in theatre, and I wanted to first of all look at where we were at with that, and then try and change it.  Through running my website I noticed that there was a distinct lack of women’s voices in LGBT+ theatre and I wanted to do something that might help that, even if it was only a tiny bit. So last year I applied for some Arts Council Funding, and was successful and got given some money to run a scheme to support female, non-binary, trans and intersectional LGBT voices and writers. And this was a really important moment for me, because it was proof that I could do something and I could achieve things and I wasn’t powerless to try and change things. Five years ago I didn’t think I was good enough or had the knowledge to fill in an Arts Council form, or would have an idea worth funding.

What I’ve learnt in the last five years is that the only way to know if you’re the right person is to try. And that sometimes it will be a no, but that the more you try and the harder you work hopefully there will be more yesses. But I know that it was the support of my friends that changed this for me, and I think supporting one another and building one another up is one of the most important things we can do – looking out to the world, to the people around us that are doing cool things, seeing them and offering words of encouragement and engaging in one another’s ventures and offering a gentle boost can make all of the difference. I know that it did for me.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 15.08.30

Advertisements

Freelancing so far…

This was originally a twitter thread, sharing here also, with a few added extras…

On Thursday I ended up having a lot of freelancing conversations with a lot of people.  Which got me to thinking. Freelancing in the arts is HARD! Nearly all of the arts companies I work for get this, and treat their staff really well accordingly (I have even in the past, on the odd occasion received sick / compassionate pay for work missed from companies I regularly work for). But when booking in independent work it can be super hard to navigate / negotiate.

Here are some things I’ve learnt over the past 10 years working both independently and with arts organisations.  Agree, disagree – add your own!

  1. Say goodbye to weekends and holidays, there will always be one necessary email to answer in these periods.
  2. Get a website that has your CV / all the cool stuff you’ve done on it so you can quickly refer people. (WordPress will do)
  3. Look around, see who you want to work for, drop them an email, send your CV, tell them why you want to work for them.  Do this whether or not they’re currently recruiting.
  4. Blog (optional) about things relevant to your work. Can be useful when applying for work to direct people towards your blog posts – demonstrates a commitment and passion in your field.
  5. Get good at social media and talk about your work on it (without humble bragging).
  6. If someone you previously worked for (who may have more work for you) seems to have forgotten you drop them a friendly email
  7. RE: 6: Once is plenty
  8. Figure out what you’re worth (it’s an awful lot more than you probably think) and go in at the upper end when someone asks how much you charge. Use your judgement as to when it may be worth letting them know you’re movable on that (esp when working with charities etc)
  9. Always send a contract to everyone you work for when independently booked. In the contract explain that their fee covers planning, travel, materials, admin costs and insurance in addition to delivery time (and if it feels right add pension / sick days / annual leave etc to that) I put this on invoices too to remind people what they’re paying for.
  10. Do your tax return early (Pre September – good!)
  11. Save tax as you go.  I repeat, save tax as you go.  I repeat one more time (for my own benefit) SAVE TAX AS YOU GO.
  12. Be nice to people
  13. Stay feminist and intersectional. Always. (In life too.)
  14. People will always try to get you to do extra for free, negotiate this where possible.
  15. A job should be rewarded by either: money, experience or networks – if none of these are gained, it’s probably not worth your time.
  16. Stick at it
  17. Take time out. You don’t have to work all of the time. Take sick days when you need to. (Yes there may be an email here or there – see #1 – however switching off regularly will help to avoid burn out.)
  18. Wall calendars / year planners are useful. As are black / white boards. Post it notes essential.
  19. Eat and sleep properly.  Plan time in to your day to think about these two things.  I am the worst when working from home at forgetting to eat. I’m practising being better! There’s nothing cool about shouting on social media that you are depriving yourself of basic human needs for your career. (Also pee – when I’m busy I always forget to go and pee – it’s really bad for you!)
  20. Mental health – check in with it regularly.
  21. Collaboration is stronger than competition, if you’ve had a door open somewhere, use it (appropriately) to let others in.
  22. Don’t wait around for opportunities. Create them.
  23. Try to make things better for others (people somewhere are also probably trying to make things better for you)
  24. Pleases and thank yous

There are many, many more which I will get round to writing up another day. I will be running a workshop on all of this at some point, as I know that knowing some of this stuff sooner would have helped me.

