So having felt like I was swimming against the tide for some time and brushing myself down and starting all over again…and again and again, to my delight and surprise a little light has suddenly illuminated in the darkness. We didn’t get the Arts council Grant first time round at the end of April but on second go after a fair few disappointed moans over coffee we spoke to some people, put it straight back in again, our wounds licked, and hoped for the best. And that is when we got we were hoping for. By waiting patiently and persisting. It’s six years since I first noticed I had vocal problems, five since my right vocal chord was operated on, four since I did the London marathon and met Jo Harper, my collaborator at a playwriting group led by the amazing Jemma Kennedy. Two years later Jo and myself sat in a café catching up and decided that, possibly, maybe, we could do something with this material and create a play based on these challenges of how a woman loses her voice and tries to find a way back to it. Without the power in my voice I felt weak, useless, washed up and like I couldn’t recognise myself anymore. When you have spent so long relying on that tool not only as an expression of yourself but also your livelihood, it feels like you can no longer be yourself and you have to re- invent a new version, one that doesn’t know what else its good at. It was too upsetting and close to home for me to write myself and I may have played on the darkness and isolation of it all, it being one of the lowest times of my life, but by having Jo as the writer, it seemed we had found the ideal mix, I could share stories, she could bring them to life, without being too emotionally connected. I had played with the idea around three years ago in Jemma’s class when she gave us one of her useful exercises where we had to write something that had happened to us, but merely the facts, without any flourishes. Jemma said that it was interesting as it’s a story of how one muscle fades and is broken but you look for another one to compensate. It went into my notebook and there the seed was planted ready for a day when it was the right time. And this was it.We’re over the moon that we have finally got our Grants for Arts funding so that we can Research and develop our project Can you hear me running?
It’s taken time, diligence, regular meetings, calls, advice seeking and workshop attending, but armed with the right resources, we can finally make a small start on an idea. Because, weirdly enough, that’s why I went into this industry, to be creative but it seems like a luxury these days and not a given that you have room to be an artist.
Today as part of our research, I returned for the first time in five years to the ENT hospital where I was operated on and where I felt like my life as an actor was over. I met up again with the amazing speech and language therapist, Ruth Epstein who helped me with the at times, incredibly challenging journey. I felt nervous and excited about going back but as I looked around kings cross and all the new shops and changes that have taken place in six years I reflected on how much has changed to myself too, how I took up running, took up writing, found a local job with lovely people, did still work and slowly manage to speak with ease again having had at my worst been reduced to a breathy whisper. Above all that, I remembered how small the kids were when I was in my ‘Have to be silent phase’, how they couldn’t read and so communication was impossible, me trying sign to them or draw pictures to communicate. Somehow though, they came through, as they have with other challenges.
Sometimes it takes a while to be heard, especially when you feel like you’ve been burrowing underground, muffled both physically and mentally for some time. Things happen in life, major changes take place, our sense of security and hope is questioned but bit by bit you try to tend to those parts of yourself that feel broken or lost, you keep seeking out the little lights in the dark windows, painting it, writing it, running past it.. for what is there without hope? There’s sometimes a way out of feeling trapped, even if you’re standing in the same place you were years ago. You have no choice but to look at things differently. And that’s why I’ll call this new painting little lights.