*Born 1967 in Woodley, Reading.
*Schooled at South Lake Infant School.
*Moved 1975 to Farnham Common.
*Schooled at Farnham Common Infant School, then Farnham Common Middle School, then St Mary's School, Gerrards Cross
Wrote a Christmas carol for a Capital Radio competition, We were runners up and the whole choir went to Capital Radio studios and recorded the song.
*1986 - Took Art Foundation Diploma at High Wycombe College of HE.
*1987 - Moved to Brighton and became a portrait photographer for Parasol Portrait Photographers.
*1988-1989 - Travelled widely: USA, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Russia.
*1990-1991 - Receptionist for International Casino Club, Brighton. Worked part time for Coldene Playgroup and voluntary work at an MLD special school.
*1992-1996 - B'Ed teacher training at Nene College Northampton. Specialised in English and Drama. Graduated with a 2-1 from Leicester University.
*1996-1997 - Supply teacher then class teacher - Cuckmere House, School (EBD) for boys aged 8-16, Seaford. Developed their darkroom and provided inset on its use.
*1997-2001 - Somerhill Junior School, Brighton - class teacher under Wenda Bradley's headship alongside a stunning team - set up Poetry Posse and Poetry Day celebrations with the whole school writing poetry as a homework. Each year group would then take part in an annual ceremony where selected poems would be hung on the Poet Tree in St Annes Wells Gardens - Poetry Posse performed in Churchill Square, Waterstones and Jubilee Library - Worked with local performance poets to bring them into Somerhill, encouraging and facilitating their development, enabling them to work in more schools - with a parent governor I set up the amazing Stars At Somerhill talent show - Outside school I performed across Brighton and Hove as a singer and songwriter - created performance art in collaboration with poets and a range of inspirational artists and musicians.
*2001 - 2009 - Founded "gyroscope" arts in education business - sourcing artists for creative projects in school and managing various arts projects across Brighton and Hove and further afield in East and West Sussex and Kent. Managed a diverse number of arts projects from performance poetry to withy and kinetic sculptures, ceramics to textiles, painting and printing in over 20 schools across the South East of England - ran Aboriginal arts workshops at Pulborough Brooks and Woods Mill for West Sussex County Council's Gifted and Talented programme. I also assisted Michael Parker with his poetry workshops at the same locations.
*2003 - Artist in residence for Dreamtraces Aboriginal Art exhibition, University of Sussex, Brighton. Was totally inspired!
*2004 + 2005 - Travelled to Yirrkala, Arnhemland, Northern Territory, Australia and to India to research art and culture.
*2005 - Joined ENIAR and supported them on Sorry Day, London. Worked with Francis Firebrace Aboriginal storyteller for West Sussex G&T programme.
*2005 - Returned to Yirrkala to work at local Aboriginal school and volunteer at Garma Indigenous Festival. Taught student teachers how to create festival structures from local materials including bamboo and paperbark.
*2005 - 2013 - Part time PPA teacher Somerhill Junior School. Continued to run "gyroscope," now developing more enriched programme of workshops supported by first hand knowledge of aboriginal culture and occasionally working with Francis Firebrace, Aboriginal storyteller, member of Eniar.
*2005 - 2013 - Part time PPA teacher/Music Co-ordinator Hertford Junior School, Brighton.
*2008 - 2014 - Annual Poetry Posse performances in Brighton and Hove Science Festival. Posse write and perform poetry on a scientific theme.
*2009 - Became a mum to my daughter, Elsie - was on maternity leave for 10 months - followed by 4 years working part time in Hertford Junior School and Somerhill Junior School and occasionally working freelance as an artist, judging the local round in the BBC 2013 Poetry By Heart competition, running Messing With Metaphors workshop at The Dome in 2013 as well as occasional workshops. Continuing to run Poetry Posse in Hertford and Somerhill Junior schools.
*2014 - Stopped working at Somerhill to focus on being a better mum as my daughter started school and to relaunch my freelance practise. Developed gyroscope into "gyroarts" - I am now looking for new opportunities to inspire and enthuse people, young and old, through excellent quality teaching and the power of the arts.
*2015 - Developed Rap'n'Rhyme poetry groups in Carden Primary School and deepened my relationship with the Jubilee Library, planning and delivering workshops and events. Developed links with Brighton Chamber of Commerce in order to network with other creative enterprises and broaden my understanding of working in the creative industries in Brighton.
I have always been creative. As a young child I was always writing, drawing, making things or singing. As I grew up I continued to express myself creatively. I lost my brother in a motorcycle accident when I was 7 years old. He was just 16. My sister was born one month later and we moved within the year. My life totally changed. Since then I have always known that everything can change in an instant and we have to appreciate everything life sends our way. I began to learn piano aged 10 years and reached grade 7 by the age of 15, taking part in Arts Festivals with some success, often earning medals for my skills. I wrote mini musicals with my friends and at 16, I wrote a Christmas carol for my school choir. We entered the Capital Radio Christmas Carol competition and were one of the runners up. Our choir was invited to visit Capital Radio studios and record my song. I have written journals since I was 14, documenting my life and thoughts. I also designed, made and sold handmade boxes and cards in a local craft shop. After school I took an arts foundation course at college, where I learned the art of photography. I loved to take and develop my own black and white photographs in the college wet lab. It was only during my final show that the tutors commented that perhaps I should have tried to get onto a photography course instead of going for graphics! By then it was too late, the applications had all gone off.
