How to start to establish a community theatre company based in Newport, Shropshire whilst managing the demands of being a parent and maintaining an income?
Well it’s now midway through 2021, and much has fallen. My previous blog feels somewhat nonsensical to me now as so much has changed. It’s like all that is not meant to be in my life for me to fulfil my highest purpose has ‘crumbled’. The part-time work triangle I detailed in it is no longer.
In the ‘best woman’s’ speech I said at our wedding (it was important to me to speak up publicly and represent the feminine as a woman entering marriage, I look back with great pride that I did and I hope more women do), I declared that the universe had made a fool of me and, retrospectively, I was so glad that it did. Aged 17, I vowed under the moon never to go out with Ed de Quincey. And there I was marrying him aged 32. The moon is fickle. And it’s done it again.
How to explain? (And I want to be brief this time!!!) Well, in short, I’ve had a series of unfortunate events much like the Lemony Snickett series – at times it did indeed feel like some sort of Count Olaf character has been ‘out to get me’…
It started with contracting coronavirus just after Christmas, having the most harrowing fourteen days waiting it out and staying strong, concerned it had somehow been passed on to my mother-in-law. Something worked as all was well. My mum-in-law says she couldn’t have got through without me and the strength I willed into us all – all I can say is it was a ridiculously intense, raw, surreal start to the year when the outside world was suspended for us as the snow fell. I’m certain this angel card, and the attitude of laughing to relieve even the most difficult situations helped us stay afloat as we connected daily in the evening via facebook messenger and it’s ‘funny faces’ option which I think quite literally was a life saver! It then took 5-6 weeks for me to recover, I was lucky our son could attend school so I could plan in rest and recover fully, taking on board friends’ sage advice who had already had it.
Coming out of the starkness of the virus and doing an online module which got me to list my top 5 passions, I realized I had to drop being a UW Partner. I realised it was taking me away from my priority passions, and it was time to let it go. I am open to the possibility it could come back in once a creative career is more established but for now I’ve had to accept it’s one ball too much. Also my contract to teach LAMDA at Wrekin College ended in March. It wasn’t meant to last as long as I had hoped. Although these aspects of my work-life have now crumbled, I am grateful for the time I spent with UW and Team LAMDA; I’ve gained experience and skills, grown in awareness (see previous blog) and worked with the most beautiful people of all ages, types and backgrounds. I’m in a much richer place than if I hadn’t taken up the opportunities. ‘No effort is wasted’ Buddhism would say. Then in February into March, I got excited by a job vacancy to teach drama at a local high school thinking that was why everything had fallen but that plan proved false.
The moon indeed has been fickle. As Woody Allen has quipped, ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans’.
I had a month or so of ‘nothingness’. I processed a lot of rage and some deep despair at the injustices of being a woman and mother and creative, expressing myself through poetry helped me through. I was then able to access mentoring from Nicky Kent of Social Heart CIC around how to make your business sustainable which has helped me regroup and re-evaluate. Nicky helped me set up the CIC in 2017 so it was beneficial and timely to be able to access her excellent, passionate mentoring again. As we (fingers crossed) emerge from the pandemic, there are some projects emerging, which feel wholesome and better than stretching myself between very different worlds. I really just want the one focus of having the CIC solely as my work, co-creating arts projects in nature, which is ONE of my passions, another being my family. Threads are starting to weave; roots appear to be starting to delicately knit together. One project that is now flowering is ‘Drama in the Forest’ which I am elated and thankful is coming to fruition. Since leaving mainstream teaching in 2017, all I’ve ever wanted was to be a present mum to my son and have a sustainable business in Moonstruck Astronaut CIC – is this now possible?
At the moment it is still tentative, I wanted to post to share my journey, not to feign I have the answers. So many of us feel that we have to posture that we know the answers. Saying ‘I don’t know’ is not a crime, it can be heroic. Part of doing this blog is the hope that when things do emerge powerfully, those who follow can see the path, and find comfort that the CIC became successful despite many hindrances, and be encouraged to honour what excites them, no matter the hurdles.
