Balancing the nest

I have been spending some of my time recently absorbing myself in research to do with the life, mental health and cultural consequences of becoming a father, or a Dad. A subject I am familiar with and have been for a while, partly to do with becoming a Dad myself, and partly because hearing about and talking to other Dads and observing their place in our modern world fascinates me.

During the first Covid-19 lockdown the UK saw the biggest shift in the amount of time Dads spent with their children in possibly more than 200 years, according to the ONS and others. A 58% increase. However, for every hour that a mother spends with her child, the father, on average is spending 24 minutes. The most being in Portugal which is 39 minutes.

A common explanation is that men are still usually paid more or given more work opportunities which makes it a bigger risk for those families who would otherwise be keen to take an alternative approach to who stays home and who goes to work.  Also it seems that a lot of employers are still unwilling compared to some other countries to grant requests for flexible working hours and locations to allow parents to support their families more.

When I first thought about this I thought that this had only happened to me a couple of times. Although since becoming a Dad I have only had two full time contracts and both these environments were unwilling to consider these requests. They also very directly questioned my position based on me having a family at home. This is made even more baffling by the fact that they were both public sector institutions (although run by private companies) and both were centred around children and families. One being a children’s care home and the other a school. I am not saying that it is across the board but both suffered from the culture and pressures heaped upon them. Both seemed like they were dealing with these kinds of issues for the very first time, it wasn’t normal for staff to walk in and seek flexibility due to needing to support their family.

It is common practise for a staff member to leave the premises and seek out a child who hasn’t come to school, or hasn’t come home, but if they needed to do it to support their own child or family? Well they may need to consider that one a bit more.

My Christmas wish is that this year has allowed a large number, if not most, households everywhere to find a way to do things a little differently, because they want to, for the benefit of their family unit. When my family and I realised we could and that we wanted a different balance, it allowed the gradual, sometimes difficult journey to realise that it was also ok.

Starting a Story Circle

Spending your lives creating, training and delivering live performances, workshops or consultancy can make working from inside ones home a bit of a challenge.  And I know I speak for an uncountable amount of people in saying that. But there are moments and things out there where the virtual light actually feels warm, and people actually feel like they are gathered together, and spontaneity actually sparks.

I have witnessed the development of my partners’ (Flick’s) audio piece about her family history.  From its beginnings when the form it would become was a complete mystery.  The great obstacle in an artist’s path ‘but what will it be and will it work?’.  Sometimes you just have to trust that if some of the material inspires you, then it is probably worth just carrying on.  Then if a LOT or ALL of the material inspires you, then keep on going and you will figure out where it needs to point as you approach the finish.  This is the thing about a process.  In the time it takes to get from the first idea to the final product, you may have learned many things from elsewhere in that time. 

I remembered yesterday that we made a podcast series, for the first time, having wanted to do it for years, two months ago!  (Listen here – )

And two months at the moment feels like a full career ago.  In fact it probably was a full career ago to a lot of people, myself included.  A career built on the foundations of children, families and the need for education and practical hands on experiences.  Now seemingly turned to dust as the last thing anyone is looking to do is be ‘hands on’ and anyone even approaching a school is not looking to invite strangers in, especially those with a ‘rustic’ appearance and wielding Medieval cloaks, antlers and weapons about the place.  And not a bottle of sanitiser or pair of disposable gloves in sight, no thanks, and to be honest, fair enough.

Keep trying and you’ll find your spark – Mindfulness for Vikings, Faerhaven Press

So after months of overfishing in the internet’s creative waters and watching other sections of society begin to creep out their doors and through those of workplaces and other’s lives, how do we reinvent ourselves, yet again, one more time.

In our household our history instincts have taken us both into folklore and family history at regular intervals.  Flick has gone further and further and developed a full audio story.  We have both written and recorded new and old stories and been working with groups through Davenham Theatre as well as our freelance networks to develop more and more ideas and material.  Then there’s the dilemma of release.  Do I just share a recording and leave it to the internet winds?  Or do I share it as a ‘live’ showing?  This has all taken us back still to the origins of storytelling.  Can we invite people into a circle…  as if we are sat round a fire…  as if the world has given us the evening off, so we can just kick back and listen…?