GROWING AND LEARNING
At 19 years old, I was unsure of my next step. I didn't get into university to study graphic art, as I had hoped, so I moved to Brighton with a friend and took a job as a portrait photographer. I thought it would be artistically creative. It wasn't. However it was socially creative and it was there that I discovered I had a natural way with children. I could get the smiles and reactions that made for great portraits. I didn't know how important this would be until a few years later. I was already starting to discover that I had skills that were never really appreciated when I was in school, skills that are not assessed in our academic system. However I still thought I would like to study graphics so I continued to build by portfolio over the next year, sneaking into Brighton University darkroom to process my negatives and prints. I didn't get in. When I went for feedback, the tutor said that I wasn't as good as I thought I was. I learned a valuable lesson from him in being careful not to crush young peoples' aspirations and self confidence. I had always been told I was good at art. I didn't know where to turn after this thoughtless comment.
After failing to get into university that year I decided to take a year out and go travelling. I felt that I must have missed something in my pursuit of a career in art, something about myself that would point me in a more suitable direction for my skills and personality. I travelled around the world for 12 months experiencing different cultures and ways of living. I travelled across the USA, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. I learned a lot about resilience and independence during that year. I also learned a lot about other cultures and ways of being. Most of all though, I learned about myself. Everywhere I went people kept commenting on the way children would approach me and strike up conversations, even usually shy children. I also met a slightly eccentric and neurotic teacher in New Zealand. I remember thinking...if she can be a teacher, so can I! It struck me that my musical and artistic skills could be very useful in a classroom, as well as my love of learning.
The following year was spent working as a receptionist in a casino whilst I researched different courses. I then took on part time work in a community playgroup and some voluntary work in a special school before deciding to apply for a BEd in Northampton. I wanted to make sure that teaching was for me. It was. I then spent 4 years training to teach, specialising in drama, whilst at the same time doing voluntary work reading for blind students, helping to manage a summer school for children with special needs and learning how to play the guitar. I graduated with a 2-1 degree. I had two relationships that both proved to be abusive and I learned a lot about emotional strength. I discovered that I am a survivor. I missed Brighton enormously and returned back there as soon as I could after my course finished in 1996.
My first teaching job was in Cuckmere House School, an EBD boys school in Seaford. I started by taking some supply there and then worked for 2 terms in their junior department. It was tough, with some very challenging situations to manage, but I grew enormously as a teacher during this time. I set up a school darkroom where the students could go and develop their own photographs and provided inset to the rest of the staff on the skills needed to run the darkroom. I used a range of creative ideas such as puppetry and photography to encourage an interest in literacy, maths, science and DT. The staff at Cuckmere House were amazing. I was totally inspired by their dedication to the boys in their care, no matter what challenging behaviour they exhibited.
I then got my first permanent job as a class teacher in Somerhill Junior School in 1997. At the time Somerhill Junior School was a beacon of creativity and was staffed by the most amazingly vibrant and enthusiastic group of individuals I had every met. The head teacher, Wenda Bradley, was an inspirational leader. She had a strong vision of what children needed from their education and an even stronger picture of how her school would meet those needs. She gathered around her a strong, feisty and outspoken staff of professionals who were all devoted to the idea of teaching in a creative and inspiring way. We all believed that this approach could engage students in deep learning that would last well beyond their time with us. We were rigorous and had high expectations of everyone at Somerhill, but at the same time we understood the importance of nurturing each other, and our pupils, as individuals. It was hard work but it was also exciting and lots of fun.
Wenda Bradley really believed in the varied talents of her staff. It was during this time that I set up Stars at Somerhill with one of the parent governors. This was a talent show that sought to give children the opportunity to develop performance skills that weren't being developed within the prescribed curriculum. They brought their own passions and skills to me and I helped them to compere, use microphones, use the stage and perform as singers, dancers, comedians and musicians. It was during the Wenda years that I also set up Poetry Day Celebrations. Every year in the first week of October I would organise visits from local performance poets for National Poetry Day. Every child in the school would write poetry as part of a whole school homework and a selection of these would be laminated and hung on our adopted "Poet-Tree", the willow tree in the sensory garden of St Annes Wells Gardens. I ran a Poetry Posse club that wrote and rehearsed poems to perform in Waterstones on National Poetry Day and later on at The Jubilee Library and, more recently, at The Brighton Science Festival. These are traditions that still take place each year and are highlights for many of the children taking part as well as the local community who takes this opportunity to read the poetry of today's youth, who often get a bad press.
In 2000 Somerhill Junior School was recognised as a Beacon school of excellence due to our creative approach to the curriculum. As part of our status as a Beacon School in 2000 I organised a performance poetry project which involved co-ordinating a group of poets to perform in several schools linked with Somerhill. This was a great success and really raised the profile of performance poetry as a way of engaging all kinds of different students with literacy and poetry in particular. It was through my work with the poets that I realised there was a need for better provision of artists and performers in school. At the same time, I was involved with many local artists and performers who were struggling to earn a living from their talents.