Indeed, I hope I will be expressing profound gratitude for this ‘crumbling’ of plans in the future, as I still express gratitude that the moon broke her side of my wounded teenage heart’s vow and I ended up married to Ed de Quincey. The moon sees much further than my eyes. Humility is vital in this age of light.
I am doing my best to be humble and open and flexible to those opportunities that speak of soul satisfaction, beyond the ego’s surface judgements and its’ fears of the ‘new’. I would love to be working in collaboration with good, good people and building up a network of interdependence behind Moonstruck Astronaut. I’ve never wanted to work solo, there is such joy in sharing, and connecting with like-minded others brings out the best in me and enables me to focus on service. Indeed, it’s other’s sincere encouragement and consistent kind support that helps keep me in touch with the ocean of truth beneath us, and brings me back to centre when I am afraid. Thank you so much.
I would like to end by sharing the donkey card from Diana Cooper’s ‘Archangel Animal’ Oracle decks. You too may feel you have undergone or are undergoing challenges. The card advises to simply ‘accept’ the challenges, being aware they help you ‘to develop qualities of patience, forbearance and courage’ and to above all ‘keep your heart open’, using all experiences to ‘strengthen yourself’. I find this image of the donkey very touching; it reminds me that love is all that matters and to laugh kindly at myself with a donkey bray! Indeed, it’s led me to imagine myself as some sort of unicorn-donkey hybrid at times which I find strangely fitting!!
The prospect that Moonstruck Astronaut CIC could now work out in a post-pandemic world deeply fortifies me, as does the clarity that it is work that satisfies my soul.
*End section of my blog post of 2020 – please read Part 1 and Part 2 for the full post.
My son started primary school this September so I now have 5 days a week in which to progress. It’s a new chapter. As you can imagine, the challenge I have is balancing or rather, tilting my time and energy between the three businesses, and still having energy to be there for my family, the house (jeez that pile of dirty washing!), friends and being a parent and staying ‘charged’ myself. I have certainly not mastered it yet – my head can get way overloaded and pulled in so many directions in attempting to navigate the different worlds I am stretched across, with their different terminology, learning / knowledge and ‘to do’ lists, and then at 3pm I’m at the school morphing into being Barnaby’s mum (which by the way can feel icky inside as I try to switch off my ‘just get another thing’ done mind at 2.30pm)!!
I really feel like I’m starting my 40s as a beginner. A beginner in being a mum (now of a school-aged child), in being a UW Partner, in being a LAMDA teacher, being self-employed and learning how to grow the community theatre company of my dreams. Yes my life up until this point has prepared me but turning 40 feels like a rebirth, a blank slate. In some ways, this is tough on my ego – I identified as a successful well-paid drama teacher before Barnaby was born. Now I’m some sort of splurge of many worlds, over spilling them all! All I can do is work towards the death of the ego, ie. of identifying and judging myself in that way, and do my best to honour the opportunities I now have in life, count the blessings and keep re-finding the faith to trust in the process of my life.
I received the budda doodle above on the 21st October and it reminded me I had to come back and finish this blog which does indeed feel like a bumpy mountain where I’ve touched on lots but not quite got to the bottom (well I suppose I’m trying to get to the top anyway, and that’s more about letting go and becoming lighter!), hopefully it’s still a step forward to share where I’m at right now.
Let’s imagine we are at the top of that mountain the cartoon buddha is climbing, sitting under the tree with the warmth of the sun’s rays on us feeling fulfilled, admiring the view from the top. I’d like to mark the moment by sharing what will probably always be my tippety toppermost quotation of all time whilst sitting up there with you: ‘it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the human eye’. The Little Prince, as I’m sure you know. See with your inner knowing, your visions, your dreams, your heart. We can get there. We will get there. One step at a time – regardless of how untidy that step is (‘Even if you stumble and fall, at least you have moved forward’ Darren Hardy).
