So here I am, in the cafe at HOME, meeting with two representatives of the National Theatre, from the New Work department. I’ll be honest, it’s slightly surreal. We chat for about an hour about my work, what inspires me and why I want to make the kind of work I am interested in and they talk me through how the New Work department works in terms of talent spotting, and the route into becoming a Resident Director, which is the slightly National-Theatre-specific term they use for Assistant Directors. They are both very warm and also quite forensic in their questions, which I like, I quite enjoy being interrogated, it helps me notice new things. As a result of this meeting, I am now firmly established on their list of new talent, they have a sense of me and my work and the next step is to invite them to come and see it. At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. Which only makes my desire and resolve to make Joy Unspeakable and make it the best show it can be, more intense.

This whole experience gives me the extra bit of oomph I need to finally complete and submit my bid to the Arts Council, this time not for the project of Joy Unspeakable but for me, personally, as an individual artist. I’ve asked for the full £10,000 and that would include a fee for my writing which would give me the precious time I need to write and also a fee for a dramaturg, a much misunderstood role in the industry but in my case essentially someone more experienced to journey with through the process of writing the full script, who can ask useful questions and help me keep a handle on the overall narrative. With the backing once again of the Octagon’s producer I submit my application and cross fingers and toes.

Off the back of this, I also set to work work meeting with six potential dramaturgs, all recommended by the Dramaturg at the Royal Exchange. They are a diverse bunch, some are also directors, some also actors and some also writers. I really enjoy meeting with each one of them and each time I have a conversation about Joy Unspeakable, someone adds an insight or a thought that I find really interesting or helpful, so even just meeting people is a valuable process.

At the same time, I am busy continuing to try and square the never-ending, financial circle, as well as creating enough space to do workshops or see shows that feed my creativity and keep me inspired and motivated to keep tunneling through the admin mountains. I do some facilitation work for the Octagon, working with their participation volunteers and also with young children from extremely deprived backgrounds in Bolton. This latter group is a blast and it is no exaggeration to say they are climbing the walls, at one point with two of them covered in exploded blue eye-shadow. Yeah. Imagine Coronation Street meets Lord of the Flies and you get a rough idea. But their grins through. You can’t help but love them. I become a Contemporary Ambassador for the Lowry, a voluntary role which pretty much does what it says on the tin – it’s about advocating for the contemporary theatre and dance programme at the venue, both inside and outside of the building. I get to see various shows for free as a result.

My main contribution at this point is to get involved in Week 53, a two-yearly festival of contemporary work in which the Lowry, ordinarily under the cosh of stringent financial risk management when it comes to programming, throws caution to the wind and programmes the craziest, most out-there and risk taking kind of work it can get its hands on. My favourite show is a contemporary dance version of Swan Lake by an Irish company Teac Damsa. This is what I thought of it. I also see an absolutely ground-breakingly brilliant piece of work called Three Sisters, after Chekov by female-led theatre company Rash Dash which inspires me for life with it’s brilliance of craft and uncompromising anti-patriarchal stance, and get involved in a related workshop run by another female-led company Eggs Collective, which involves us (around seven women and one man) getting dressed up in period costume and taking to the streets of Manchester to stage a theatrical picnic intervention. A what now? Yeah, I’m not entirely sure either but it was a lot of fun, a lot of female solidarity and a lot of rule breaking about selfie culture, which I enjoyed, because IMHO selfie culture is stupid and wrong. Did I just say that out loud?

Three Sisters after Chekhov by Rash Dash

All the while, I continue to try and move forward with research for Joy Unspeakable, reading books about eating disorders, drafting and redrafting new ideas for how to develop the show, talking to other people about my ideas, like Chris Thorpe, who is super helpful and very generous with his time. It’s tricky to balance everything because although I have been given this lifeline of finance to keep going for a few months, I am also very new in my second job and so need to keep working a certain number of hours a week while I bed in, get trained up and become known as a reliable member of the team. So I am still fitting in show development around various other commitments. I find myself craving a block of uninterrupted time. Which is exactly what the Peggy Ramsay Foundation application is for. Around this time, I hear back from them, and from Sick! Festival, who I had applied to for £4000.

