Dear Terrorists #WeStandTogether

For Manchester x

Dear Terrorists,

You can never win.
Your hate, anger, rage against us is in vain,
You try and then you try again.
But each time we come back stronger and more humane.

Your acts are nothing more than cowardly deeds,
The aim – to plant the hatred seeds of doubts and fears,
Reduce the country and the people to tears.
But every time you rear your ugly heads,
We meet you face on with love instead, and hope and togetherness.
Class, religion and politics get cast aside,
People of all faiths, religions and beliefs side-by-side,
Together we come and in plain sight we stand, not hide,

We do not cower and we will not fear you,
We are humanity, we are one, we belong to something much bigger than you.
And what you fail to grasp,
And what you fail to see,
Is your actions bring out the greatest and best of humanity,
A stronger, more loving society.

Your terror and fear are short lived,
We respond with the love we all have to give.
From the angel of Manchester rescuing fifty kids,
To everyday folk offering up their beds.
Taxi drivers giving rides for free,
Thousands giving blood and hospitality.
All religions, ages, races and creeds.
To the man without a house or home,
Who lept to his feet and raced into danger,
Pulled people out, risked his lives for strangers.
For someone who has nothing to give so much, so freely,
And expect nothing back because “it’s just what anyone would have done”.
Emergency services, our police, paramedics, firefighters and nurses,
To venue staff, who reacted with calm and saved many more people from coming to harm.
Small random acts of kindness – hotels throwing open their doors,
People offering food and sandwiches,
Buskers playing music & singing songs of hope.

The aftermath, a vigil attended by thousands in solidarity,
United as one, a whole,
And that’s the reality.
Although we shed tears, come together and grieve,
And our love and thoughts go to all of the families,
You can never accomplish what you hope to achieve.
Their memories live on, in our hearts, spirits and minds they will never leave.
The fear you seek to create bonds us closer and stronger.
And the one thing we all know to be true,
Our lives will not stop just because of you.
We rise above hate, above racism, religion, above blame.
We see you for what you are and refuse to call you by name.

Dear Terrorists,
You have not won, for tonight the world is united and we all stand as one.





Have a look at some of the amazing acts of kindness happening in and around Manchester today:

I’ll Have You Know I’m Approaching 30 – Yes but from which direction?

Couldn’t resist starting this blog post with an old panto joke as so much of my life has involved panto and theatre. I’m going or use this post to look back at some of the crazy things that have happened to me over the last 30 rebellious years.
My first rebellious act was at the moment of my birth. No I don’t remember it but it’s been burnt into my memory as the story frequently gets pulled out by my both my parents. The midwife who was looking after my mum when she went into labour wasn’t the friendliest person in the world and seemed to be dressed for a night out on the tiles when she was called in to deliver me. Bright pink make-up exploded from both her lips and nails like an hallucinatory flashing of a gaudy 80s nightclub. Her hair carefully up so as not a piece was out of place. She seemed very keen to get out of there. Anyway I dutifully did my bit and wriggled free and into the world and proceeded to urinate directly into her face. Maybe I sensed she wasn’t that nice a person… Who knows but I’m assured that my aim was perfect and I drenched her sufficiently (possibly from both ends I might add!). And that was how I came to be… Explains a lot huh?!?
Childhood was pretty normal I think, I was always a bit of an oddball and that kinda stuck. My mind was always away with the fairies and I had a deep desire to explore, to go on adventures and find out “what would happen if we did this?” Dangerous qualities in anyone, but especially in a child. That sense of adventure and exploration has stuck with me along with an incredibly rebellious nature.
When I was younger my mum was always reading to me. Every night we would have a story before we went to bed. Never my dad though. It was only in later years that I discovered reading didn’t come particularly easy to him but as a child you don’t understand these things and just think that your dad doesn’t want to read to you.
I grew up with a head full of the tales of Enid Blyton from the Folk of the Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair, to the Famous Five and Five Find-Outers-and-Dog with the surly policeman Goon. The Tales of Beatrix Potter, A.A. Milne and a little later Roald Dahl and Ted Hughes. These stories and tales became a massive part of my life and I would often find myself daydreaming about going on adventures with the characters. I remember actually going to the woods behind my house and trying to find the Far-Away-Tree and climb it and wondering what would these wild animals say if they actually could speak. There was a hollow tree in the top corner of the field along from my house, at some point in the past it had been struck by lightning and the charred edges left a hollow big enough for a small child to climb into. This became my magic tree which I nick-named the weather station… I can’t remember why? Perhaps it was because the wind whirled through it or perhaps I felt that the tree still held some of the magic from the Lightning that struck it. Who knows but for me that place was magic. 
The sad fact is I think at some point you realise that no matter how much you will them these things will never actually come true, that there is no Neverland, Lost Boys or a ticking crocodile, that no matter how many trees you climb you will never find a magical changing land at the top (but you do get amazing views!). And that’s a really sad day. When the spell is finally broken and your head pumped full of useless Maths Equations, facts and things measurable by science that you’ll never use in real life. I’m not sure we ever know when the changing point is, it just happens and life rushes passed in the blinking of an eye and when you do finally turn back you see the magic has faded and the grey reality of life seeps in and drains all the colour. And those characters you had dedicated a good part of your life to have returned to the pages of the book whence they came.
But their stories are far from over as they wait patiently for the next generation to discover them, to befriend them and bring them back to life. That’s the beauty of books and the imagination. When things are written down they are never truly lost forever. They can be rediscovered.
And sure I don’t climb nearly enough trees these days, although I do still talk to animals (if you own a pet you’ll understand – they totally know what you’re going on about). But I have discovered a way back to the magic – through theatre. Through bringing words on a page to life. To painting the stage with lights to help to bring these fantasy worlds into reality. The best part… Yes I’m nearly 30, but I still get to create magic, and play and watch others share and experience that magic as well. As jobs go that ain’t bad really is it.
I’ve rambled on long enough and I’m not sure this was even the post I was going to write, (I may write a few more “reflective” posts), but like so many things in my life I pick up the idea, set my imagination loose and just see where it leads me… Hey It’s worked out okay for 30 years.. And if it ain’t broke…