IMG_0324

To a year below the surface

Reaching the end of what feels as though it’s been a huge year both politically, and in terms of things being blown apart, revealed and talked about, I have hopes that the work that’s begun this year continues in to next year. I hope that as we’ve seen the horrors that lie beneath the surface, we finally stop glazing over and pretending that everything is okay and keep the conversations going.  I hope that conversations turn in to action, and that that action brings change.  That with each passing day we wake up a little more. As always, I hope the world becomes a lot kinder.

And instead of wishing you a Happy New Year, which feels wrong, superficial and a little on the surface, I wish you happy times, and if not happy, then uneventful. I hope you laugh, but just as importantly I hope you cry, and I hope you find a safe space in which to cry and be sad. I hope you get angry, and find a space in which to hold that anger. And I hope you can use that anger to make things change. I hope you talk about the big things, the scary things, the brilliant things and the worrying things. We live in a world that celebrates hiding, and being outwardly happy, being outwardly okay. But that’s not a truth for anyone.  So I wish you an honest New Year.

This time of year can feel hard when you’re being bombarded from companies, and the media promising us a chance to start over, to be thinner, to be fitter, to be better – to do less: drink less, eat less, worry less, weigh less. But we are only human and these expectations can weigh heavy on our hearts and shoulders. I think resolutions set us up to fail. About 5 years ago, my New Years Resolution every year was to get a book published. And every year it didn’t happen. And I always ended the year focussed on my disappointment that I’d failed again, rather than giving weight to all of the cool stuff that happened. So now I write New Years suggestions – ideas of things I might want to do. Here are mine for 2018.

  1. To work hard – I try to always work hard, toward the things I believe in. And each year my work challenges grow. This year I’m going in to January with two new challenges.  I have funding to make a new children’s show with LGBT characters.  I spent a long time being terrified about this, about it not being good, or quite right or not getting an audience.  But in the last few weeks my thinking has changed – if I work hard at it, even if I ‘fail’, I think it’s okay. I think failing is all part of trying, and the older I get, the more okay I feel with failing – or questioning what failing even is… I’m also starting work with The Self Esteem Team – delivering workshops in primary schools around mental health.  I am so excited, and this is a huge new challenge for me.
  2. To stay in touch – I know I have seen less of some friends in the last couple of years. Some moved away.  Some are still around London, but work and life seem to have taken over. And I know I could sometimes be better at dropping a message, seeing a card or organising a drink. And so I’ll hold the thought of staying in touch close to hand, and try to bring it in to life more often.
  3. To follow my intuition – To remember to follow my intuition.  Especially career wise.  I sometimes try to force things, or get frustrated when things don’t happen as fast as I’d like (like getting a book published in a year).  Remembering that I’m on a journey and learning all the time, is useful. Two years ago, I didn’t know how to do the things I’m doing now.  Who knows what I’ll be doing in two years time. But being open to possibilities, and ready for the unexpected is useful, because I believe that sometimes pathways open up that we hadn’t imagined for ourselves, but are right for us at the that time.
  4. To eat more vegetables – Again, just floating this thought so it’s consciously in my head.  Sometimes when I’m busy working or out on the go, I forget to eat enough vegetables.
  5. To be honest about how I’m feeling – I think this comes back to all of that surface stuff, and being honest about what’s going on below. Being honest doesn’t mean you can’t be positive or optimistic, but it means being truthful about where you are right now.  So much of new year is about being geared towards a happier, healthier life in the future, but being honest with where we are in this moment is an okay thing, I think. I have super down days and highly happy ones – and a lot of middling ones. And I’m just fine with that.
  6. Dance.

And that’s plenty.  Whether or not you’re making resolutions, suggestions or completely ignoring the New Year – I wish you a peaceful 2018.  And whatever it brings for you, I wish you the space to feel all of the feels.

Now, time to go make pie! 🙂

Love.

IMG_2247

My Things to Do (and Be)…

Since Brexit I’ve gone through phases of feeling super hopeless; I want to help to change things, but have no idea how, or where to begin.  I had to keep away from social media for a while, as much of the debate felt pointless, and a bit of a waste of time.

And then Trump happened, and as hard as it seemed, it felt like it was time to do something, anything. It was time to start Doing again. I’d started writing a blog about how I felt and blah blah blah, and then my friend Stella wrote a really good list of things, which inspired me to write my own list of things that I (and you) could do (or be).  So here it is.  Maybe you’ll write one too?

