What kind of career’s advice did you get as a young woman?
We did a quiz on a computer at school and it calculated your ‘ideal job’. Mine came up with ‘Golf Green’s Keeper’, I remember that I was really jealous because my friend got ‘TV Presenter’. I once had to do a mock interview for a job in a nursery at school too. Other than that, I don’t remember much other advice.
What did you want to be when you left education?
My parents were very encouraging. I told them I wanted to be an actor and we talked about how it would be quite financially uncertain. I decided I would be a secretary in my spare time, so I took a computer course called Information Technology at GCSE. It’s funny to think back over the time when I had so few preconceptions and expectations of myself.
I was always really good at Science too, that’s something my Dad tried to nurture in me as much as possible but I never thought it was possible that I could become a scientist.
Did your mother work?
Yes my mother worked full time until I was about 4/5 then part-time after that. I remember she was very busy. She told me that the childcare for my sister and I cost almost as much as her entire salary! I’m glad she did it though because we lived in a very isolated rural area and she would’ve been really lonely looking after us all day. She was a primary school reception teacher, I sometimes work in schools as part of my job now. Now that I think back I can’t believe she had the energy to do that job all day and look after my older sister and I the rest of the time.
Love & Relationships:
Do you think getting married is important?
No, it’s not important to me. I always said that I would never get married. I was brought up to really value my independence and to consider marriage with a critical eye that saw through its patriarchal routes.
One day when I was a young teenager, perhaps 13 or 14, one of our next door neighbour’s daughters was having a big expensive wedding in a marquee in their garden. My sister and I watched over the wall as it was erected and filled with fancy chairs and decorations. My Dad came to stand beside us and he said in his gruff dry tones, ‘Don’t think you’ll ever be getting all that.’ It was made very clear to us that it wasn’t what our family wanted for us and that there were other things in life that were much more worth pursuing and spending money on. It is all very unromantic isn’t it! If we ever quiz my parents on the matter they tell us, with a wry smile, that they married for tax reasons.
Now that I’ve been with my partner for 10 years I’ve been to lots of different weddings, I can see another side to marriage. I can see that it can be a wonderful mutual celebration, of love and a lovely ceremony for family and friends to attend together. I would never say never! But I don’t think it would be particularly traditional and I think I would rather propose or just decide together.
What did you dream your future partner would be like when you were a little girl?
I can’t remember dreaming about exactly what they would be like but I remember my first crushes were always on the outdoor sports leaders like mountain leaders and climbing teachers. My sister was always dreaming and playing at Mum’s and Dad’s, she even had a scrapbook full of pictures of buggies and car seats and all sorts that she had cut out of the Argos catalogue! I was more in a fantasy world though, I liked the thought of someone strong and heroic, who I could go on adventures with. I think I found that, so I’m very lucky. But it definitely gets harder to go on adventures as you get older. Maybe different things become the adventures?
Is your relationship with your partner the same as your parents’ relationship?
I think in some ways it’s quite different. But there are similarities.
How like your mother are you?
I’m not that much like her. She’s very organized and likes things under control. I am a bit more haphazard and go with the flow like my Dad. My sister is very like my Mum so that’s probably why I go with the flow! I did inherit some of her traits though, it seems a strange thing to say about myself but I think I am kind like her.
What are your hopes for any daughters or young women you know?
I have a 1 and ½ year old niece. My hope for my niece is that she will really value herself and have a strong independent voice. I hope she will be brave enough to try and make mistakes and get back up again and try some more. I hope that she will find loving relationships and have a great sense of fun. She definitely has a mischievous side already. I hope that spirit never leaves her.
Do you bring your son up the same way as your daughter? Do you think boys and girls should be brought up differently?
I don’t have children. I think that they shouldn’t be treated differently, but they are by the vast majority of people. I would do everything I could to keep things equal if I did have children but also wouldn’t want that to mean I was a really self conscious parent and that I was always second guessing myself, because I don’t think that’s helpful either. For me it is about encouraging girls and boys to be strong willed and have a voice. I would be aware of nurturing that even more if I had a little girl and also of how difficult it can be for boys to show sensitive sides of themselves.
If you don’t have children, what have you been able to do that having children would have prevented you doing? What has your focus been?
For 7 years I’ve run a theatre company and worked as a performer for others touring all over the country. That has been wonderful and challenging in equal measure! I never thought I would have children. I think about things in great detail and it always seems to me like an immense responsibility full of unknowns. I understand that it would be an incredible experience but it terrifies me. I also worry about the environmental impact of the increase in population on the earth. I feel quite alone in thinking about these things but I feel like there are so many problems and so much suffering that I feel my focus should be on helping others instead of bringing a new person in to the world. I don’t judge other people at all and at the same time I think it would be amazing and I would love to do it. Never say never.
Expectations and Dreams:
Who are your heroines and why?
When I was young I went to a drama club run by two women, Becca and Donna. They were full of life and humour and they taught us to improvise and write songs and devise our own productions. We looked up to them so much. Becca was wildly individual. She wore leather boots covered with dragons which she had painted on to them. Her hair was always changing colour and once she shaved it all off and wore a wonderful selection of hats instead. I remember one particular set of orange floral dungarees she liked to wear, she had made them herself out of a pair of curtains. Donna was softer spoken and she liked to wear darker planer clothes. But I remember that she always wore a pendant around her neck, sometimes amber, sometimes purple amethyst on black string.
We created all sorts of shows, one I remember in particular was a musical about homeless people who became popstars and then realized that money did not buy happiness. We wrote all the songs and devised the script ourselves. There were conflicts of course but I remember it was fantastic fun and it was so exciting performing our work together. We even recorded an album of the songs we had created!
