Finished and unfinished blogs, plus Parakeets


This time I will finish this blog.  Below you will see two that are unfinished, one written the night before my birthday in June, the other after my holidays in July.  I’ve been unable to catch a moment, ponder or think, as the moments are so quick, fast and diverse.  So what are my thoughts today as Key Change is upstairs rehearsing for their final show at the Gala Theatre on Saturday, filming live to be streamed across the world in November.  With Carly and Jill sitting on desks nearby working so hard on all the detail that makes this possible.  After days and nights of stress regarding the rights to use the music in the show, our Associate director Laura Lindow, her heart racing, working close with our Creative Producer Jill Heslop to problem solve.  Artists & composers stepping close to help, Roma Yagnik and John Alder and today there is a feeling that all is slotting into place and everything is ok, more than ok. Going upstairs to see the show is like walking into pure magic.  The actors, Jess Johnson, Cheryl Dixon, Judi Earl and Christina Dawson, plus onstage Stage Manager, Kate Lewis aka McCheyne are just such a force of talent, it’s no wonder Key Change won the Best of Edinburgh!

Jill is wearing headphones while she types, juggling both shows, Rattle Snake and Key Change.  Setting up photo shoots with Ron Hogg whilst we set up Key Change for Saturday.

Carly is busy doing insurance for Key Change, finances/first aid stuff/business plan/Intellectual Property, finances being the biggest thing on her list, and funding (she just said)….all this before flying to Ireland to get married next week.

I’ve been working on Rattle Snake, the auditions and  script, tweaking and adding bits, thinking and reading about Family Courts and the need for a culture change, with judges and some (not all) those at Cafcass – about the deaths of women and children at the hands of perpetrators.

I’ve been worrying about some of the women who have helped make Rattle Snake, feeling in such a juxtaposition, excited about the new addition to the cast, giddy to tour and reach audiences in the North East, York and Soho London and the profile and potential, and at the same time finding it hard to know that the women who helped make it still can’t breathe the air of a free person.

I’ve been talking to people in Los Angeles and New York about productions.  I’m planning a trip to Edinburgh hoping to see great theatre that inspires, and meeting up with the lovely Carol Tambor.

I’m preparing for Jill to leave us, at our AGM there were tears and tankards, and next week we’ll have a last office moment.

We have new board members joining and opportunities presenting themselves all the time.

There’s shifting sand, not quick sand, it’s a movement, that sees sand replaced, not with the same but with new and as I wait for Debbie Beeks to start, I feel excited at what this new member to join our team will bring.

Once the filming is complete on Saturday, Jill says goodbye on Thursday, Mary returns the week after, Debbie starts and Carly has been back to Ireland, got herself married and returned to us, we will (as well as managing Rattle Snake and Key Change going live in November, plus a little trip to the palace) be gathering with our board to look at the programme of work for 2018-2022.  The next chapter is huge, working nationally and internationally.

There is a lot going on, Open Clasp never stops, lists are long, the staff, creative teams, board, patrons, advisors and the women we collaborate with are a powerful force making unforgettable theatre with the aim of changing the world one play at a time – this is becoming a reality.

Oh and last night a saw a flock of Parakeets sitting in an apple tree, with a magpie hopping around a rooftop just behind.  The sun was shining, bright and yellow, it felt so surreal and magical.

28th July 2017

Trains, Planes, Birthdays, Titles, Celebrations, tears, words, stories and truth

Since my last blog I’ve attempted another, half-finished  and not posted till now (see below) I wrote the night before my birthday, talking about losing a toe, gained an MBE, was reflecting on my time working with women, hearing other stories, one’s hidden behind the words first spoken, harder to hear and even more urgent in the need to spoken.

I’ve written in our Annual Review about the rage, honour, tears and pride with SUGAR.

Before I went on holiday we had our Annual General Meeting, balloons, flowers, cakes, tears, goodbyes, speeches and a total honour of having our collaborators speak in the room with us.

I went on holiday to the island of Lesvos and wrote poetry, my wife and I, shaded by my orange shelter, the sun, which was previously an enemy due to a little basal skin cancer, now manageable with factor 30 and time out of the midday sun.  The first week we were joined by our lovely son, friends, are chosen family.  We’d agreed to bring our favourite poem (and we’re not necessary poetry people).  This had been inspired by my lack of sleep and ability to read books or novels due to my menopause, so I’d asked my son to buy me poetry for my birthday.  I’d also gone to hear Collette Bryce read her poetry, the week before and loved her words

So we laid on the beach, this queer family and read things we liked and written.  We cried and laughed together, asking each other to read the poem they didn’t feel they could, so sharing the ones hidden behind the ones read.

There was an earthquake while we were there, and this filtered its way into my words and poems and weird to be lying on a beach risk assessing a Tsunami.

Now I’m back home and on a train to London, casting for Rattle Snake


23rd June 2017 – Birthday, Honours and Titles

Its my birthday tomorrow, and its like Christmas, New Year and my yearly pilgrimage to the island of Lesvos.  Birthday’s give you moment to look back to last year, what you were up to and what you are doing now.  My year has been full of gains, wins as well as losses.  I’ve written in our Annual Review about the women we lost during the SUGAR project, these losses ground us, ensure we don’t’ fly to high, or close to the sun.

I’ve had personal loss, and heartache to and felt pride in the projects created, and giddy at our awards and honours.  In May of this year I lost a toe, in June I gained the title of MBE, an honour for ‘outstanding services to disadvantaged women through theatre’.  This is a win for the region, acknowledgment of women’s theatre, great theatre that is capable of flying across the world and opening the doors of prison, and theatre critics.

Ruth and Jess Johnson (not married or civil partnered, their surname a coincidence) are heading a project first started back in 2014.   The play, created by young people in Northumberland is about Child Sexual Exploitation.  They wanted to educate teachers and professionals in the hope that they would in turn open the school gates and let the play reach young people in classrooms across Northumberland – and in 2017 Northumberland DA made this project a reality and its now visiting and numerous community centres.

The projects partner is West end Women & Girls Centre with their brilliant Peer Educators in Domestic Violence.

At the same time we’ve been working with real life mother and daughter on Don’t Forget the Birds.  Supported by Queens Hall Hexham and Black Theatre Live, this was showcased to a small audience and we learnt that this piece excites and scares in equal measures.  They were brilliant, but we didn’t know it till an audience was sitting there.  The play was originally called Roses, and Cheryl suggested Don’t forget The Birds, and we agreed it’s a better title.