  1. Volunteer for Diversity Role Models. They do amazing work in schools tackling homophobic bullying. Anyone can volunteer as a role model, whether LGBT+ or a straight ally, and can volunteer from 1 to 100 days a year with them. (Or if you really don’t have the time, why not just send them a bit of cash so that they can keep doing their brilliant work?)

2. Get involved with this.

3. I will keep running the LGBTQ Arts review, which celebrates arts and theatre made by the LGBT+ community.  If you want to get involved, by becoming a reviewer email me: lgbtqarts@outlook.com.  You don’t need tonnes of writing experience, just an interest in theatre and LGBT stuff (straight allies also very, very welcome to write for us!)

4. Email our Prime Minster to take action. It doesn’t take long to send a message to Number 10, take a mo to voice your concerns about the way things are at the mo.

5. Think something nice about every person you pass on the tube / street / wherever.  It’s a game I play sometimes when I’m feeling crappy, it always cheers me up a bit, cause you’re thinking positive things, and it’s nearly impossible to have both positive and negative thoughts in the same moment.

6. Start each morning by saying ‘I will be kind to everyone today’.  Yes even the difficult, grumpy-shouty people. And remembering that in those moments when I feel short tempered, or grumpy – to be extra kind. And sometimes kindness is stepping away, that’s okay too.

7. Run with me. If you want and are able to, I’m going to run a half marathon this year to raise money for a women’s charity (I haven’t chosen which one yet).  But if you are running this year and want someone to train with (I know it can be easier when you do) message me – I’d love to train with you some time.

8. Read Stella’s blog, because she had loads of other awesome things to do.

9. Go along and support Mad Poets Speak.  Or even take your own poems / writing / musings along.  Incredible initiative by my friend Louisa who wanted to create a mental health safe space.

10. Write your own list!!!

And also, join the Women’s Equality Party.  They’re doing wicked stuff.

And look after yourself.  I’m trying to do more looking after myself, finding the time to swim, write, chill and do nothing with my loved ones, because that keeps me strong, so I can go out and do more.

march

The Wave of Hopelessness

Judging by everyone else I’m connected to on social media, I’m guessing you feel about as helpless as I do at the moment. I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about how it’s not about Trump getting elected, I mean it is about Trump getting elected, but it’s about Trump getting elected after the Tories got in for a second term, and then after Brexit. It is about the Western world taking a sudden shift to the right. Towards the alternative right.  And I feel hopeless because it’s wrong, this is a movement that further oppresses minority groups, punishes the poor, treats women as second class citizens and only really benefits big business, capitalism and, surprise, surprise – men – white men with lots of money. It does nothing for humankind.

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 14.44.22.png

I cried the morning Trump got in.  And I cried again this morning. Because I feel hopeless, hopeless to change the way the world is heading. Part of me just wants to hide away in a cosy pub and drink gin, as much gin and as quickly as I can until all of the gin has gone, because gin makes me merry and I shall forget about all of this. But I hate hangovers, so I probably won’t drink all the gin, and anyway – what after the gin?  I want to rant on Twitter and Facebook about Trump, Brexit, and the far right, and Farage and Brexit and the increase in hate crimes and all of that.  But I can’t.  And as someone who has always been politically engaged and quite vocal, this is hard.  But I can’t shout anymore because I feel it creates more negativity and I’ll either be preaching to the converted (which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just – we all know it’s hopeless), or getting in to arguments with provocative people that have no intention of changing their views.   I feel the only thing I can do now is to put my energy in to something hopeful and useful, because I only have so much energy, and I want it to be used in the best possible way.

All I can think to do is to keep doing the things I’m doing and then do a bit more.  I run a teeny tiny website, that talks about LGBTQ Theatre, because I want people to hear these stories, because I think through this marginalised voices are heard, I want to celebrate how far we’ve come, and figure out how far we have to go.  Because I think theatre is often slightly ahead of the real world in it’s thinking. And despite what Trump says, I don’t think theatre’s safe – I think it risk-takes, I think it has the power to present possibilities and challenge people, I certainly hoe it does.

screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-14-45-42

I can keep working for Diversity Role Models, the charity I’ve been involved with for 2 years. I can keep working with children, and encourage them to be kind and thoughtful and smart.  I can keep running to support the work of charities that I think do wonderful work to support many people in many ways. I can launch an LBT Arts festival next year, to ensure marginalised voices are better heard. I can keep speaking up every time someone says something that causes oppression, or is unkind.