The answers are NO and NO. Arrrrghhhh. Goddamitt, this is so hard. Peggy Ramsay is a flat no and in the current funding climate, I get it. It’s a brutal competition, I don’t have much (or any) pedigree as a writer, they are probably being flooded with applications from all the other people who can no longer get Arts Council funding because there is so little to be had, but still, it sucks. The Sick! Festival no is a very encouraging no – your project wasn’t quite right for this opportunity, we are very interested in your work, please keep us informed – but a no, is a no, is a no when it comes to how I am going to pay for the astronomical costs of petrol, parking and just generally being alive, and also have time to write for longer than the next few months? There is a mini-lifeline in the midst of this. Two of my dear friends offer me what they have. In the case of one, access to their lovely home to write in while they are on holiday later this year. In the case of the other, an invitation to join her in Whitby for a week, in a friend’s house, for free, to write, while she goes walking and spends some time planning her next steps in life. Naturally I say yes, to both.

The week in Whitby is a real breath of fresh air, literally and metaphorically. Being out of my day to day environment allows me to focus on one task in a way that sometimes feels impossible at home. I get a huge amount done. It’s not necessarily writing in the sense of words on a page, character, or plot development but it is a tonne of really important ground work before that, related to exploring ideas and different theatrical forms, as I wrestle with the question of what the right concept is for a new and improved version of Joy Unspeakable. It is so good to feel like I am making real progress with this and without a doubt, the opportunity to focus on this one task alone, makes a big difference to my ability to make this progress.

The view from Whitby pier

Next stop. The Lions board meeting. I am a bit worried about this. Last year, I successfully pitched for funding support (their finance was mainly ring-fenced for equipment) to make Joy Unspeakable and at our first meeting we had agreed to a rough timeline of presenting the show in Summer/Autumn 2018. So that’s like, now. And I am nowhere near a show. So yes, once again I am going into the Lions lair, only this time, if you boil it down, it is to explain why I haven’t done what I said I would. As a personality who is hardwired to do what I say I will do, this is not a good feeling. At all. It’s so frustrating because as I prep my presentation to the board I am running out of ink listing all the work I have done to develop and move things forward but there is just no getting away from the need for money. Of course, making art is not all about money and it is truly amazing what can be created on a shoestring where there’s a will and a group of committed people. But I’ve kind of already done that with Joy Unspeakable, that was the whole works-in-progress version that premiered at REVEAL Festival 2016. What I am trying to do now is make the fully fledged version that, hopefully, can go out on tour to venues around the north.

I realise I can’t turn up empty handed to a meeting like this and as we only get a very short amount of presentation time, I arrange to have a kind of fringe meeting after the board meeting with one of the Lions. So I can not only explain a bit more of the detail of the challenges I’m facing but also potentially get some support and input. This time is very valuable and where as I have been slightly freaking out about what might happen, I find that on the day they are very supportive and although they can seem intimidating with their suits and in some cases millions of pounds, when I level with them, I discover what is really behind that. A lot of hard won experience of pioneering innovation and the very tough decisions and obstacles that all entrepreneurs face. They get it. Thank God. In a nutshell, after some interrogation, we revisit the timeline and agree to work towards a September 2019 show.

So the thing is. It’s now halfway though the year and I haven’t directed anything, at all, for six months. In my head I know that I am still a director even if I am not currently working on anything but in an industry where you are only as good as your last job and where the most common peer question is, “So what are you working on at the moment?” imposter syndrome can very easily creep in when ‘what you are working on’ is another funding application. Sexyyyyyy. Not. On top of which, I actually do just want to be directing. I LOVE working with actors. I love working on shows and I come alive in a rehearsal room in a way that quite frankly, I do not when ploughing through a detailed, 20 page, funding application form. For this reason, arguably against my better judgment in terms of time-management, although from a ‘keeping my soul alive’ point of view maybe not, I agree to direct some short pieces for Manchester ADP.