Let’s all have patience and keep believing there is a more peaceful, love-based future coming for us all. Right now we are in darkness but see with your heart above all else. ‘True success means winning in your battle with yourself. Those who persist in the pursuit of their dreams, no matter the hurdles, are winners in life, for they have won over their own weaknesses.’ Daisaku Ikeda – the incredible Japanese leader of the SGI Buddhist movement.
In order to keep moving towards the future we all want, let’s all keep asking ourselves Deepak Chokra’s question: ‘When you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask yourself do you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future?’ I have it on a notelet in my office. It’s a tough one to face, especially at moments that demand courage, but it’s important to, otherwise we’ll all just keep perpetuating the same mistakes. Let’s try not to let the past run the show. It is over. The future is truly waiting for us if we stop replaying past garbage. Our mind at times is one very sick bunny that has a caveman’s limitations of fearing anything out of the ordinary. It does not have the answers, only doing something new can bring about something new.
The phrase ‘Be Yourself’ is fascinating to me – I reckon it has many layers. I feel like in some ways I’m more myself than I’ve ever been – I just don’t fit in boxes anymore. I never did but it took giving birth and becoming a mum to force me to break free into the undefined me. I do feel scared but I sense the freedom I have always yearned for – to be myself. It’s having faith I can and that can only comes from trusting there is a Grand Design in which I have a part to play. A part only I (the real ‘I’) can fulfil. A part for which I am needed as if I don’t step up, others won’t step up either and fully play their part and I desperately want us ALL to be heroes in our own stories.
If you’ve read to this point, my sincere thanks. We’ve made it to the end of the blog!!!! Yippee! I hope you feel a sense of achievement too. I’m aware this is a bumper, messy, long blog I’ve written in three sittings trying to pull together strands of thought that have occurred to me amidst everyday life.. I am above all seeking to be brave in the hope that sharing something that is raw is far better than holding back and forever staying stuck. This blog is the toughest one I’ve ever written – I hope in sharing my part-time work triangle there are jewels for both of us in the dirt.
Finally, THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH to everyone who has looked at UW with me, totally regardless of the outcome (!!). I hope you can see that any progress with UW helps me to be in a better position to achieve the Moonstruck Astronaut dream too.
Let’s all remember we each have our own mountains we are attempting to climb, that if we do achieve, in turn, benefit the whole. Loving companions make all the difference as to whether we manage to go the distance. ‘Be kind – for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle (aka. climbing their own mammoth triangular mountain!)’ (Socrates).
*Sincerely – if you have read to the end, thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you’d like to leave a comment or a takeaway below, you’d make my day! Much love, Hannah xxx
*Please note to understand this middle section of my ‘All of Me blog’, its probably best to glance over Part 1 if you haven’t read it.
14th October 2020 – It’s 5.23am, I’ve been awake since 3am. My soul is demanding I finish this blog! In July I could only start it. Now it’s time to finish it. ‘Is your dream bigger than your rejections? If it is, maybe it’s time to keep going, instead of giving up.’Found on p182 of Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang, a book I was gifted by the awesome Suzie Oulton, who I’m blessed to have as my mentor in UW. I probably would have thrown in the towel and given up long ago if it wasn’t for her and Nicola at my side, and the consistent support of other UW partners. Suzie gave me ‘Rejection Proof’ very perceptively – I’d recommend reading it, especially if you have to encounter rejection a lot with your work.
Suzie has been an absolute rock in her commitment, passion and focus, whilst compassionate to my struggles and very, very patient! She is steadfast in her belief in me – she sees that I can overcome my obstacles if I keep going. A basic ‘obstacle’ I’m working on is whilst I am left-handed and well-developed in what is considered ‘right-brain’ thinking (intuition, creativity, analysis, emotions – with my English degree, drama and theatre background), I am under-developed in my left-brain thinking /right-hand side connection (logical, methodical, maths, numbers, rational) – and growing my left-brain’s balancing influence is vital for me to make a success of UW. In the bigger picture, I see UW as the divine masculine coming in to protect MA which is my divine feminine side – we all need a balance of both. Another ‘obstacle’ is my mild dyspraxia has also been playing up much more in that I just struggle to remember new learning (especially if it’s factual info) unless I see it written or can hear it repeatedly –my struggle to learn affects my feelings of self-esteem and those dear old self-limiting beliefs can start to kick in, which in turn dramatically reduces my ability to retain information as I just don’t feel good. I can certainly relate more to children who struggle to learn now!! Through all the highs and lows, the nitty gritty of learning, my at times bruised self-confidence, Suzie has been consistently grounded, kind and present – it goes without saying, I’m incredibly grateful to her. There has to be a bigger plan here as Suzie, myself and Nicola coming together for the first time at the WIRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) conference in 2018 was very, very serendipitous and somewhat a miracle.