Well it turns out the answer is ‘YES’.

So let’s sit round and share some stories.  Like they would.  Like we should.  Like we will.

Tom Barry is a proud member of Stitch.

BjörnÖlf’s Viking Ode

Now the Vikings, as you may say,
We hail from Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

We are known as fierce fighters
Frightening all who catches sight of us.
But this is only half the story
Yes there is fighting and glory
We have taken land and seen war
But our lives aren’t all violence and gore.
We were the first to discover America, that much is right
With ships as long as trees the first to sail through the night.
But why travel from Greenland to Africa I hear you ask
This sounds like a long, hard and dangerous task.
Some land in Scandinavia can barely grow a bush
So we came here where it is green, wet and lush.
We fought the other visitors, whether Angles, Jutes or Saxon
We were on top we penned them in like confused oxen.

Legend would look good to end there – but wait!

It pains me to tell of the Saxon king called Alfred the Great!
The Anglo Saxons took back theirs as they saw
The south and west but the east we kept and called Danelaw.
This Kingdom you are in now Mercia it is called.
It is a land in demand whether flat, on a hill or walled.
Anglo Saxons are here and Vikings too
And now we are joined by all of you.
Sometimes there is peace, sometimes there is war.
Just as there are deer, bears, wolves & wild boar.
This day will go one of two ways
Maybe survival or end of our days.

I greet you as BjörnÖlf the Skald, a travelling teller of a tale
I have been on foot, horseback, on longships that sail.
I now wish to hear your stories, to share, to learn
And maybe together some warmth and food we may earn.

A re-balanced education?

For this academic year I am currently placed with Primary School aged children either in a non-traditional school setting or guilding them into out of school excursions through history. As well as my own children at home and nursery. I have many thoughts swirling through my mind as I experience some familiar challenges and some brand new ones. This is where I am up to….

A case for the traditional setting.

Sir Ken Robinson says that despite being a major figure behind the apparent need for a revolution in our education system, he still firmly believes that schools are the best way of educating our children.
I maybe thought that this was a fairly diplomatic statement or based on ‘if there was an actual revolution’. But I now see that generally he has a point and it doesn’t matter which recent era of modern education we choose, the traditional school setting has done pretty well with a huge amount of people, even if there is a massive waste of potential at the same time.

Let them out to find a way in.

In the last few years I have experienced and worked in several education settings from the traditional to the alternative and continue to do so. I am constantly seeing examples of kids who simply do not fit in to the settings they are forced into and sometimes only need small adjustments to thrive but are held back by unnecessary systemic boundaries. But this isn’t a new discovery, what is a new discovery for me is an approach that I don’t hear much talk or coverage about: Flexi-schooling. I have a friend who found significant parts of her school week extremely difficult. Emotionally she was mature beyond her years and struggled with the confines of the classroom. She had a passion and knowledge of animals and did one day a week of work experience in this field. She lived this one day each week, it helped her build her confidence and her mental health greatly improved. It made the difference between going under and staying the course.

Extra-curricular but Inter-curricular.

Imagine if it was the norm to go and build shelters, start fires and make things out of wood in the great outdoors for one day a week, as part of school! Or go and be with a group of hard working people who are doing what they want to do with their lives; maybe they were in your position only a few years ago. Then teachers have something else they can use to help you connect to the work in the classroom. A knock on effect of this might be that after school activities and groups, weekend and summer schools aren’t so removed perhaps from the normal week and feel more normal and natural. They become another outdoor oportunity or another chance to try something new or another group of people to hang out with and learn from.

Home Schooling.

What if you have the option to Home School your child for one day a week? Maybe home schooling doesn’t have to be the revolutionary commitment it currently feels like it is.  This would allow a parent or carer more opportunity to stay in touch with their child’s regular schooling. They could still take advantage of the flexibility and budget that the school might not have. Why does every option feel so full time and permanent? Young people’s needs change all the time, and do you know what, so does a family’s from time to time.

From Child lead to Family lead.

As a family we have considered home schooling but feel it doesn’t quite fit with us for several reasons. One of the reasons is that we don’t feel we could get the best out of each other by doing it full time. But knowing that you can pick ‘n’ mix what is best for your child and your family? Well that might allow far more families to take ownership of their child’s education. What affect might this have on our lives, on our social and cultural spaces and communities?