Manchester ADP is a well established outfit in the Manchester theatre scene. It stands for Acting and Directing Partnership and brings professional actors and directors together to give life to the scripts of developing writers, in front of a live audience. Their staple event is a once a month script-in-hand performances of four 15 minute plays. You only get a three hour rehearsal the night before and I figure that this is a good way to keep my creative self and skills sharp and fresh without committing to anything too time consuming. So far, so good. Then unexpectedly the format changes and ADP decide that the night I’ve signed up for will instead be an opportunity to explore what makes a good beginning of a play. A great idea for sure, but you can’t direct the beginning of a play if you haven’t read the whole thing and thought quite a bit about how you would stage the full length piece. So in actual fact for my first one I end up doing about a week’s work on a full length script. What a plonker. I have to say, I really enjoy it though!

The piece, If Wishes Were Horses by writer Sarah Wallis, is a well constructed three act play exploring the relational fallout of polices and practices around sperm donation and the donor children. It’s style shifts significantly from act to act and what starts out as a seemingly innocuous naturalistic scenario has deconstructed to such an extent by the end that the bizarre and surreal language makes me think of Caryl Churchill and her piece Blue Kettle in which the words blue and kettle increasingly replace logical words as the characters’ anxieties emerge. Interestingly, that is also a piece about adoption. With ADP the director makes casting suggestions but the final casting decision is in the hands of ADP, who also have to balance issues like availability, suitability and ensuring all actors in the pool get a fair crack of the whip, based on their greater knowledge of the casting pool. I am extremely lucky to get a fantastic cast of six for this piece, and meeting and working with them is one of the great joys of doing it. What can be achieved in a three hour rehearsal is hellishly little in some ways but they have such great attitudes and get so stuck in that we make incredible progress. With such little rehearsal time it’s obviously a bit of a nail-biting experience watching the performance as you have really only had time to fill in pretty board brush strokes, meaning there is quite a lot of room for things to go west. These six actors massively rise to the occasion though and deliver some cracking performances that demonstrate their skill, craft and professionalism and I am stupidly proud of them all. Sarah, the writer, seems really happy with our work and says it has been super helpful in enabling her to consider how to develop it further, which is essentially the purpose of the night. Pints all round then – we are happy campers.

The Kings Arms Theatre Pub, Salford – home of ADP Scripts Aloud

Later in the summer, I do another. This time as part of Greater Manchester Fringe. It’s a special night ADP are putting on called Who Runs the World? Girls to platform women writers, actors and directors. The piece I am given is called Tea and Oranges, by writer Patricia Cunningham and is a funny and poignant exploration of female friendship, through the medium of a Leonard Cohen fan club, a musician which the play is also a sort of homage to. Cohen’s music is very specifically woven throughout both the text and the stage directions and as such, it’s a somewhat more technically challenging piece than the usual ADP script-in-hand type pieces. ADP’s standard guidance to directors is to keep tech i.e. lights and sound minimal and maybe just have a bit of atmosphere setting music to kick off. So to some extent I will take the rap for this piece going somewhat off brief in the technical department. However, in my defense, the music is so integral to the piece that it feels like not incorporating it a) substantially detracts from the coherence of the writing and b) therefore does not do what an ADP night should do, which is let the writer see their ideas on stage for consideration. In a nutshell, what I’m getting at, is that this piece goes tits up in a major way.