Turning 40, my journey appears to be truly accepting/ knowing myself – who I really was born to be – and being that authentic self out in the world. Nicola and I have decided our team motto for ‘Team Unicorn’ is ‘Be Yourself’. I saw it on a pebble in July. So simple, so profound. This blog stems from that stone. ‘All of Me’. I’m not conventional. I’ve tried. Oh believe me I’ve tried. ‘What if your difference is your gift to the world?’ rings with truth.
So it’s accepting that and just getting on with it, doing my best to bring my authentic light to a troubled world. ‘I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not’ Kurt Cobain. Woah a bit too strong for me (“You mean you really don’t like cheese and onion crisps too?!”) but powerful… I’d sort of reframe it as Rachel Campbell’s way of putting it it in ‘Light is the New Black’: ‘I am not for them and they are not for me’. In turn, I do my very best to be non-judgmental and accepting of others as I believe we are all doing our best with the knowledge and awareness we have, and we all deserve warmth and compassion. Indeed, we each live in our own unique dream world, crafted by so many influences – and actually our inner soul world is what’s most important to stay connected to to steer us forward. Don Miguel Ruez wrote about this in his poetic way:
I’m on a journey, at the moment I can’t say I’m immune to the opinions and actions of others, nor that I ever will be, but I’m further along the line of shedding illusion than I used to be. I also never want to not listen to wisdom and knowledge from others – ‘no man is an island’ is certainly true of me; it will take many people with all sorts of amazing talents to pull off the Moonstruck Astronaut outdoor show of my dreams – I love cooperation and collaboration, what we’re talking about here is the different sense when someone has a jarring opinion of you and what you do, it’s usually their stuff not your’s. Wayne Dyer often spoke about the fact that Abraham Maslow always taught that it was necessary for the self-actualized individual to be “independent of the good opinion of others.” Becoming self-actualized is the tip of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs triangle – the ultimate goal. Yes there’s a synergy there with my work triangle! I wish to help build a world based in kindness where we are not quick to judge others and we do our utmost to allow others to be themselves and live life their way.
I’d like to share the 3 BIG reasons why I love UW:
1. Equality – ANYONE no matter their background, age, religion, colour, sexual orientation, ANYTHING can access the UW opportunity. It brings together all backgrounds, all professions, all ages – young and old. We are surrounded by systems of inequality, burdened by historical bias. I don’t agree with inequality. It is time for new systems of unbiased access for all to actually emerge. There’s lots of talk about this but I don’t think many businesses manage it. UW is rare. I see in UW hope for the future that there CAN be an equal playing field.
2. Trust – UW is run on trust, on word of mouth, on people power, on recommendation. It’s success is It’s normal people helping other normal people and in turn, enabling everyone to bring more money into their homes through a sustainable long-term business model:
‘When I started this journey a little over 20 years ago, I was hoping to build something worthwhile that had a positive impact on as many people as possible. To create an ethical business which treated all stakeholders fairly – customers, Partners, staff and investors. Our commitment to these core values is at the heart of everything we have achieved together so far.’ (Charles Wigoder – founder and Chief Executive of UW)
The fact UW has managed to avoid being part of mainstream sexy advertising, and actually THRIVE outside of it, is extraordinary and a beautiful testimony that grassroots trust between people is still alive and kicking in this day and age of warped consumerism.
