Please tell us about Boys Don't Cry.
Boys don't cry is a panel event I have curated in my role as one of Cheltenham Literature festival's guest curators. I'll be exploring with my panellists Tim Grayburn and Matthew Todd the prevalence of depression in men and how we can use creativity to help those suffering, as well as spread mental health awareness. Matthew is a journalist and author and former editor of Attitude magazine and Tim is a writer and theatre maker. Both write candidly about mental health.
As you've mentioned, Tim Grayburn is on the panel, so why did you want him involved in the project?
I heard incredible things about his theatre piece 'Fake It Til You Make It' which explores Tim's depression. I wanted him on the panel as he's a fantastic example of someone who has not only used a creative process to confront his own mental health problems but also to raise awareness and help others.
You are a poet and performer- so do you have a preference between the two?
I love performing. I love the exchange between audience and performer, the sharing of a story, the honestly and confessional aspect. But I can't explain the feeling I get when I write. All the chaotic stuff in my head makes sense suddenly when I write it down. I feel calmer and happier.
Why does creative self-expression have transformative power?
I think allowing yourself to process your feelings and experiences and the world around you through a creative act, whether writing or making something or even just going on a beautiful walk, can help you understand yourself. It's empowering to have that space to figure out what's going on in your head and release it.
Why is it important to find your voice as a writer?
I suppose because when you find your voice, you're being authentically you. Your telling your story in your own way. People will appreciate that.
What can people expect from one of your workshops?
Fun I hope. I like people to surprise themselves with what they're capable of. Writing can seem scary at first but if your try the exercises and just put pen to paper without fear of judgement, the result can be beautiful.
Finding Home is your debut show, so what can you tell us about this?
It's my debut piece for theatre. I used to just write poems but I wanted to write something longer and more substantial as a way to get out some experiences and feelings I'd had for a long time. It's my story about growing up in a single parent home and leaving home and being a woman and all the messy things. But it's predominantly about losing my brother to suicide. I wanted to make a show that talked about a bereavement like that and reached out to those who may be feeling alienated by their loss. I also wanted to talk about the stigmas surrounding mental health and why people don't think they can seek help. I wanted to write a real, honest, human story that celebrates tragedy and emotion rather than hides it. I hope that's what I've done. It's got beautiful original music and projections, I worked with amazing artists on the piece and I'm extremely proud of it.
What is next for you?
I'm touring Finding Home next year! I'm also working on my first published collection of poetry.