Ok, that is something of an exaggeration but that is definitely what it feels like on the night. The actors, to give them their dues, are all great, so no complaints there. You know when you just have an inner feeling that something isn’t going to go right? So firstly, I am late to the tech by 30 mins thanks to the horror of the Greater Manchester rush hour. I am on time until I am five minutes drive from the venue and then proceed to sit in traffic for 40, unbearable minutes. I genuinely consider abandoning the car in the jam and walking there. I finally arrive and am informed straight away by ADP that I may need to create a plan B for my tech time, not because I am late, they are surprisingly quite relaxed about that and have just swapped groups round but because it is not the usual technician and the chap we’ve got “is taking a bit longer than normal”. This astronomical understatement is delivered with a face of utter doom and I immediately start running through sound and lighting cues in my head and working out which can be sacrificed. I had considered this possibility, so the culling comes relatively easily to my mind. Not ideal but then things rarely are, so I keep my cool. We start our tech time, for which you only get 15 minutes.

I am 30 seconds into talking to the technician when I realise that this is going to be a s**t show. I immediately simplify cues even further so that what I am now asking for is for three very simple lighting cues and three very simple sound cues to be run. We go over each one very clearly, several times and run it onstage. I am literally running the last cue and our time is up, audience are actually coming in. We are on first and so the actors have to go straight into it – no processing or decompression time. Go! Utterly bizarrely, despite having walked through the first cue several times, (which is that when the first actor is clearly standing still in position upstage right, the first sound cue triggers in darkness), the technician, for reasons known only to him, triggers the second cue (lights up upstage right) while all the actors are still walking into the stage right wings to take up their starting placement. Actors are wired to find the light and when it’s on them, if in doubt, it’s probably their line, so valiantly, Amy, who has the first line, starts the scene, looking, rather literally, like a startled rabbit in the headlights. Again literally, I put my head in my hands. This is off to a terrible start. The horror continues in the next scene change, only this time, where his sense of urgent desire to trigger lighting cues might be quite useful, it is entirely missing in action and, and I kid you not, the actors have to wander around on stage in the dark for A FULL 12 SECONDS!! before the lights up that is their cue to speak, actually happen. I can’t bring myself to detail the rest but you get the gist.

I know maybe I am a perfectionist and a drama queen and it is entirely ungracious of me to lacerate someone’s work when they are probably doing the best they can but I AM DYING ON THE INSIDE. On top of which, I discover later that the programmer of an important regional venue was unexpectedly in the audience and as he has never seen my work, he has probably now deleted me permanently from his mental list of talent. Well, if there was any question lingering in the air of the need for my ego to be tamed, this experience has delivered that taming in a brutal and effective way. Afterwards I rush off to apologise to the poor actors who are wonderfully stoic and way more gracious than me, to me. Overall the writer is still pleased but definitely shares my frustration at the fact that so much of the music had to be axed. Once again at ADP, it’s pints all round but this time, more of a drinking-to-forget vibe while occasionally shouting “drink” in the manner of Father Jack (from Father Ted).

All hail Father Jack

Oh well. Live and learn. I suppose the lesson to be learned here is that if you want to be an artist you have to take the risk of failing in public and deal with the fear that accompanies this. Mostly I have found that the fear is just that, fear, and the thing you are afraid of never actually materialises. But it is a real risk and sometimes, because it is real, you really do fail in public. The truth is, if you want to be an artist, you also have to get ok with that. Harsh but true. What can you do? Dust yourself off and keep going.

As ever I continue to seek out inspiration in the form of other shows and interspersed with all that is going on I see some great shows including Dollywould by Sh!t Theatre, Summer Holiday at the Octagon, Your Best Guess by Chris Thorpe (which he makes FREE for emerging artists – props), The Fishermen both at HOME and Shebeen at Theatre Royal Stratford East (it is also co-produced by Nottingham Playhouse), directed by Matthew Xia, previously Associate Artist at the Royal Exchange but who has now gone freelance. I also do a brilliant stage combat workshop with Fight Director Kenan Ali, meet with a designer I’m hoping to work with on Joy Unspeakable, if the funding comes through (which I continue to wait for a result on), meet with a photographer and videographer friend to get detailed advice on a bunch of kit I am looking to buy, meet with the new Studio Producer at the Lowry, organise and help faciliate the first SDUK North drinks gathering at one of the Lowry’s bars and launch my first Actor’s Workshop using a studio space at Manchester Met University that I have been very kindly offered by the Education Department there.