3. Money – To put it bluntly, I wouldn’t need to be doing UW if I could earn an excellent, regular wage as a creative artist. There is so much baggage here that I get lost so it’s best to just let go of what I am not in control of which is the craziness of money biases in current society and focus on the opportunities in life I have been given. Coming across UW is one of them. As a side point, I would be SO elated to help many other creatives thrive through introducing them to the UW bee hive – that’s part of my motivation to succeed. In turn, I’m very much looking forward to supporting whomever wants to join me in being a UW buzzy bee and spread the love. Part of the love is its beautiful accessibility to all. UW is also clever in how it rewards you for your efforts to share. It is also straight forward in how wealth is shared – if you are prepared to face fears and work on dismantling self-sabotaging beliefs (well, in my case… I hope others find it a doddle, and I’ll certainly pass on what not to do!!), be open to the new, learn and improve your skills, take action consistently, you get paid well. To put it simply it’s about a lot of people doing a little work part-time consistently over many years supporting each other. When you make a success of UW the money becomes residual income – which I’d never heard of before. The concept of residual income just makes sense to me and it would hugely support me in being able to co-create Moonstruck Astronaut projects every summer.
Those who have plenty of money can do more good in the world. I am a generous person who sincerely wants to be an agent of love, hope and good on the planet. I know as my income grows, I will be joyously empowered to do more good in the world. I hope in sharing this blog I take some sort of step forward out of the limiting beliefs of the past and into my divine right to abundance, knowing I will pass it on. I want a world where money can be given and received abundantly and freely, with trust and harmony and love. I want a world where good people have lots of money so they can do as much good as possible while they are alive. In my opinion, UW is already helping to birth that world.
So that’s a bit (or rather – a lot!) about why UW is now part of the Moonstruck Astronaut dream. The dream of one day achieving uniting many people of all ages, backgrounds to co-create outdoor theatre on a field near Newport is a vision that won’t leave me. I’m still working towards it but with a much wider view of how to get there than I had when I jumped ship from my drama teaching career into icy waters back in August 2017. Formed through facing the reality that Moonstruck Astronaut CIC can’t pay me much, certainly not regularly, and I don’t want to pressure the theatre company in that way also. I have a mountain to climb (believe me it’s better than swimming in an endless ocean!) and I’ll be beavering away in these three part-time businesses for years.
Please continue to Part 3, the final part of this blog!Thanks so much for reading this far.
15th July 2020 – 11.11am. I’ve put 33 minutes on the timer. It’s the Wednesday before schools break up for the summer holidays in the year of the pandemic. I haven’t written for this blog since November 2019, 9 months ago. Does the question of last year still ring true?
How to start to establish a community theatre company based in Newport, Shropshire whilst managing the demands of being a new parent and maintaining an income?
Yes, Moonstruck Astronaut community theatre projects are still an ultimate goal. However, with the life that’s emerging it’s becoming less of a one-pronged dream and more like a triangle of three. A triangle of three areas to my work life.
In July 2017, I posted this short comment to Facebook: ‘I step out beyond the known to claim the riches of my true potential’ Alan Cohen. Just saw & wanted to post to mark a moment! Hopefully it does for u too, however small or giant the ‘new’ is feeling right now.’
It’s funny I used the word ‘giant’ as that’s featuring in my mind right now. Back then all I knew was I was meant to leap to be there for my son and to move towards my long-held dreams of running a community theatre company.
Three years later, the new life that is emerging from having stepped out beyond the known is still strange to me, and still evolving. Although it now feels much more exciting than scary as I have ground beneath my feet and I can see a mountain, which is actually reassuring.
In order to maintain an income whilst still being flexible enough to be there for my son, and available for Moonstruck Astronaut long-term, I have three part-time businesses that have emerged in answer to the BIG question above:
Moonstruck Astronaut C.I.C., a registered community interest company – formed to co-create yearly outdoor community theatre summer projects (albeit not this summer owing to COVID)
Team LAMDA, Wrekin College – teaching LAMDA speech and drama to solo students alongside Head of LAMDA, the fantastic Lucy Willis who I thank my lucky stars I met in August last year.