One of the big lessons in all parts of life of course is balance. The search for balance is on going and I feel that some goalposts are unnecessarily hammered in to the ground, even if they seem to be the opposite.

Daily, Small & Local = BIG!!

The Joy of ‘Local’

Some thoughts on daily ‘tweaks’ while #TheBiggerPicture is being shifted.

With great responsibility comes the need to get the very most out of what you put in. As a parent of two very active little ones and sharing the roles of primary carer and bread-winner (although barely sharing that role some months), making the most of any spare time becomes vital to a balanced mind and soul. My current job at Tatton Park, bringing history to life constantly teaches about using every bit of the animal, plant, space and so on.

These thoughts take on an interesting path in modern times. It can be a difficult task to efficiently manage ones time effectively, there are apps, books, TED talks and courses you can look to for advice. But what about where and who we put our energy into? We waste so much in so many ways. There is a video doing the rounds on the web about a shop that doesn’t use packaging, you fill up any containers you have as the goods are all in bulk. I shared this on Facebook and straight away someone said it wouldn’t be feasible in any large-scale enterprise. So that’s it is it? An idea that could help our planet and society in an immeasurable way is written off because we now can only use big supermarket chains, end of discussion. Some will just say ‘when does something good not fund something bad?!’. Well you are always one step away from another choice. Some begin with small steps like choosing to only buy Fairtrade for certain items, items that they find affordable and a choice they find achievable. Some have said ‘What’s the point? It won’t change anything’. Ok, while I take a deep breath my response is through my work, as an example.

Each day I work with a group of school kids who are on an educational trip. I know first hand that the education system is in a bad old way, like REALLY bad!! So what is the point in me battling with it? Sometimes children are overwhelmed because they have so little time outside of the classroom. They can be perplexed by creativity, spontaneity and being given the space to think for themselves. I may ask them a question and the teacher feels he/she needs to explain that they now need to answer my question… (yes this actually happens). So why bother? Sounds like hard work. Why pay for the trip, coach driver and staff? What’s the point?… Because on that day they get to do things, meet people and BE, in ways they may have never before, or may again. The effect may be small but it also may fan the flames of an open-minded, thoughtful future long after this stupidly brutalised ‘education’ is done with. But then again,

‘What’s the point?’.

Today that egocentric politician has no place at our table.

Targets, cuts and corruption have no place here and are not seen as ‘inevitable’ or even ‘necessary’.

Anything is possible.

A whole village and kingdom can be created by three people welcoming 30 travellers from far away.

Just living, talking, listening, eating and learning.


We all work hard to earn money, eat and save for opportunities to better or enjoy ourselves. So what happens to all those pennies that our precious time goes into earning? That loaf of bread you bought in the supermarket for example. There are the universal things that it pays for: The building, the baking, the bakers wage etc. Add on the delivery drivers’ wage and all the staff involved in the storing, moving and selling of that loaf of bread. Then there is the profit targets for the supermarket chain, its shareholders dividends, the regional, national and international CEOs etc. To counteract this they have the ability to bake millions of loaves to offset the cost.

But how does that compare to a local baker? When you consider the lower costs of premises, numbers of staff, delivery, storage etc. In theory at least, does a larger percentage of the money you pay directly benefit that baker? As opposed to a huge portion being absorbed by people who have no connection to your community. Due to the business model of a large supermarket it may be that being a baker under their roof earns the person a little more. However, more of the customers money would go to a local business including the landlord of the premises etc. That baker may build links with local producers of dairy, maybe even have her/his shop repainted by a local decorator. Thus benefitting the local high street, local business, footfall and satisfaction of the local residents. All because the consumer changed their habit slightly, it may require a little more time and a little more expense, but the benefit is very big.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I shop locally anywhere near enough, or that it is always an easy thing to implement. But it is a change that is in our hands and would make a difference. Voting, campaigning, marching, blogging, sharing and voicing opinion are all vital parts of creating change and a better world. But we are a culture of consumers and we buy things everyday. In recent years in Venezuela their economy has crumbled and people line the streets queuing for flour to make bread, or some oil to cook with. Some women have found hope in the production of Cacao pods for making chocolate. This is their traditional industry before oil production took over. Gandhi encouraged people in India to go back to making their own clothes. These are changes on a daily level that can spread and make a big difference.