The workshop is a specific initiative I have been planning for a while and essentially it is a handful of specifically invited actors who I know share my vision and values, for us to both play and explore together in an unpressurised environment, so as to keep our skills fresh and build relationship for the future. It’s taken me months of patient and persistent relationship building to be able to have access to this beautiful studio space for free. Not that the people who are offering it aren’t totally good hearted but people are so busy and institutional calendars notoriously slow moving. The first workshop goes really well and at the end I can tell we are all uplifted by the simple joy of doing what we love, for it’s own sake. I’m so pleased this is finally getting going!

Sh!t Theatre’s Dollywould

Meanwhile, something unexpected has come across my desk. In my attempt to remain focused on Joy Unspeakable I had reviewed the opportunity to pitch work to the second ever Co:LAB festival, due this summer at the Royal Exchange, and decided, with some regret, that although it did represent an excellent opportunity, it would be too time consuming and take me too far away from my work on Joy Unspeakable and so had let it pass by, admittedly feeling a bit left out. However, out of the blue, I have now been invited, by Grace Ng-Ralph, both the Talent Development Administrator at the Royal Exchange and now the producer of a new company Highlight Collective, to consider directing After Birth, a piece of theatre about maternal mental health, initially for a scratch sharing at the Lowry and, if successful, as a more fully realised piece for Co:LAB. Ach. This is a real dilemma. On the one hand, I need to focus on Joy Unspeakable, on the other hand, the producing side of After Birth is covered and the opportunity is being offered on a plate to simply direct, and it is a very juicy, interesting and worthwhile project, with great writing in an important festival for emerging, regional talent. And it is paid. Though not a lot. What should I do? I wrack my brains and heart for some time and in the end, rightly or wrongly, the brilliant-ness of this opportunity wins out and I say yes.

CoLAB Festival 2018

I could honestly write a ten thousand word essay on the After Birth project. However, I will spare you that level of detail. Suffice to say, it is an intense learning curve, due to the complexity of the project and the challenges that it consequently throws up to all of us. After Birth has been pitched to Co:LAB as a multi-media installation and performance putting the hidden issue of maternal mental health in public. Brilliantly, it gets the go-ahead from the programming team. It actually began life over a year ago, as a collaboration between the writer Nicola Schofield, visual artist Naomi Kendrick and musician and singer Jennifer Hardy. These three artists are each mothers of young children and in the experience of birth and new motherhood had experienced differing degrees and types of mental health challenges. Out of this arose their art, elements of which were also developed in response to each others’ work. Now, myself and designer David Haworth, have been brought in, to help give this collaboration life as a piece of theatre and to help the artists explore the limits of the possible in regards to a collaboration between the respective art forms: theatre, visual art and music. I will be working with actor Sara Abanur to bring the three monologues Nicola has written to life.

The budget, the overall number of hours available to do this and the diaries of the collaborators all present significant constraints. As do the fact that two of the key contributing artists, Nicola and Jenny, have not worked in a theatre context before and so there are various conventions and assumptions around a working process that as a team, we do not share. Added to this is the fact that our piece will not be presented in the theatre’s studio (due to the permanence of its installation element) but in a space within the main building that normally houses an exhibition. What this means in in practice is there is no lighting rig, no sound, no technician (you should have seen my face when I learned that gem) and no infrastructure that would support a theatrical design i.e. among other things, the walls are all bright orange – not the starting palette of choice for most designers. Oh yes, and to add to this, our actor, though very naturally gifted, has, I discover several weeks into rehearsal, only had a very small amount of acting training and performance experience. Are you getting the gist of this? If I was prone to militaristic analogies there would be quite a number of fronts involved in this particular battle. However, the HUGE takeaway from this highly stimulating, extremely challenging and ultimately very rewarding piece of work, is that if in the midst of challenges like this you ALSO have a team of good-hearted people, who all share the common goal of serving each other and making the best art possible, and who manage to retain their sense of humour, flexibility and ability to negotiate. It is quite amazing what you can achieve!

