Author: sianbrett

Well hey there! I'm Sian (you say it like 'sharn' please don't make me tell you twice), and as well as films I like British comedy, Radio 4, Slow Club, coffee, Caitlin Moran, Twitter, scrapbooks, feminism, acting and second hand bookshops. And films. I really really like films. Follow me on twitter here: https://twitter.com/sian_brett And instagram here: http://instagram.com/sian_brett

A Space of One’s Own

In many creative industries, as well as in the wider world, women are not encouraged, but are actively discouraged from taking up space. When you don’t see women like you, or in fact any women at all, in mainstream media, it can be hard to convince yourself to take up that space. Taking up space is both physical and metaphorical here; if society expects you to be thin and petite, then being anything other than that feels wrong. When you are told be quiet, talked over, and interrupted, speaking up and out can feel hard.

A solution to this is to carve your own space. To create something that is for you and for other women like you to share in. I chatted to some women who have done just this.

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Kate Eveling is the creator of The View From The Other Side, a blog and youtube channel where she talks openly about what it’s like to have Cystic Fibrosis. The videos are incredibly informative, well-made and fun to watch. “CF has always been a negative in my life but creative writing and making videos is something that I thoroughly enjoy – so I thought, why not take that and use it to turn something negative into a positive” she told me.

It’s particularly interesting to explore CF online, because, as Kate puts it “us CFers can’t actually meet face to face because of the risk of giving each other chest infections.” When you can’t meet the people who share in your experience, creating an online space to talk and discuss (and also to explain what it’s like living with your condition to everyone else) is key to changing the conversation around something like CF.

Kate also says that it’s important most of all to keep these videos interesting. “The ‘10 Facts About Me’ video isn’t one where I sit in front of the camera and drone out ten facts. I try to make it energetic and fun but also cringeworthy – it wouldn’t be a Kate Eveling video if it wasn’t cringeworthy right?!”

I ask Kate who inspires her, and she describes how starting A View From The Other Side led her to discover other CFers documenting their lives. “This might sound cheesy but every story I read on their lives was such an inspiration to me. Because they have CF and they are fighting it every day. Simple as that.” It’s clear to see here how one person carving their own space can inspire another.

It’s a space that’s growing as well. Kate recently made a video campaigning for the drug Orkambi, which greatly improves the lives of CF sufferers but which the British Government claim is too expensive.

Find out more about The View From The Other Side.

 

Splint

Another online space for women is Splint, a platform for innovative women looking to network, collaborate and create. “We just kind of decided that it was necessary to provide a space for women to share creative skills, successes and experiences, whilst also championing the women we know and love” co-creator Abbie Claxton tells me. Abbie and her co-founder Syd interview a series of women about what they make and why, and what it’s like to be a woman doing that. “We both know a lot of women doing things that should really be talked about, and we just realised that not a lot of people know about them or what they’re up to. I am always asking people how they got to where they are today, and Splint kind of offers that answer for people.”

The wonderful thing about Splint is the way it’s pure purpose is to champion women doing cool things, and allowing them to share that.

I ask Abbie who inspires her. “The women around us inspire Splint, without them we would have nothing to talk about.” It’s the perfect description of what sharing space means for women today.

Find out more about Splint.

 

Liberate

Laura Mead is an actor and playwright whose debut play Liberate was recently performed at the White Bear Theatre. I asked her about the move from acting into writing.

“There’s a lot more freedom in writing than I personally found in acting. That goes along with flexibility. I also find I’m not having to ‘look’ or ‘feel’ a certain way to write – I just let what I want spill out on paper.” And why is theatre right for this?

“Art forms are so great because they can be enjoyable whilst also showcasing an idea, which may or may not have been in somebody’s minds beforehand. I also think it’s all about HOW you discuss it; Liberate is full of humour – so it means that feminism is being pushed to the front of the discussion whilst a joke is being made.”

I asked Laura what’s next on the agenda.

“Carry on making coffee at my little coffee-shop. Read books. Shove the candles on. And have a bloody large gin. Who knows?!”

Liberate is on for one more night at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.

 

Words by Sian Brett with interviews from Laura Mead, Abbie Claxton and Kate Eveling.
Images from The View From The Other Side, Splint and Liberate.