But it starts with small achievable decisions. In my home we drink a lot coffee (especially since having children). It doesn’t cost us that much more to buy Fairtrade coffee. This is one or two bags a week. That is anything between 500 and 1000 bags over the next ten years. And we won’t even think about it or really notice a difference financially. But that is a lot of coffee and could gradually help someone somewhere in a significant way. Big change is great, but several tweaks can be big too.

Since I started writing this a general election has been called. This is such an important event to be engaged in, every one of us, as much as we possibly can. But before and after this election, what daily tweaks can we make, to make a gradual, but significant difference?

This door is where…

This is the Monsters’ Door
This is a secret doorway for the Monsters.

Next to it is a doorway made for Fairies.

They open their doors and make their way to the library where they go to storytime. 

Then they come back and they fly around to the ceiling and in the kitchen. Then they have porridge pancakes for breakfast.

Only Fairies, Monsters, Mummy and Daddy can open the door. And Gavin.​

And still you carry on!

You learn, play and eat together, encouraged to listen, communicate and work as a team, or even as ‘a family’. Each day, no matter what turmoil is going on in your fast developing brain and body, you carry on.

Then the adults of the world came together, played their games, used their words and their freedom. They decided to separate from each other.

You carried on as normal, “Sorry for being late Miss”, “Sir are you fasting?”, “Miss what does it say on the board?”. Miss is distracted today.

Then the adults began to turn on each other, people told lies, lost their jobs and people were killed. They were on TV and the internet talking loudly and angrily.

You read your book before breakfast and wrote your review, Sir read and ticked your entry, he seemed distracted today. You are struggling with the hot weather and having to wear your school uniform. You carry on.

Some adults came together to suggest people help each other. Then people died in ways that usually happens far away, in your home country. People ask why this has happened.

Eventually Miss and Sir spoke about some of the decisions the adults in the country have made recently. They were patient and used many different ways of helping you to understand. Then you did a maths lesson that took Miss all last night to prepare.

There is a lot in the news about a man who stands in front of big crowds like a preacher and everyone cheers. Except he doesn’t talk about nice things, or about being good to each other, he talks about hating anyone who looks ‘different’ to him. But everyone says he looks very odd, which also means ‘different’, so it’s very confusing what he is actually talking about, but a lot of people still cheer.

You told us about deaths you’d heard about on the news in your family’s home country so that we could all send our thoughts. Miss listens for a moment and then moves on, she has lots of important things to do today. You are confused for a moment. You carry on.

You get up early everyday with your parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, guardians, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbours and friends. You travel, sometimes a long way, to enter a place that will at some point give you a load of lemons. Some of these lemons have been grown for a long time. Some were very expensive. Some are old and have recently been re-used or rebranded. Why lemons? Well lots of others are also being given lemons and they have got on with it. But… this system… each day… still gives you lemons.

And each day. Every. Single. Day.

You turn up.

You make lemonade. You get crappy lemons. You are GIVEN CRAPPY LEMONS. You make more and more lemonade. You carry on. Against your instincts. YOU CARRY ON. Against physiology, psychology and biology. You carry on.

The adults of your world trip over their own egos and fear. They allow their horizons to darken. But you are looking up, even when you are told to look down, you fight for your horizon, you fight for every moment to think, discover and build friendships.

I hope that you don’t lose those wonderful parts of yourself. I hope that the world sorts itself out so it sees the best of you. In the meantime, keep making lemonade. Please carry on.