By the final bell, so to speak, with inordinate levels of patience and cajoling, we have transformed the orange box of doom into a beautiful, delicate, holding space in which both Naomi’s incredible artwork, several pieces of which she has created specially for this show, is interwoven with elements of Nicola’s writing and in which Jenny’s haunting, ethereal music wafts gently, broadcast through baby monitors that call passers by into the space like a siren song, in which they can discover her full compositions on headsets. In this context, to an intimate, multi-faceted audience that extremely importantly includes a significant number of new mums, dads and babes-in-arms, Sara sensitively and powerfully presents the story of our unnamed mother’s journey through birth, postnatal depression and into recovery with a skill and dexterity that is frankly, given the many factors against her (including significant illness) a small miracle. All this is tied in with important work connecting the piece directly to sources of help that include signposting information and even health visitors available on the day to talk to any audience members who feel the need to seek professional help. I am so proud of this piece. I call honestly say it has all been worth it and it is really just a kind of icing on the cake to find that it is also really well received by the various Artistic Associates and producers at the Royal Exchange itself.

Sara Abanur plays the unnamed mother in After Birth

Detail from After Birth set design

In the midst of After Birth, amongst various plates I am trying to juggle, I also do a two day training in Theatre for Social Change with a company, Collective Encounters who are based in Liverpool and with whom I’ve been wanting to train for over a year now. The two day training provides great stimulation and encouragement as I meet and work with other like-minded practitioners and realise just how important this camaraderie is. Interestingly it is an all female group, including, the now infamous (in the theatre world at least) Gina Abolins, the Out of Joint Education Officer & Artist Development Officer, whose courage and boldness in speaking out about her sexual harassment by the legendary theatre director Max Stafford-Clarke led to his dismissal from the company, may have had a role in the open secret of Kevin Spacey’s behaviour being tackled and directly led to the statement on bullying produced by the Royal Court Theatre and at least some degree of soul searching in the UK theatre industry in response to #MeToo. We have a very interesting chat!

It is around this time, whilst still up to my eye-balls with the After Birth project that I finally hear back from the Arts Council on my funding. After two significant funding no’s, this is my financial lifeline to the future, that will enable me to move ahead with the next 6-9 months of work on Joy Unspeakable. I make myself a cup of tea and get ready to read the result. I can hardly bear to look at the words on the letter. My head is swimming slightly. My eyes scan the page:

“We regret to inform you that blah, blah, blah”

Arrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhh. Not AGAIN.

This is truly disappointing. I know I have written a good bid. Not least of all because I have been told so by the very experienced producer who has supported me to write it and added her letter of endorsement to the application. Urghhhhh. I am tired of getting good quality funding applications rejected. It’s not that I take it personally. I may have my moments of self-doubt but I’m not that insecure. I know my application was good. It’s just so BORING to yet again be stuck in terms of moving forward artistically because the competition for limited funds is so fierce. Once the results are published I discover the success rate on the first round of this new ACE funding stream was just 10%. Out of a total of over 900 applications and just 102 successful awards nationally, only five were awarded in Manchester of which 2 were for theatre, 1 for visual arts, 1 for combined arts and 1 for literature. So that’s what I’m up against.

By the end of July, having also had to press on with After Birth with this crap news in the back of my mind. I am exhausted. It’s been two and a half years of hard graft since moving to M’cr and all of a sudden, with the wind of possibility firmly taken out of my sails, I am done. You know like, just can’t be arsed with any of it. All of a sudden, exciting shows being announced on Twitter make me feel bored, the never-ending diversity and representation debates start to feel like so much heat and so little light and everything theatre just feels stale and irritating. All I can think about doing is watching s**t telly, being in nature and not talking to or seeing anyone from the theatre bubble if I can possibly help it. I decide to take some time out. For all of August.