Last week I was at the Diversity Role Models Gala and Suran, the CEO, that said we can lead by example – as a country we can lead by example when it comes to LGBTQ Equality. She’s right, we can’t necessarily all take responsibility for what is happening on the other side of the Atlantic, but by making change here, we can show that equal marriage does not threaten or alter heterosexual marriage. We can demonstrate that gender neutral toilets really don’t make any dramatic difference at all. We really can lead by example. And not just in terms of LGBTQ+ equality, but in terms of any minority groups, all of those groups overlooked by the extreme right, who seem to be obtaining power fast and furiously. But we have to step up and show our support. And even if only in a tiny way, that’s enough, but we could, perhaps all push to do a tiny bit more than we are.

I also think we can be kind. If we think about how energy translates (quite literally) then if we are kind to a stranger, if we smile at someone, we pass that energy on to them. They may in turn smile at someone else. We need now, more than ever to step beyond ourselves, to move beyond our bubbles, to look out, to look up.  I feel a need now, more than ever, to exit the bubble.

I want to know more of what I can do.  Tell me more positive things I can do to help in these awful times, I’ll listen. My friend Stella wrote a really good blog about places you can support / help.

So yes, I feel blue and anxious, as I know so many of us do, but I find it reassuring that so many of us are concerned.  I won’t be dramatically optimistic, but I hold all worst case scenarios lightly my palm. This, now, is a call to action to be kinder than we have ever been, to put our energy in to the good and the positive and to make positive actions (perhaps you already are). It may be exhausting… I’m not telling you what to do, but if you want to, please join me.

Send in the Clowns

Last night I walked home on my own, wondering if I’d get jumped on by one of those people in a clown costume. I pondered over how I might react. What would I do?  Would I run? Scream? Hide? Ask for a selfie?  I tried really hard to imagine what I would do if a clown with a chainsaw jumped out from one of the parked cars on my street in the next few seconds.  Then the horror hit me.  There is already a knowing in my body how to react to this situation. It is not unusual for me to feel threatened at night. I am often a woman walking home alone. If a clown jumped out at me, I would do what I always do when approached on the streets at night by a stranger. Eyes down, walk on, get home safely.  In the day time I might swear, or fight, or at least openly display my disapproval.  But generally the rule at night is Get Home Safe (read ‘Alive’).

The world is finally listening.  The Sun are reporting on these terrifying clowns almost hourly, they’ve even created a map of the clown sightings. Not just The Sun – The Guardian, Independent, Telegraph and BBC are all partaking in rigorous reporting of this phenomenon. Vigilantes are out en masse vowing to take down these masked figures. And here’s the rub, the reason people are listening and reporting on it so heavily is because it’s scary for men too.  It’s scary for everyone. So it stops being invisible. I’m furious. I’ve been wary of the streets for years, I’ve been chased, lunged at, shouted at, once grabbed, never mugged (know loads who have been), never sexually assaulted (know many who have been) by myriad men- but my stories disappear with the hundreds of others told by almost, if not, every women.  It doesn’t get the same kind of reporting.

I also think people listen a bit harder when it’s fictional, a bit supernatural, a bit surreal, a bit enough away from real life to make your eyeballs prickle with a thrill and spine tingle with fearful excitement. It’s escapism. I imagine few people’s eyeballs prickle when we talk about street harassment, least of all the top dog editors sitting in news offices working out how to sell papers. I wish they would. I wish every terrified man tweeting about the clown phenomenon (there are lots) would understand that this is the fear women always feel when walking home alone at night. Anyone who’s spent more than a day walking in a woman’s shoes knows there’s no need to send in the clowns, they’ve been here for years.

So am I scared? No. To hell do I care if you jump out at me in a clown costume. I’m used to creepy men springing themselves upon me in the darkness. I’m just sad that I’d welcome a terrifying practical joke any day, over the taunts, jeers, comments and threats that I’m used to. Jump out at me with a chainsaw if you like, I’ve experienced worse on these streets at night, and lived through it. So knock yourself out, try to scare me. I dare you.