Being a Partner with Utility Warehouse (UW) – helping as many people as possible bring more money into their homes, by introducing them to saving or earning money through the FTSE 250 company which Which? magazine have recently named ‘Utility Brand of the Year 2020’.
The image of a triangle started to land in June to help me make sense of this completely different and entirely new set up to my working life. I like the idea of a triangle as it’s solid and stable (‘The triangle is the strongest shape in nature’ – a line from the start of the Boss Baby animation!) and can rotate or tilt in terms of where I’m best to focus my efforts at that moment in time. It also has that sense of a mountain too with being able to achieve Moonstruck Astronaut projects as the peak of success supported and grounded by my other self-employed roles with UW and LAMDA teaching!
I’ll focus in on UW in this blog as I’ve never shared it openly before. Utility Warehouse is the part that is very much out of my comfort zone, where I have been strongly guided by spirit and my soul – my ego mind finds it well tough! It asks me to drop many previous beliefs about myself and money and subconscious judgements. It’s been bonkers what goes on inside my head! However, these amazing wisdoms keep me going – number 1, ‘your mind only knows what you’ve taught it’ (ie. it can be full of bull and inhibit access to so much more wisdom that is beyond the mind) and number 2, ‘your mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s open’. Too often closed minds miss SO SO SO SO SO much, as I have done in the past, and probably will still, but I’m working on it and I haven’t given up, despite the struggles.
So, here I am, two years in since committing to being a UW Partner and I am seeing the start of success. Basically, Nicola and I, who started the same day, have made it to a milestone (when you receive a box of heavenly chocs!) that marks our team are gathering customers well. We’ve named our team ‘Team Unicorn’ – I can’t get enough of unicorns (as you may have noted!!) and want the figure of a unicorn to be our anchor. Accepting of all in our uniqueness and leaving no one out, shining our authentic lights out into the world.
The UW part of me is still raw and unsure and unsteady, and I’m unsure when this blog will be shared, I hope it will. I always seek to be transparent and honest. Stepping ‘beyond the known’ is stepping beyond society’s invisible psychological rules. It’s BLINKING SCARY. For me it has also been facing a fear of rejection every time you reach out to share, and learning how to roll with a lot of no’s!
UW is different and unique in British society – it can be seen with suspicion as it operates differently. It’s actually very ethical and beautiful in how it shares money, of course why I’m drawn to it and believe in it, and am willing to go through A LOT of pain to honour it. Which I’m hoping will reduce the more it becomes a system for me and I can separate a deep-rooted fear of rejection from the truth that I am a good person and deeply loved no matter what, no matter other people’s reactions are to UW, which is influenced by many factors that are not in my control.
What I do have control of is connecting with my soul to help me last the journey. I take these psychological risks out of a deep sense of love and responsibility to serve, knowing there is a far bigger picture than my fear that seeks to hold me back so much. You have no idea how other people will react to UW, it can feel a big risk to offer it, it can be reacted to like marmite whilst, to me, it tastes like golden honey! I have had some deeply painful experiences, but then you simply have to get back to seeing the bigger picture (and I look at my hot air balloon image again). On the other hand, I’ve had many deeply fulfilling experiences when you do help someone simplify their life and save A LOT, and you know you have blessed their life. There’s still a sense of dirtiness that I am seeking to heal – money subconscious limiting that is not true, but I’ve picked up from the decade and culture I was bought up in. And then of course there’s other’s subconscious limiting beliefs and it can become a quagmire.
I am simply the messenger that it exists, but I still seem to ‘personalise’ the rejection which I really want to improve on – if it’s possible, to lose the emotional charge and just treat it systematically. You go through a certain number of no’s to find a yes sort of thing. It’s always wanting what’s for the highest good of all and letting go when things don’t go as you’d hoped. I was given great advice by Clare Hingott (an actress who is also a leading light in the UW world) who I had a 2 minute chat to at a UW event in Autumn 2018: ‘marry the process, divorce the outcome.’ Great advice I’m still learning.
