Chapter 1: A Midsummer Night's Dream
In which I decide to (attempt to) sell everything I own.
This is why: the short version (for those in a rush):
1. I need the money
2. I need more space
3. I keep writing basically the same story about a woman who abandons her life and goes on the road leading all her posessions behind and lives off grid. I’ve been writing that story again and again. I’m craving quiet and solitude, and also fantasizing about becoming invisible/becoming a fox. Also, I stubbed my toe on a box and it really hurt. I am surrounded by piles of things and boxes.
This is why: the long version, and the version for me, to help me remember what I have done thus far which lead me to this point:
Since 2008 I have been happily busy doing creative projects which have included working with some amazing people, and making a living a living from what I love. I know that makes me very fortunate. Here are a few pictures from the projects I did between January- June 2019, including directing and adapting an intergenerational production of “A Midsummer Nights Dream” at the Royal Albert Hall, directing and co-writing a show about death aptly titled “The Death Show” with Antonia Beck and Lucy Nicholls, an installation of toys and placards in a Police Box in Dorset with Stuart Semple (“The Toys Are Revolting”), hosting a cabaret and party called “Welland Silks” in sheltered housing in Lewisham with Meet Me at the Albany and Emma Waterford, performing in a street theatre version of Grimms Fairytales called “The Hunters Grimm” with Teatro Vivo and performing in the long running immersive theatre show "Crime Scene Live" at the natural History Museum with Wet Picnic. In between I did lots of workshops, joined Extinction Rebellion on Waterloo Bridge and at Marble Arch, trained to be a tree planting supervisor with Trees for Cities,filmed a web series “Pitches" with Gareth Brierley, and was writer in residence at Talliston House and Gardens where I began to write a collection of stories inspired by dreams. So lucky to have the opportunity to do all this, but honestly... exhausted and drained too
During this time I started to keep a record of my working hours. On average between 1st January and 21st June I worked 80 hours a week. That's unsustainable and exhausting. It also turned out to be surprisingly expensive, when I finished it didn’t take long for my measley savings to run out . In the midst of it all, after a particularly long day I literally prayed to be out of work. I just finished a lovely writing project with Threshold Studios (“The Arcade Machine of Human Kindness- more on that later) then I found myself out of work, barring a few bits and pieces (lesson: be careful what you wish for)
So here was an opportunity. I have been making shows and installations, very prop heavy, for the last 12 years. I haven’t got rid of many clothes since 1997. I have enough books to start a small, eccentric library, specialising in the esoteric, pop culture and folk tales. Last week I fell over a box labelled “small heads, legs and arms” (belonging, I hasten to add, to dolls) and stubbed my toe on a box of photograph albums. Here are some pictures of some of my strange and beautiful things
I had time, I started having a clear out. I’d already had a sale when we left our previous studio, giving away and selling loads of stuff, mainly wigs. I had a lot of fun trying on wigs with people. I started telling people the stories of the wigs (I wore that one pretending to be Marie Antoinette at a climate change festival, I wore that one at Madam Jojos on my very first gig as a solo comedian, etc)
It wasn't the first time I had explored objects and stories, I started back in 2009 with a show and installation with a commission from local visual arts festival Deptford X, where I asked people to consider what they had lost (sense of humour, virginity, friends, memories) then found an object to represent their story, which was attached to the object on a label. I loved this project, and it was an enormous amount of work which 1000s contributed it so it has always been a source of regret for me that nothing more came of it (it only had an outing about 3 times). If you are interested you can see more images here
After our studio sale, me and my partner Gareth donated over 1000 books ( yes , 1000 books) to our local library and I also packed up and gave away 10 bin liners of clothes. I hope in the future I’ll be able to afford to give stuff away again, but honestly right now I do need to actually sell it. Also I’d like to have enough money to go somewhere quiet for a while and finish writing the book I have been 1/2 way through writing for a year.
So I had decided to sell stuff, maybe all of it.
My friend Vera told me she had used this Marie Kondo method and felt amazing having had a clear out.
Marie Kondo believes in the transformative power of tidying up. Anyone who makes such a dull sounding thing magical and inspiring is my kind of woman.
Then, in New York on holiday once all my projects were over, I sat in Bryant Park on a sweltering August evening watching the old fellas playing speed chess and eating burritos. Mine and Gareth’s little web series had been nominated for some awards so we were there to go to the awards ceremony and to have a holiday in the Big Apple. There were three women sitting on a swing bench at the outside bar in the park. One of the women was telling her friends she only owned 12 items. I kept thinking about that. The only reason I was in New York was that Gareth had paid for the flight and I had sold a book for £329.00 (one book! £329!) and that was my spending money. It was a beautiful book but I had no attachment to it whatsoever. I also didn't know it was worth that much!
It was hotter than a christmas chestnut in New York and I had packed my coolest clothes, which it turned out, weren't that cool. So I wore the same pair of trousers for days and just changed my tops.
I thought: I only really need a few clothes.
I got home and this email was waiting for me:
I remembered: when I first moved to London to a tiny flat in West Ham with no idea how to be a grown up and a bag full of vintage clothes. One day I cleared my stuff from my room and put the stuff on our balcony so I could sand the wooden floorboards, and when I went to the balcony to get it back, I found out the council had chosen that day to clear all the balconies of anything that looked like rubbish. Which, to be fair, it did. That stuff was full of memories, of first leaving home, of big nights out, of making friends for life.
I didn't miss any of it.
Time to sell and tell.
Each one has a story, all of them together are the story of my life so far. I’m a storyteller. So I’ll tell the story of the things and let them go and make money and have more space and go to Orkney and write my book
That’s the plan