With the end of the school year upon us I wanted to look at things from a different perspective, the most important but too often forgotten…

I am a boy in a school in the city. I walk to school, like nearly all of my friends and nearly everyone else who goes to my school. In our school we go straight to an outside door which goes into our classroom. We may temporarily leave the classroom if we have a packed lunch and need to put it on the trolley in the corridor, which then is taken to the dinner hall. But we will then settle at our seats at our tables and begin our Morning Challenge. This is usually written on the board, although sometimes we forget and ask Miss, who then tells us very firmly that the instructions are on the board. I think that when you are still a bit tired and used to being told when and when not to look or copy from the board it is hard to just see what is in front of you sometimes. The Morning Challenge is always a list of maths problems, English problems or creative writing, or handwriting, which involves copying from a sheet of letters. When the morning challenge finishes we are asked to stop immediately which is sometimes difficult when you are in the middle of an idea. We then have to raise our hands and be silent. This is often difficult to remember. I find Monday mornings hard as I have lots to tell my friends. I might have had an amazing weekend or they might have a new iPad but it might be nearly four hours before we get to speak properly. So sometimes some of us (usually the boys) don’t respond quick enough and may talk back to Miss and she will then make us stay in at play time. This makes the morning feel long.

By lunchtime we have done three or nearly four hours of maths and English. Sometimes we won’t have a break for PE or classroom assembly because Miss just wants us to do more work. It doesn’t always seem to be because we’ve done anything wrong. Sometimes Miss looks like she or another teacher has done something wrong, because they look more stressed out, like I sometimes get in PE or during football at lunchtime. When I get like it I sit in the Safe Place in the classroom. I sometimes want to ask Miss if she wants to sit there but I’m afraid she’ll say that it isn’t something I’ve been asked to do, so I decide not to.

A question we get asked a lot is: ‘Did I ask you to do that?’ and it is usually when you open your book, get your pens out or start glueing in your worksheet, all before you have been asked to. This means you always need to be on your toes because sometimes Miss will be very surprised and disappointed when you don’t do something that is obvious, without being asked first. It is confusing sometimes.

Miss works very hard to make sure we all listen to every word she says. I wish she knew that in our class we love to help each other, so she doesn’t need to work so hard. Most of us get it and then we can help the others who don’t get it.

Lunchtimes are great although it sometimes gets a bit much and I get too excited and get into trouble in the dinner queue or on the playground. It is hard because I have to wait for so long in the classroom and just want to see my friends or play football with them. I usually let any arguments go and let my friend have his own way but sometimes a teacher will tell me to stand up for myself. The next time I try to argue back but this makes us both angry and we fight, which gets us into a lot of trouble. I might then spend some or all of the afternoon’s lessons in isolation with Sir. Sir is really nice and isn’t as bothered as Miss about which tools I use and if my date is underlined. I sometimes try to distract Sir by talking about other things but he eventually makes me do my work.

Afternoons are tough because everyone gets tired. We used to have afternoon play outside but some of us are too old for that now. After running round at lunchtime I always feel hot and sweaty and find sitting in our hot classroom hard. Most of us forget to go to the toilet at lunchtime or don’t want to miss out on food in the dinner hall or being picked to play football or just missing out on playing. I might feel tired or unable to keep still and this makes Miss really unhappy and she sometimes stops the lesson to tell us how disappointed she is with us. She may even say that another class are better than us, even those who are much younger! This makes me really upset and cross with myself but sometimes the harder I try the worse it gets and I might get so hot and angry that I’ll shout something out and get sent out or to another class.

By the end of the day I am able to just try and not get in trouble before home time. After school clubs are great fun with Miss or Sir as they are more relaxed and want you to have fun, they seem to make things simpler and let us do things ourselves much more. The day ends with a few moments with my friends or having a chat with Miss or Sir before I get picked up.
Sometimes the days go better and sometimes they are worse. I now have to do my reading for tonight as it will be checked tomorrow and there is some homework for the end of term I should be doing.
A boy in a school.

An Educator’s New Groove

In May 2013 I watched a production I directed at Davenham Theatre with great pride at the work my team had done, it was a wonderful success and encapsulated everything community, theatre and Shakespeare should be about.  I had no idea at the time that it would be my last major theatre project for more than three years! Something I could not have contemplated at the time. I would have suggested that I wouldn’t be able to function if I went that long without creating work. I would have been adamant that my identity would be lost after three years in the working wilderness. I may have been rebelliously dismissive of my ability to cope day to day without having that release.

Well three years have passed and my life has brought it’s full arsenal to blow through my sails & send me crashing onto rocks, floating down strange rivers and stranded on far off islands.  Having been washed ashore on the other side were my fears and assumptions justified?  How have I fared?

