I’m a Cardiff-based writer whose work often touches on the impact of adverse childhood experiences. Though I write from a personal perspective, frequently focusing on mental health, work and creativity, I’m also interested in how these are affected by other areas of social inequality. I work in a school Autism Base (best place ever) but have also been known to write screenplays, perform comedy, teach English, run lgb housing services, mentor students with anxiety and lecture in academic writing. Before and between all that, I did loads of ‘miscellaneous jobs’ (including making cocktails in a HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy themed bar).
A sort of career/creativity history
I was born and raised in Nottingham. Whilst on the dole in the 1980s, (‘Thatchers Britain’) I attended improvisation drama workshops and met my then comedy partner with whom I performed on the alternative cabaret scene and co-edited a Midlands’ Zine called ‘C.I.A.’ But, to my partner’s dismay (we were billed alongside Henry Normal and look where he is now?) I gave it up to ‘go get an education.’
I gained a Performing Arts Degree in Newcastle upon Tyne, for which I co-devised dark comedies on family, love and sex, which we performed around pubs and community centres in Gateshead. I got my 2:1 but after, in the midst of a mental health crisis, I moved to Cardiff to be with my sister, The Artist. Writing and performing took a back seat to recovering, getting therapy and getting back into paid work.
Starting with a job supporting young lesbian and gay people, over the course of eight years I ended up developing and managing Housing Projects across Wales. I am proud of this work, but with an itch to commit to my writing, I left to do various jobs while me and my sister taught ourselves screenwriting (deconstructing hundreds of films viewed as an usher in an indie cinema).
But soon the unskilled jobs led to better jobs again and over time I’d gone from casual work supporting students with educational needs to lecturing in academic skills to teaching English to International Masters students by way of a certificate in teaching English as a foreign language. Again, proud of my achievements but burnt out and wanting time to write, I left ’employee work’ in Higher Education to tutor freelance.
During this time, in 2014, I saw a competition for a short film called Be Heard to be created by survivors of abuse. I felt compelled to write a screenplay and submitted it at the very last hour. Well reader, I won and the film was produced by The London Screenwriters Festival and premiered at the Bafta cinema in 2016.
Winning gave me the validation I needed to put writing centre in my life. But I also found myself battling another bout of debilitating depression. I couldn’t function, had to give up my freelance work and found myself starting from scratch again. I went from being on benefits to taking on bits of temporary work as a Teaching Assistant and stutteringly starting my blog.
Since 2017, I have been dividing my time between my brilliant day job and developing Unstruggling: a kind of part memoir, part self-help guide, borne out of my experience of mental distress and quest for a peaceful life balancing work, writing and well-being.
I am also now collaborating with my sister on a video piece called ‘The Biscuit Tin and The Sequin Skirt’, the paradoxical tale of the 24 hours in which I went from the humiliation of a mental health assessment for the notorious ESA benefit, to the aforementioned Be Heard film premiere in 2016.
My work is often about how to accept the reality of pain yet live with hope and meaning. I’m driven by the desire to connect with others who, like myself, have much to give but often find themselves struggling and to figure out what gets in our way (be it personal or political), and to find ways through that will sustain.
‘Jamie’s Story’ a monologue for Cameron Butler, the young actor who gave such a poignant performance as Daniel in Be Heard. It will be based on a character from a feature-length screenplay called Liberation about a cultish life-change organisation, co-written with my sister.
‘Paper mother’ Downloadable resources to help with anxiety; maybe even some videos.
I might dare to get back to something performance-based- perhaps public speaking, maybe monologues, we’ll see…
Stuff I Love: Languages (will try basic conversation in French, Spanish or Italian); Dancing; Hot weather; Warm colours: Black coffee: Talking, thinking and reading.
Rachel (Updated 28/08/19)