It is also realising the perceived rejection actually is only in your mind/ego and not the truth of who you are, and working on yourself (see the two wolves story reference at the bottom..). I’m someone who can feel rejected if someone doesn’t take a crisp from me when offered! I’m a highly sensitive, empathic soul who picks up on other’s energies – which has it’s plus points, and it’s challenges.
Stopped at 11.33am
Please go to Part 2 of this blog, which is the next one... (to explain – my trusted friends who’d read it in full fed back it’s just way too long to read in one go!!!)
How to start to establish a community theatre company based in Newport, Shropshire whilst managing the demands of being a new parent and maintaining an income?
On Monday 14th October, I met with Maggie Love at the Foundry Restaurant in Theatre Severn restaurant, after attending my first Partners for Social Enterprise meeting next door at University Centre Shrewsbury. My first blog was written after meeting Maggie in the Foundry Restaurant back in March so there was a sense of a cycle completed being there again for my final meeting with her (under the SD-UK 2019 mentoring scheme). We went over my plans for the next year which mainly consist of looking to teach LAMDA speech and drama term-time and running the Summer Drama Retreat next August. She praised me for how far she felt I had come – in my first meeting with her she said I had “absolutely no idea how to structure my thinking and now we’ve just sat with a timeline in existence and a framework until next August”. It’s not really me to not be organised or not to have a plan – I think structure is very important. However, she is correct, when I first met her I was fatigued, confused and felt lost and unsure what to do. This was not the state in which I’d started my journey of setting up the CIC in Shropshire back in 2017.
What had happened since then is I’d had plan upon plan evaporate. This blog reflects back honestly on ‘failing’ again and again in the hope it helps you and me find meaning!
My first plan had been to re-stage ‘Wulf’s Quest’ at the Potteries Museum (which had been a wonderfully successful MA project in the summer holidays of 2015) – I’d pushed myself to put together an Arts Council application in the Easter holiday while I was still teaching at Concord (heaven knows how I did it as I was also pulling together the script of a ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ for 44 Year 9s that holiday while looking after a ten-month old!) but I’d made silly mistakes in the application and it had been rejected, and I just didn’t have enough time to put in another application correcting the errors (as I was then kindly advised) before the project would have taken place so I put it down as a learning experience. The museum was getting refurbished also and so the opportunity to re-stage it passed.
My second plan, which was my biggie, was to get funding to create ‘The Banana Show’, a children’s comedy show, at the Hive. I spent a good six months sourcing a team, making connections, and working on my Arts Council applications, both of which got rejected. I got one in for December 17 and the next Feb 18. The second application I remember I worked through the night and didn’t sleep at all to get it in. There was a great team forming and the application was strong – but unsuccessful (the rejection letter said no suggestions for improvement, just ‘other applications preferred’ – which I am told is the best rejection you can get from ACE). I faced the music and let go of the project, accepting the timing wasn’t right (which was true really as my son needed me too much at that time anyway).
And so ‘The Banana Show’ was left squished on the sidewalk. The irony is that the proposed show has the premise that the banana fruit is frequently overlooked and undervalued (priced at a mere 18p) at it’s heart, and that he is hoping for his time in the spotlight once more..! Sadly, his project is now in the shadows of the Moonstruck Astronaut freezer (the next time you see a banana or eat one please do send him some warm fuzzy sympathy – it’s tough for him ;-)). I have no idea if all that hard work will ever pay off (not just mine but some great collaborators who of course I feel sad and embarrassed not to have not come through for – I usually do). Just to add the project was successful in a funding application to the Co-operative Community Fund (but as the funding decision didn’t come through until October 18 I couldn’t accept it – they take a long while to process applications) and the project received funding from the Split Infinitive Trust; but without the ACE grant coming through, the idea wasn’t in a position to step into the light.