On the one hand it has been an incredible period of my life. Becoming a husband and a father. Looking after, leading, supporting, teaching and learning from hundreds of children and young people from all over the world. Building experiences and skills which have strengthened my confidence, resilience & adaptability both at home and at work. Making new and loving old friends and family.

And then there is the other hand… I have seen a lot. I have battled, fought and lost, many times. I have climbed, been praised & trusted and then been knocked, fallen and then beaten. I have seen, heard & felt things I never imagined before. I have been hardened and broken down. There have been beautiful people and bullies. Oh the bullies! They love to try and how they must be baffled. I have been stretched beyond what I knew before and more tired than thought possible, whilst still being alive.
While I’ve been alongside many friends of the new generation I have also seen others drift, as is normal with a busy life, but it always acts as a reminder of how life moves and shifts.

I have spent three years working for companies and institutions. Council run education, social care and ‘Academy’ run education. Each has had it’s ups and downs and issues which are universal in the workplace. But there are also trends which are a concern and maybe an indicator of the long term affects of the current times we live in. And why we must continue to find ways to fight for things we believe in. Each time my CV and personality were observed and it was deduced that ‘people like me’ are just what the job/sector/industry need. So after this exciting call to arms the hard work begins: learning systems & procedures, building strong positive relationships with your team using your wealth of experience and skills to bring new ideas and perspectives to the table. And then? Then opportunities are gradually either stopped or passed over to others. Having been treated with respect and intrigue you are now questioned more about how you are doing things but listened to far less. One minute you are taken to one side and told that “You need to be less sensitive” and then the same manager chastises you and your team for “being mean” and tells you to “have more empathy”. Your rights are squeezed or ignored & your position ‘looked at’. There is no money/time/space/priority for thinking or working creatively, patiently or compassionately. And then having chopped your way through, here comes the final round to finish you off: “I just think you need to work somewhere else for a year and gain some more experience”, “If you don’t like it then go and work somewhere else” or “That’s just the way the job is”.

I hear people question what difference politics makes or the different political parties. Their rhetoric is of huge importance. Whether or not we like to admit it, organisations and their individuals often have to answer to a chain of command and that chain has to adhere to the patterns and ideals of the relevant government department. So we currently see a seemingly mocking positivity during meetings about people losing their jobs & then a follow up meeting about not talking about it or “there will be consequences”. Rather than being honest, “This is a horrible situation but this is why and I’m sorry”, and then being open with the whole team or organisation so people can carry on at least feeling that someone cares enough to acknowledge their plight. But this isn’t how our politicians handle situations and so it filters down and becomes the norm. We see these traits all the time from out of touch politicians who justify cruel and unnecessary decisions with untruths or vague, weak so called ‘facts’ that are just announced in a convincing or protected way. Or do they just have such a thick air of stubbornness that everyone quickly realises that this person doesn’t have the capacity to listen, analyse and make an informed decision about anything, so what’s the point in engaging with them?

So I pick myself up from the recent shipwreck caused by another manager pretending to be a nice and competent human being. I look down & my feet are still strong, ready to move to the beat of the nearest drum and still able to recover quickly. I recently dipped into Sir Alex Ferguson’s book on leadership and couldn’t put it down. The very first thing he talks about is using our eyes and ears to learn from those around you, no matter what situation you are in. Something else that is synonymous with his career is the ability & desire to keep coming back, wave after wave. Also being able to step back, look at the bigger picture and appreciate your accomplishments, in order to then keep trusting in your work and yourself. Well this has been a big test of these skills. The kids I work with often openly look forward to it, if I have to take their lesson they are visibly excited and some have come to me, unprompted, and expressed a desire to do better next time. They inspire me to keep going and to keep learning. Also some of the creative work I have been involved with in the past still burns brightly and people have been asking for more, commenting on it and doing wonderful things in the communities we have worked with. It feels like we are being called back somehow. Maybe it is a calling, planets aligning or maybe it is a testament to the efforts that a group of people put in over many years that there is a legacy of good feelings and ideas to go back to. Maybe it is all of those things. I see the idea of ‘a plan’ or ‘fate’ as a two way conversation, you have to make the time and put in the effort yourself before things can ‘fall into place’.