They made a huge and brilliant impression on me while I was growing up and I continued to work with them as an assistant on their workshops when I was a teenager. I knew that Becca had had a skin cancer scare a couple of years before and I remember talking to her about it. Just before I went to University she was diagnosed with secondary brain cancer and the year after I finished my studies she very sadly passed away. They both remain my inspiration and I had the pleasure of performing with my own theatre company for Donna in 2015. As a child I took it all for granted as you do. But there was something very special about the way that they taught us and empowered us to trust and develop our own ideas.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Last summer I was staying at my parent’s house as I was working with a school nearby. I was woken in the night by a horrible crashing sound and a few seconds later my Mum was screaming for me from the bottom of the stairs. My Dad had left the light off and sleepily walked not into the bathroom but off the top of the stairs taking an awful fall on to the slate below. I don’t think I was brave in this moment, I know I called an ambulance but I was in total shock and there is no brave or perfect way to react in these events. It is in the months that followed that I think that I could describe myself as brave. I think we all can, as a family, I am really proud of every one of us.
My Dad suffered a broken neck and head injury. The road to his recovery is and has been long and testing for all of us. After an operation and some time in hospital he returned home but needed 24 hour care at first. I cared for him with my Mum. After a couple of weeks and unsurprisingly in the circumstances my Mum needed to take a rest to recover from the trauma and stress of the events. She went to live with my sister and I cared for my Dad.
It seems strange in a way to think of it as brave because it happened over time and it was more about getting through each day. But I think it was in a way. Because there were moments when I was utterly lost and desperate and yet I just kept on going. Both my parents are doing much better now and I am just so glad that I could find it in myself to help them through a terrible time. It’s all so cyclical because you find in yourself the strength that they gave you growing up. I drove past my Grandma’s (my Dad’s Mum’s) old flat on the way to the hospital the night of the accident and I called out to her, ‘I’m doing it Grandma, I’m going to do you proud’ it seems mad now but I felt she heard me and it helped me through.
The other bravest thing I have ever done will seem ridiculous to many! It was to drive a long wheel base transit van through Aberdeen and a couple of hours along the motor way when touring a theatre production to Scotland. I am a very nervous driver and I really struggled to pass my test because of nerves. My fear of driving haunts me to this day and I constantly have to overcome anxiety to try to make it part of my day to day life. On that particular day I managed to do my fair share of the 7 hour drive.
What drives you?
I believe in making people happy and helping and connecting people.
What are your values?
I believe that kindness and empathy are the most important traits in a person. I value nature and people far beyond material possessions and money.
What is your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement was creating and touring theatre productions and outreach workshops with my theatre company. You have to play so many roles to run a small company and myself and the performer who I co-ran it with performed in every show and taught every workshop as well. I think we touched the lives of lots of families and gave them a really magical and fun experience. That makes me really proud.
How old are you?
What has been your favourite age to be and why?
This is my favourite age. I have lots still to learn but I like the wisdom that life brings me now.
Do you think it’s better to be young now than when you were young? (Or better now than when your parents were young?)
I think it was better to be young when I grew up. Life was simpler. Now life is much more complex. I see the benefits of technology but I’m also very suspicious and concerned about the ways in which it affects the lives of children and teenagers. I worry about my niece and nephew because I want to protect them and the internet in particular means they can explore and interact in worlds that I can’t protect them from at a young age.
What are the pros and cons of being a woman?
I think as a woman society is more accepting of me showing and exploring my emotions. It is also an incredible and creative experience to be a woman in many ways. However, I do feel like a lot of doors are closed to me and they are the privilege of men. This comes from conditioning and the way they are raised to be more decisive, confident and with little self-doubt, especially those from privileged backgrounds. I am a feminist and I believe in equality. I think in some ways things are easier for me than they were for my Mum growing up but there is still a long way to go.
What have been the biggest challenges in your life?
I suffer with anxiety and when it is at its worst overcoming this just to do everyday things is a big challenge. I know I’m not alone and I have ways of coping but it continues to challenge me. The worst part about it is when it stops me enjoying things and makes me say no to new experiences. It can be so exhausting.
It has taught me to really look after myself to give myself the best chance, so that is positive. Last year I was mugged by two men in London. After that I felt terrified travelling anywhere at night but I was determined that it wouldn’t get the better of me. My boyfriend was such a huge support and I know it was really horrible for him too but he was so brilliant and encouraging. I learnt a lot from it all.
Self-image – Body or Looks:
I wish I could be more at peace with how I look and enjoy my body. That has always been a struggle and I know I will look back in time and think what a lot of time I wasted thinking about it! I’m very lucky to have my health and easy movement and I try to enjoy that as much as possible.
Why do you dress the way that you do?
I don’t have loads of money to buy clothes so I shop a lot in charity shops or get some hand me downs from friends. I enjoy wearing colourful scarves and clothes in purple, blue and turquoise/ teal colours. I’m not that interested in fashion, I just wear what is comfy and I know I’m not particularly stylish. I sometimes wish I had a job that required me to dress more smartly. The grass is always greener!
What would be your musical soundtrack?
Massively eclectic! Soul music, rock, pop and swing music on the good days, Sufjan Stevens and Sigur Ros when I’m feeling pensive or thoughtful and old folk storytelling songs to tell my tales.
Do you have a life’s motto?
My Mum always says ‘You have to suffer for your art’ I think about that a lot but I don’t really have one. I could do with one I think. I just try to be loving.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks, I’ve enjoyed reflecting on these questions :0)