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Unconventional Christmas

I’ve had Twitter since I was 15. It’s my constant companion; the voices of these journalists and comedians that I have followed in many ways for seven years now. I check it when I wake up and I check it when I go to bed. A good tweet is like a good joke – satisfying.

My favourite time on Twitter is Christmas Day, when the connection it gives you to other people makes the day feel bigger than whatever is going on in your own Christmas. In recent years, Sarah Millican has started the hashtag #joinin, so that people can follow this directly and share what they’re doing, as a way to reach out to people who might be having lonely or difficult Christmases. I get to see commentary on Christmas TV, quotes from racist grandparents, and see everyone share their best and worst gifts. The tweet I look out for especially though, is comedian Robert Webb who reminds us that Christmas without a parent or both parents can be tough, shitty and sad, and what’s more, that that’s okay.

Christmas is a particularly tough day if you’ve lost a parent, or don’t have a strong family unit. It can be hard to admit you’re not enjoying yourself on a day with so much pressure on it, when everyone else seems to be having a jolly old family time. The traditions you grew up with change, as they inevitably do with age, but they change because of absence – because no matter how hard you try, on that day it will always feel a bit like something’s missing.

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I miss Christmas with my dad. I don’t have anyone to watch It’s A Wonderful Life with anymore. The responsibility of being the person who’s too drunk by lunch has fallen to me. I once told my dad that I hated Wilkinson’s because he dragged me there every Saturday, so one year he bought things he knew I’d like from there and left the labels on so I knew I was wrong (I was wrong Wilkinson’s is the best shop ever). Fairytale of New York is my mum and dad’s Christmas song. There’s no one to argue with over the 80’s pop Christmas CD (my choice) and the Rat Pack one (Dad’s). We don’t drive to see grandparents in his car, with it’s very specific smell. There was always a moment on Christmas morning where we had to say ‘Dad – please stop checking your emails and come and watch us open stockings for god’s sake you grumpy bastard.’ We’d hand him what he always got – a) a DVD, b) a book, or c) a box of Sports Mix and he’d say ‘A football!’

So for those who find the festive season a bit tough, like me, I’d like to offer some advice, that I’m trying very hard not to make condescending. Instead, you must make your own traditions. Build your own family. Appreciate the new.

My favourite part of Christmas is the flat meal; an important trip to Lewisham Shopping Centre, lucky dip with Poundland gifts, Secret Santa, Frankie’s honey parsnips, the glee with which Rob rearranges the living room, Steve’s Christmas jumpers, and more roast potatoes than anyone can conceivably eat. On Christmas day the group chats light up with everyone’s best presents, wishes we were all together, and tales of whose nan is pissed. We compare potatoes.

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We have a ridiculous new year’s eve party and watch the fireworks from Best Hill in London, Telegraph Hill with the entirety of SE4 (you can take your Primrose Hill and shove it). We spend new year’s day mopping the floor and feeling sorry for ourselves, regretting our dancing and then decamp to the seaside the day after to clear out the cobwebs.

I’ve taken on new present buying responsibilities – I buy my cousin a different sit-com box set every year so I can educate him on these things the way my dad educated me. I am the best at making presents for my sister. Together, we watch all the Christmas TV, and drink wine, and miss our dad. Last year she gave me a framed letter that he’d written me. We always cry.

And it’s okay to miss him on Christmas Day because, to be honest, it’s a bit shit that he’s not here. He was a grumpy old bastard, but that’s what you need at Christmas more than ever. Someone to point out that the whole thing is bloody ridiculous.

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To me, grief is like a bruise that never goes away. At first, it’s the stabbing pain, it’s the injury, and the shock. Slowly that bruise changes colour, and maybe it gets a bit smaller, but I don’t think it ever goes away. And sometimes, you need to poke it. To check it still hurts. To feel that pain again, because when you feel it, you remember the injury, and you remember why it hurts. And it’s the remembering that’s so important.

For more on this see the amazing tweet from Rachael Prior about her dad and M&S Jumpers that recently went viral. The replies are full of people sharing how their Christmases aren’t the same now that they’ve lost someone, but there’s a bittersweet quality to it all.