While I’d been pulling together the ACE application, I was also setting up the CIC with its’ myriads of admin, registering it, progressing with the IT side, doing a mail chimp newsletter, liasing with Higher Horizons+ about the Zombie Challenge Day project and organising and teaching the weekly LAMDA group acting classes at Trinity Church. This was against a backdrop of my son only being in childcare one day a week, he started to have two days at nursery in January 18. In short, I was doing my best with the knowledge, time and awareness I had. After my efforts proved ‘fruitless’ (enjoying the puns!), I was unsure where to place my energies as goes developing the theatre company and, understandably, deflated and lacked energy. There were things to take from that experience, like not rushing developing a project – making sure there is far more time allocated for research and development, and the harsh truth that it’s just not healthy needing funding from any external organisation to come through to give you a salary. I had to look elsewhere to find financial stability, hence the search for the ideal part-time job to work alongside the CIC, which can come into play more easily when my son starts school next September.
Whilst Moonstruck Astronaut has had some lovely successes over the past two years, with ‘Harry and Dolly’ at the Dorothy Clive Garden being an absolute blinder of a success, and the LAMDA students achieving distinctions in their first year, I have still experienced a hefty dosage of failure, rejection and have made plenty of mistakes. The sign ‘The Man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything’ speaks volumes (apologies, I don’t know how to make it ‘fit’ the box shape at the top of the post – a timely shortfall though!- it’s a poster I picked up from Blists Hill Victorian Museum in Ironbridge). For me, learning comes from doing, from experience – having a go is true learning. I feel these first two years have been messy, but I’ve got up again and I haven’t given up, despite some horrible lows. As Maya Angelou has said, ‘You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated’. She then goes on to say: ‘In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.’ Yes, it appears the greater learning for me over the past two years is in defeat and my plans not working out, and opening up to other ways of moving forward. There is a much bigger picture to my journey I am sure, and I seek to align with the flow rather than resist it. I am adapting and doing my best to learn and take wise action to find a stable work-life balance, one that has space for developing the CIC.
By the way, I find ‘failing’ as painful, embarrassing and tough as the next person, especially when others are watching. Yes you do develop more resilience with every learning experience, and it is far easier to get up again when you have a wider, wiser perspective, but I don’t think I’ll ever be immune to ‘failure’ – it will always sting and bring out my ‘what’s the point?’, dejected moments. Still, when the dust has settled, and I find calm, the deepest truth for me is I’d rather look like a fool for love and take brave risks than stay ‘safe’ inside a comfort zone (that often proves illusory anyway) to avoid further pain. What keeps me going is the privilege of seeing my beloved mum die when I was 18. Odd you may say, but so much falls away when you see death. The other thing is my mum died aged 50 with unfinished dreams inside her and the starkness of this must spur me on. A few days after she died, I found a notelet she had written saying ‘when I am a head, I will..’ (can’t remember what it was, something about being considerate!). She was touching on deputy head roles when the demise of cancer rudely interrupted. She had great potential and would have shone as a primary school head. I feel the least I can do for all she did for me is get out there and act on my dreams.
What really matters to you? What really matters to me is that by the time I die, I know I did my best to live a life true to my soul, where I fulfilled my greatest potential, and, in doing so, I helped many others. I have stumbled many times, I’ve looked a fool many times but I can look back and know I was always striving to do my best for myself and others. I love Shaina Noll’s lyrics towards the end of her song, ‘Everything Possible’ on her album ‘Songs for the Inner Child’:
‘the only measure of your words and your deeds will be the love you leave behind when you’re gone.’
Please listen to the actual song if you can, it’s beautiful. These nineteen words are what matter most to me. I have a vision of touching many people with Moonstruck Astronaut’s work. To me, this vision, this ‘inner knowing’ you could call it, this ‘dream’, is worth staying on the pitch for, in the ‘arena’ that Roosevelt talks of, trying again, failing again, trying again, failing again, succeeding again, basically getting up again and again and again, in the hope that the full scope of that vision can be realised before I too die.
Thank you very much to all who’ve read any of my blogs so far. I hope this one helps you put your life and bravery into perspective, reminding you to congratulate yourself for all the ‘failure’ you’ve encountered so far on your own journey! I’ll leave you with this simple poem. Keep your head up and remember to look back to see how far you’ve travelled up your own particular ‘mountain’.