 

I Look Up

Last year in Greece our Air B&B host Labros gave us a Greek lesson, he was kind like that and often made time for us.  He told us that all Greek words mean other things.  The one that has stayed with me the most is Human (Anthropos), which translates to ’I look up’ or ‘one who looks up into the heights.’  Which I suppose means looking to the Gods and finding the meaning in one’s own life, but when I look up, to the sky or the stars, it always reminds me how small I am. A human, a tiny citizen of planet earth, a minuscule part of a bigger picture.

I haven’t written much recently.  I tried to blog after Orlando, but I couldn’t quite find the words.  The day after it happened I went to work in a school for Diversity Role Models, to tackle homophobic language and bullying.  I often hear people saying it’s much better for LGBT people now, especially since we have marriage and stuff.  It is better, yes.  But I don’t want better, I want equal. I know from my job that homophobia is still a huge problem, I have heard many stories in many schools of how a young person’s life has been made miserable as a result their sexuality, and how many young people still view being LGBT as a negative thing. This has to change. I spoke to my colleague that night, we were both shattered, it had been a hard, but incredibly important day in the wake of the weekend’s events.

I had just arrived on holiday when the news of Jo Cox broke.  I read the papers, but somehow in the remote countryside, it felt hard to get a grasp on all of this stuff happening so far away.  It was only on arriving home yesterday evening did the sadness begin to flood in.

In both instances I have seen the killers branded as ‘lunatics’, with mental health issues. Which is frustrating, and unhelpful – least of all because it’s not helpful in changing stigma around mental health. A lot of people experience difficulties with their mental health at some point in their lives, and some more so than others, but most are peaceful, tolerant people. Mental health is not to blame for either of these events; hatred, intolerance and prejudice are.

I am fearful for Brexit, and I know my friends sit largely divided, and for a range of reasons, most of them economic.  But I have heard too many speakers on the radio, read too many online comments of people that support Brexit to ‘make Britain great again’ and put a stop to immigration – it’s hateful language. I don’t see immigration as a problem, that’s another blog. I think far too much fear mongering is happening, I think too much air time is given to people like Farage (and Trump in the US), who spread hatred and intolerance, but seem to strike a chord and whip up support for their causes with fearful citizens.

Today it feels as though all of these events have caught up with me and feel unbelievably sad about them.  I still have no words and I’m scared for the world. I tried to crack on with work this morning, there is, as always, much to do, but found I couldn’t, so instead gave space to my sadness, allowed myself to feel it and be sad. I think it’s okay to have a day like this every now and again.  But tomorrow, I will get up, get on and keep trying to make a difference in whatever way I can, whether in work, through art or whatever other means.

I’ve heard loads of people recently saying that they’re tired, exhausted of fighting for equality or against prejudice or whatever.  I am too sometimes.  Like today. And I think, on some days it’s okay to sit still. But I also think, what on earth are we here for if not to make things better for the people that come after?  I am eternally grateful for the LGBT people that fought in the past for my rights today – sometimes risking their lives to do so. I am eternally grateful for the women that fought for me to have the vote today.  These were all acts of love, carried out by people that would never know me, but made my life better all the same.

It’s easy to feel we are too small, or too busy, or too tired to make a difference, but I believe if we determine that we can and we will, those opportunities arise for us to do so, whether it be something we can change at work, or at home, through a quiet conversation or a generous action.  I often think about the kind of world I’d want to live in, be proud to have been a part of. I think about the things I want to see change and how we can do the little things to bring greater change.

Just because you’re not LGBT, it doesn’t mean you can’t show up and offer support at Pride, or become a Diversity Role Model. Just because you’re not female, doesn’t mean you can’t speak out against sexism.  We can all call out and challenge ageism, sexism, racism, ableism and homophobia, whether it directly affects us or not, all of these things are our problem.  And I know that most people reading this know this already.

It’s easy to bury ourselves in the day to day, and sometimes necessary. Our own lives are important, our relationships, those around us and the day to day trials are of course worthy of our all and undivided. But I believe we can do that, and also choose to be brave, emerge, be human and look up. Looking up means we look away from our own life and remember we are a part of something much bigger. We can’t fight every battle, but we can all choose to fight a few. It is tiring, yes.  We’re all busy, yes. But I can no longer see the point in anything if we don’t.  Facebook statuses and blogs are good – actions are better (I’m aware of the irony in saying that).

As my friend reminded me this morning – the world is a beautiful place.  It is, and there is so much love already.  Let’s keep making it better.

 

IMG_5262