 

Words by Sian Brett
Tweet from Rachael Prior, ‘@ORachaelO’

‘Little Eden’: A Review

In a world where reptilians rule and demand daily doses of blood from all of the earth’s citizens, Little Eden tells the story of Jim, an office worker happy to comply with the rules, but who slowly becomes aware that all he has been told about how the world works may be untrue. As secrets unravel, Jim’s safety and life as he knows it hang in the balance.

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The debut production from Neon Peach Theatre is full of slick performances and big characters that make for an enjoyable romp through this world. Although the world could do with being a bit more solidified, and the set up a bit clearer, the fact that there’s a yearning to know more about the world demonstrates that it’s an interesting one. But with a slightly off version of reality, without clarification of what exactly is going on, it can become hard to follow and properly appreciate when the rules of the world start to come undone.

13320957_10154059108736233_6691409396024720195_o[1]An ode to 50’s sci-fi B-movies, Little Eden’s set, sound, and lighting design perfectly encapsulate this little pocket of cinematic history. Although this is a genre rife with joke possibilities, there was definitely the opportunity for more of this within the piece; the set-up is so rich, I was desperate for more gags and over-the-top self-awareness.

Liam Farmer gives a lovely performance as ‘The Vicar’, who narrates the entire show and is bombastic and incredibly fun to watch. Having a narrator on stage continuously can be a difficult thing to balance with the action of a show, but Neon Peach manage it perfectly. A special mention should also go out to Sophie Miller De Vega whose performance as the local nurse never becomes too ‘bimbo’, or dull, but continues to be funny despite her high-heel, pinned-up-hair, white-coat stock character.13316950_10154059108191233_8984799620704698462_o[1]In a small studio space like Camden People’s Theatre, it can be hard to visually engineer a whole world, but the transitions between different spaces and the way that the narrator interplays between it all is one of the strongest facets of the piece.

A work in progress that needs just needs a bit more of everything, Little Eden has potential, strong performances, and most of all, it’s proper good fun.

 

Here’s how to follow Neon Peach Theatre on social media:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/neonpeachtheatre/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NeonPeachTheatre/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NeonPeachInc

 

Words by Sian Brett
Images by Jon Lee
 

 

Growing Up

I’ve been having a bit of a freakout. I’m nearing the end of my degree, my time at university is nearly over, and soon I will have to get a real job and be a real person and live my life without an academic structure (I know, woe is me).

I think a lot about ‘real life’ and ‘real jobs’ like I’m some sort of infantilised child, but the thing is, it just seems so unachievable. Aside from the student debt, the rising house prices that mean that really I’m just never going to buy a house, the lack of jobs available in the arts, aside from all that, certain people just seem to have their lives together and unfortunately, I don’t think I’m one of them.

And the thing is, it’s very easy to beat yourself up about that.

There’s been a shift, among everyone I know recently. They just seem much more… grown up. They’re dedicating time to working hard and looking after themselves and making dinners and sleeping properly. And I’m starting to do it too, a bit. Sleeping proper nights and waking up before 11 am and leaving the house before 9 on some mornings. Noticing when my mood drops, and assessing why, and doing the right things about it. I even went running. For a week. We can’t have everything.

And I think that’s the key thing – you can’t do everything. You can’t be this person who exercises and sleeps and eats healthily and has a buzzing social life and a healthy mental state and gets good grades. And that’s okay. If I learned anything from a combination of CBT and a very good Simon Stephens playwriting talk, it’s that success does not equal happiness. I thought it did, for a long time. I thought that if I did a million things then that was success, because I was running myself ragged and loudly telling everyone how tired I was. That I had to be the best, making the best things, and having other people tell me how good they were. But self-validation is so much better. Letting yourself fail, or get it wrong, or even, to just doing nothing is one of the kindest things you can do to yourself if you’re happy doing it.

It’s particularly easy to not feel good enough when you’re constantly living your life through a screen, constantly comparing your reality to the social media posts of everyone having a nice time, the Instagram stories of what you wish you were doing, those people who are 5 years ahead of you in both career and life-planning and got their play on at the Royal Court aged 21 (I am not bitter, I promise). But comparison is dangerous, because it’s easy to while your days away wishing you were someone else, without fully appreciating who you are, that your hair looks great, and that you are great fun to go to the pub with.