I say all of August. During this time out I still have to work two box office jobs cos you know, eating and stuff. Other than this though, theatre is firmly off the menu. I feel like I am breaking out in a rash at the thought of going to Edinburgh festival and actively boycott it. During this time I also decide to fast all social media as well. It has all just become a factory of self-promoting noise and I can’t be arsed with any of it. I journal a lot, go for walks and spend some serious time reflecting on my priorities, options and what feel like some significant life decisions. There is the odd exception to this. I put in an application to the Old Vic’s Baylis Award which is offering a £10,000 bursary to a female director from outside London to Assist ex-Globe Artistic Director Emma Rice, on her new company’s debut show. I may have lost my motivation but I haven’t lost my mind. I review the scripts for the next round of the Young Vic’s Genesis Future Directors Award, contemplating applying with what can only be described as a lackluster attitude. At the last minute I put in an application for a producer development opportunity at the Lowry. All of this is done with absolutely no enthusiasm. I am on autopilot, simply going through the motions. This is not good.

Somewhere in the middle of this month of withdrawal, perhaps when I have retreated from the noise of social media for long enough to hear the sound of my own thoughts, and when I have walked in nature enough to remember that I am a human made of flesh and blood, a chink of light opens up. One day, an email lands in my inbox. It is an advert for a playwriting course that I have been aware of in the past but now forgotten about. It is in Oxford. Maybe it is because a few days ago, while wrestling through these big life decisions, I suddenly saw with fresh clarity the importance of investing in myself as a writer. Or maybe some inner force just took over. I don’t know but without thinking at all, I fire off an email to the course leader, a well established writer and director called John Retallack and before I can stop to really consider anything, I am driving to Oxford to meet him and discuss the possibility of a place on his course.

Can I just say that meeting John is like a breath of fresh air. By the time we meet he has already read several samples of my writing, including, unexpectedly to me, this blog! To my relief he doesn’t appear to think my writing is completely terrible. I can sense his many years of experience both as a director and writer in his seemingly effortless ability to offer completely honest constructive criticism, without any part of it feeling personally undermining. A great ability indeed. Amazingly, he is very willing to offer me a place on the course but has serious concerns about how realistic it is for me to get to Oxford once a week in order to attend it. We discuss. Out of the blue, and contingent on my agreement to take trains rather than my, possibly crackpot, idea of driving to Oxford and back in a day, he unexpectedly offers me a substantial reduction on the £2500 fee, in order to acknowledge the substantial costs involved in me getting to and from the course. That chink of light just got a little bit bigger. After some in depth discussion with my folks, a temporary loan arrangement is reached and I start to learn all there is to learn about train splitting.

My month of reflection is over. It’s September. I’ve made some decisions. In essence they boil down to this:

Life is hard. There are no free lunches. I have a lot to be very grateful for. I know what I want to do. I am not giving up.

I get the news that I have been accepted onto Class of 2019 at the Lowry, an excellent opportunity to further develop my skills as a producer and receive further mentoring as I launch the company. Unexpectedly, I get offered two longer term pieces of facilitation work at the Octagon and an exciting piece of facilitation work on Modern Slavery with Oxford-based physical theatre company Justice in Motion, run by my good friend Anja Meinhardt. In a month’s time I will start the Oxford Playmaker course and write Joy Unspeakable as my final piece. And finally, thanks to my incredibly kind family, in mid-September I will be going on holiday to Turkey for a full two weeks. This will be my first proper, long, holiday out of the country and in the real, honest-to-God sunshine in about five years! I still have no money and no clarity about my financial security, or how I will raise the funds to produce Joy Unspeakable but I am completely firm in my commitment to finding a way and somehow am able to trust that there will be one. Where there’s a will……..