Reflections on Ron Moody and the power of performance

I was really saddened to hear of the death of Ron Moody today and it got me thinking about the impact that people have on our lives. People who we don’t know personally and have no real connection with but still you feel a shared sense of grief that they are gone.

The reason, I think, is that they are a part of our lives and played a huge part in our childhoods and are deeply rooted in the feelings that we associate with them, the characters they portrayed and the films that they were in.

There are certain films that we watch as children that have a lasting impression on us and which enable us to better understand the world around us. Who can’t remember watching Bambi, The Land Before Time or the Lion King for the first time (and let’s not even get into Watership Down!) and trying to come to terms with why Bambi or Little Foot would no longer be able to see their mums or why Mufasa was gone. It’s devastatingly harsh but also teaches us a lot about humanity and the frailty and fragility of life. Learning that nothing lasts forever is a tough lesson to learn but seeing these characters, who become our friends, deal with it somehow makes it all okay and allows us to see that actually things aren’t so bad after all and will be alright in the end.

There also films that cast a spell over us Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Mary Poppins, Bed Knobs & Broom Sticks, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Chronicles of Narnia, Five Children and It (and so many more) all of which transport us, however briefly, into a world of pure magic and make-believe. Seeing strange characters such as those in Labyrinth and realising it’s actually okay to be different and make your own way in the world, not even thinking why the characters are different just accepting the fact that they are and being okay with that.

How many of you can honestly say that you didn’t feel excited the first time that you heard Peter Pan flew through the nursery window (he FLEW) and then took three normal (okay slightly well-off) children on an epic adventure to Neverland – a place filled with fairies, indians, pirates, lost boys, a maniacal one-handed villain and a crocodile that ticks.

We all love the power of a good story but there is something magical and inspiring about seeing those stories bought to life for us to see and experience.

For me I immediately had an image of Oliver! and sitting down as a child being captivated by it. Images of Christmas, family, time spent together and the joy that it brings are all closely associated with the news of this one character or person. I feel a personal connection to Oliver! as that was the film that really got me interested in performing. Being young and watching Oliver! you accept it for what it is. You feel for the young orphan boy, you despise Mr Bumble, feel afraid of Bill Sykes, love the fun of Fagin’s Gang and the family led by Nancy & Bett and want to be the Artful Dodger. You want to believe that these characters are real and that they exist and that if you wandered through London’s smoky streets you may stumble upon them and be allowed to join them as they adventure and sing. As you grow up you lose a bit of the magic but learn to respect the actors for their craft and skill in the performances that they give. They are truly masters of their craft.

I felt very similar when I heard that Robin Williams had died. It somehow felt as though a bit of magic, joy and wonder had been lost from the world and that it was perhaps a slightly darker place for not having them in it. But this is not the case – they leave behind them a massive and lasting legacy of great work that can be revisited and enjoyed time and time again. That’s the beauty of the gift that they were able to offer to us and share with us. ¬†A gift that will continue to be shared by future generations.

And this is why theatre and film are essential art forms and should be deeply embedded in young people’s lives from an early age. As humans we need to experience these things and we need young people to be inspired by incredibly talented actors like Robin Williams and Ron Moody. The beauty of what they did for us was to create characters that we all loved, ¬†characters we felt for, characters that we associate with. They did this with apparent ease and created a lasting impact on us. They may be gone but they will never be forgotten for the great gifts that they gave us. Their lives and souls were laid bare in front of us and they welcomed us in to become part of their worlds with open arms.

The arts are an integral part of growing up. For a lot of children the first live experience they will have is of a pantomime at Christmas and love or loathe them they do at their most basic level teach us about morality and the tales do have lessons embedded somewhere deep at the heart of them. In Bath we’re incredibly lucky to have the egg theatre and a whole host of different theatre schools which allow access to the arts for all ages.

We need our stories and our storytellers and those unique human beings who possess the magic to bring these tales to life for us. They are deeply embedded in our lives, in our souls and in our culture and I for one would like to say thank you for the laughter, thank you for the drama, thank you for the entertainment, thank you for the tears and emotions, thank you for bringing joy to millions of people and thank you for giving yourselves to us and forever holding a place in our hearts.