I think that’s being a grown up. Learning to stop constantly punishing yourself about not being grown up. And I’m getting there. I might even start running again.

 

Words by Sian Brett.

 

 

 

Stop WINE-ing About Women Drinking

 I am fully and wholly aware that alcohol is bad for you. It’s bad for your physical and mental health. It is a drug.

But my god it’s fun, isn’t it? When you’ve had a few, and you dance your way back from the pub, eating some chips that taste like the best chips ever… and it is my god damn right to do that.

In the wake of New Years and Christmas festivities there have been a spate of ‘oh no binge drinking women how awful’ articles in the typically awful right-wing press. The narratives of these stories are often about how terrible it is for us young girls to go out in short skirts, or heels, and to get merry. They depict us as ‘messes’, as out of control, or loose.

If you’re decrying young women going out and acting disgracefully on nights out, you should probably stop putting photos of it in national newspapers.

I am sure that some of this notion of women going and getting drunk being a terrible thing stems from the fact that many of these women probably end up having one night stands, and that many people still have a problem with women being in charge of their own sexuality and sexual freedoms.

I wonder if there’s a rise in young women drinking because the pressure on us to be everything is so intense that we need something after a long day of the patriarchy to take the edge off.

Or if it’s because we are made to feel so constantly self-conscious and aware of our looks -as that is taught to be the only thing that defines us – that having a drink is sometimes the quickest way to feel good about ourselves.

In her article ‘Pictures Of Today’s Young Women That Make Me Weep’ (I’m not going to link you to it or even suggest that you look it up because any more hits on their website is exactly what The Mail wants, and I’m loathed to ever give them what they want, the absolute fucks), Sarah Vine writes “[e]ven more depressing, however, is the fact that these are not the usual suspects – thuggish male louts or football hooligans – we see brawling and barfing their way to destruction; but young women”.

OKAY. LET’S DELVE IN. Vine seems to be suggesting here that if it were ‘the usual suspsects’ that would somehow be okay, and that the fact that it’s not makes it worse. She even calls it ‘depressing’.  

I wonder why, Sarah Vine, wife of Michael Gove, young women would feel the need to go out and get rat-arsed these days. No idea? Me neither, Sarah Vine, wife of Michael Gove.

I’m not okaying binge drinking. It’s silly, and foolish, and is a strain on public services. People put themselves in dangerous positions and many die or are hurt. I’m just saying that being a woman doing it is not any worse than being a man doing it.

Also, being drunk is a right laugh. There is something intensely powerful about a group of girls on a night out. It is one of my favourite places to be. When you give up with glasses and swig from the bottle, and do each other’s eyeliner and cackle. When you hold back your mate’s hair as they’re sick in a bin. My two best friends from school and me would take it in turns to be the most drunk on a night out so no one was always the one doing the looking after. That’s not being a ‘mess’ that’s being considerate. Rae Earl put it best on Twitter when she said this:

Vine’s article also says this: “These girls have grown up in a post-feminist society that tells them anything a man can do, they can do better. And that includes getting monumentally, catastrophically bladdered.”

You know what?

Yeah. It does. Today’s young women can do whatever they bloody like. Have a drink mate. Mine’s a pint.

Words by Sian Brett (@sian_brett)
Tweet by Rae Earl (@RaeEarl)

Caring About Self-Care

I’ve been learning a lot recently. I’ve been at a school, for the mind.

I’ve had a bit of a revelation about life, the universe, and everything.

Ok, are you ready? Listening? Ears tuned to Sian frequency? Eyes ready to be widened in shock?

Here we go:

It’s important to look after yourself.

I KNOW. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure.

It turns out, that it’s quite important for your mental and physical wellbeing to care about yourself, and your body and your mind. It’s makes a difference if you shower, and change your bed sheets, and give yourself evenings in to watch Netflix. Eating proper meals makes you feel better!