Here endeth the sabbatical. Time to get creative and get back in to the networks and communities I know and don’t know yet. I have been working as a facilitator, a director, writer and performer but all in disguise as a carer or teacher or teaching assistant. Now it’s time to go to where people openly want to accept and invest in those skills, rather than looking upon them as a novelty.

While there is frustration at the school and as mentioned before, the part of the care system I leave behind, there is a lot of relief that it is time to go back to people I can give more to and who can give more in return. I feel ready, inspired and excited to be at home more with my young family, to be working more creatively and to wherever that takes me.

If in doubt, create.

Creative Practitioner for hire.

My Secret Sabbatical

My Secret/Accidental Sabbatical.
Or the busiest and most productive year of my life.

At the age of 16 I stumbled on acting and theatre at college, almost overnight I knew I’d found my career path. Over the preceding 14 years I finished college, delved into the local theatre scene, attended two drama schools and founded or helped in the establishing of several theatre or production companies. I have been privileged to work alongside the fiercely talented and hardworking and to travel across the world.

Between 2011 and 2013 I worked on some of the most inspiring and well put together projects I’ve ever been involved with. From telling the incredible story of a recently discovered artistic genius to the tragedy of the millions lost in the holocaust to the hopelessness of a young man who has had the worst start in life and can’t get away from it. From schools to art galleries to big city theatres.
Just over a year ago the curtain came down on one of the most ambitious; the community production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. As the director I implemented what is usually my main focus: to endeavour to bring out the best in the performers on stage.
It was a huge success in terms of how exciting and enjoyable the show was but also the audience numbers and reaction. Also, wonderfully, there were several of us who ended up in employment as a direct result of working in the team.

12 months ago, not unusually for those running a business or working freelance, I turned a corner and hit a wall. Sometimes you are prepared for this, sometimes not. Sometimes you leap straight over it, sometimes not. And sometimes the wall reveals alternative pathways that you didn’t previously realise where there.

I’d like to tell you about my wall and reasons why I decided to stop climbing it.
It is a very impressive and imposing wall, it is strong, durable and full of experience and history. A lot of love and turmoil has gone into it’s construction. But climbing this wall comes at a heavy cost, one which I was no longer able to afford. On occasion, when you gaze up at the wall you see someone at the top, waiting for you. This person is there to ask you to justify what gives you or anyone else the right to even attempt to climb this wall.
So having climbed the wall, defended my honour and then found my way down the other side I have given too much of myself, there is very little left. All of that passion, strength and ambition that went into the climb, defence and descent are now spent and only shadows and scraps remain. So reserves have to be used up, reserves that really should be used for the next climb, which means when the next climb comes the reserves get lower and lower.
So 12 months ago, unbeknown to me at the time, I began a ‘secret’ or ‘accidental’ Sabbatical, of sorts, from theatre.
I have been involved in some theatre and very creative projects for young people at various points in the year but the day-to-day obsession has rested.

It is no secret that drama is down at the bottom of the educational pile.
I see everyday how important drama is to our lives. So many problems could be avoided (or embraced) if the parties involved could communicate with each other or were more aware of those around them. A frustrating thing is that these are some of the very basic and common principles covered with any half decent drama training even for very young age groups.

In 12 months I moved house, took a show to the Lowry Theatre, directed a big community production, got married and became a father for the first time. I realised that all my creative work was focused on trying to help people and be a positive influence on the community. I also had to survive and help my family thrive.
So my sights refocused. I wanted to go in at what I saw as some sort of ‘ground level’ or ‘foundation’ of this stubborn wall. I want to learn how to build and demolish such walls, not just have to succumb to their every whim, and so give more space for those within their confines.
I feel that my experiences and skills can be utilised and of use in educational environments and institutions, rather than for a select few in a theatre for example. Too many are being deprived of so much and I am in a position where I can go in and offer something, hopefully a lot.
Jamie Oliver said that he went in to schools because he wanted to use his skills to help make the world better for his children when they grow up. Well I feel the same and the journey of how to do as much as I can in the hours that each day provides has now begun.
Thank you for listening.