And not just in the obvious ways. It turns out that doing nice things for yourself means that you start to believe that you’re worth those nice things (or not even nice things just normal looking after yourself things) and then you feel better and give yourself more of those nice things and then you feel better and then-

Wait… you guys don’t look as surprised as I was hoping. Oh you… you already knew? Who told you? You just knew? How did you just know? Oh. Okay yeah, fair enough. Common sense. Yeah.

For me, this is pretty big news.

Here are some things I have done since I learnt about self care:

  • Got a job
  • Bought myself fresh flowers
  • Did my washing more regularly
  • Bought nice shampoo
  • Wore clothes that made me happy

I thought that self-care was just showering and sleeping. But, it turns out, it’s so much more than that. It turns out that if you make yourself feel nice, then you’ll feel nice. And that if you look after yourself properly and dedicate time to thinking about the way you feel, you’ll actually feel better.

I’m in about week 6 of therapy. I’m trying so fucking hard to undo negative thoughts, and feelings, and relearn what happy is. No, not even what happy is, just what okay is. And that alone, that act of making myself go and talk to a lovely doctor every week about why I feel the way I do, is a kind of self-care. Because I’m learning to value myself, and what I need. And that’s so important

I can’t believe I didn’t know it was important! Why did no one tell me it was so important! Why aren’t we taught it in schools – why don’t we have sex education, and drug education, and then mental health education about how the world is big and scary but you are valid, and real, and how we are all just blobs of being and we are what we make ourselves and we should look after ourselves because it’s so self-validating?

I wish I had been taught that I am worth looking after. I wish everyone got taught that, because you are, you so so are.

 

Words by Sian Brett.

 

Angry

I’m writing this piece because I’m angry. I’m so angry and tired and sad, and I don’t know what to do about it.

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I’m angry that my university decided to raise their fees, because a rule changed, so they could. Because they love to paint themselves as a liberal arts university, and boast the artists who come from the environment they create, but don’t love those artists enough to allow their next generation to flourish. Because the government want to perpetuate an elitist university output.

I’m angry that women in Poland had to protest so hard to maintain control over their own fucking bodies. That women in places like Ireland have to travel to other countries on their own, for a procedure. That in this day and this age, we still have to shout, not even ask, for control. Other people have more right and dominion over what they do not own, than we do.

I’m angry that women are still being determined by their appearance. That the Girlguiding association ran a survey and found that a third of girls between 7 and 10 had been made to think by people that their appearance was the most important thing about them. Because they’re made to feel that whatever goes on in their head just doesn’t matter.

I’m angry that clothes for young children are so gendered that we present women as princesses or socialites, and dress them solely in pink, whilst boys clothes are covered in slogans that encourage them to be troublemakers and messy.

I’m angry that Kim Kardashian was attacked, and because she’s a woman who makes money from her appearance, people reacted with scorn, and cynicism. Whatever you might think about Kim Kardashian as a pop culture figure, she is a human being, and to blame her is abhorrent.

I’m angry that Brock Turner was in jail for half of his six-month sentence, and that the media portrayed him as the victim, whose swimming career was ruined.

I’m angry that Theresa May wants to chuck out foreign doctors, but only once we’ve found English replacements. I’m angry that these people who have made homes and careers, and worked hard as doctors and nurses and in the NHS, to look after everyone without discrimination, are being made to feel unwanted by the Tory government.

I’m angry that Donald Trump can do whatever he likes and people will still vote for him. And I’m angry that because Hilary Clinton is a woman, he can continue to do whatever he likes, and will still seem like a better choice to people who have a problem with that.

I’m angry that police in America can shoot and kill black people, and get away with it.

I’m angry that I still get men mansplaining. I’m angry that when they ask a question, they ask the other men, not me.

I’m angry that I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how we can keep fighting, and shouting, and making a mess, before it stops making a difference. How long can you keep protesting before it’s not a protest anymore? It’s important to talk about these things, but I’ve had enough of blog posts, they don’t make a difference. I want to shout and scream and rage, and make people understand that it’s not okay. But I don’t know how.

I don’t know what we can do. And that makes me the angriest of all.

 

 

Words by Sian Brett.
Images courtesy of Eva Crossan Jory, The Independent, The Daily Beast and The Guardian.