At the same time The Literacy Hour had been brought in by the government and The Numeracy Hour was following on closely behind. I found myself at odds with this more prescriptive approach, even though Wenda had managed to negotiate with the LEA so that our school, which had excellent pupil attainment, only had to do 3 days of Literacy hour provision with the other 2 days delivered as we felt was best for our children. However, it was still too prescriptive for my liking and I decided to leave full time teaching and focus on bringing my own brand of exciting arts workshops into schools from outside the system. I had experienced several artists and musicians whose work in schools could have been improved had they understood the school system better and known at what level to pitch their workshops. I could see that there was a need for someone who understands schools and artists to facilitate between the two to ensure successful outcomes during residencies.
GYROSCOPE - PROGRESSION THROUGH THE ARTS AND PERFORMANCE
I founded "gyroscope" to both help local artists to make a living by providing excellent arts provision in schools and to give schools access to a wide variety of very high quality arts provision. I never promoted anyone who I had not worked with personally and I used my own high teaching standards to help train artists in the delivery of their workshops. I spent the next 10 years designing and running high quality projects in East and West Sussex, Brighton and Hove and Kent. The projects included dance, movie-making, painting, poetry, ceramics, environmental sculpture, printing, and music production.
TRAVELLING AGAIN - ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY LINKS
In 2003 I was asked to be artist in residence for a visiting exhibition of Australian Aboriginal Art, Dream Traces, at Brighton University. It was an inspirational exhibition which impressed me so much that I continued to run workshops for the following years based on what I had learned there. Then in 2003 my father died and 6 months later I learned that my partner had been cheating on me. I went into a depression. I was in shock. I was emotionally numb and decided that I had to leave the country and heal myself. The only place iIwanted to go was Yirrkala, in the Northern Territory, where the exhibition had come from. What I didn't realise at the outset of my journey was that Yirrkala was actually quite a remote Aboriginal community. I also didn't realise that it was going to change my whole outlook on life!
I was totally unprepared for the challenges I would encounter in going to a remote Yolngu community such as the one in Yirrkala. I had been drawn there by their artwork, an outward and honest expression of their culture. I didn't understand it, but I had felt its resonance. I knew that I wouldn't understand it any better unless I walked on their land and tried to meet some of the artists. When I first arrived in Yirrkala, no Aboriginal person spoke to me. They are by nature very private and had no reason to be interested in me. I had to be patient and wait until they decided to want to get to know me. Whilst I was waiting to meet people I kept a journal, I wrote poems, draw pictures, studied at the art centre and learned as much as I could about their culture. I discovered that it was from the communities in this part of Australia that the Bark Petitions had been sent to the government in Canberra. They were the first Aboriginals to make a concerted stand for their land rights. They had used their artwork to demonstrate their ancient ancestral connections with the land and water. I got the feeling that these were certainly not a downtrodden people, but a strong and vibrant community who were trying their hardest to be self-determining. However I did feel like a fish out of water. The Aboriginal people in these parts speak a range of Aboriginal languages. They will often speak several of their own languages and dialects before they learn English. I really felt that I was in another country...which I was! I was lucky enough to get to know the local bus driver, Dave, who filled me in on the nuances of Yolngu custom. It was his advice that ensured i didn't offend too may Yolngu. I also volunteered at the local Aboriginal school, where all of the teachers are English-speakers, and was lucky enough to meet people who made introductions for me so that I could meet some of the women elders and start to become accepted as a visitor. That's when everything started to fall into place, in the most unexpected ways. It felt like fate. I had several amazing days getting to know my new friends and ended up being invited to stay with one of the women in her house on my last night. By the end of the week I had been accepted as a friend of the community and was invited back to work as a volunteer at their indigenous Garma festival the following year in 2005. I was very sad to leave and vowed to return the following year.
After leaving Yirrkala, I travelled through Australia a little more and then spent 2 months travelling through India. India was also a very inspiring and challenging place to journey through, although for completely different reasons. Again, I kept a journal and made many sketches and poems about my experiences. I arrived back in the UK in 2005 and immediately started painting some of the artwork that had come to mind during my travels. It was the first time in my life that I had felt a burning desire to paint. I set up gigs and sold paintings to earn the money to take myself back to Yirrkala for the indigenous festival in August 2005.
During this time I connected with other people in the UK who are interested in Aboriginal culture and the protection of their human rights. This is a group called ENIAR (European Network for Indigenous Australian Rights). I got involved with their awareness-raising activities, particularly Sorry Day in London, and met some wonderful people through this network. One such individual is Francis Firebrace, who is an Aboriginal elder of the Yorta Yorta people; a storyteller and amazing advocate for his culture. Francis then worked with me on several occasions running workshops alongside me and sharing his own stories and culture. He is totally unique and the kind of inspirational human being that everyone should meet at least once in their lives - much like Djapirri, my Yolngu sister in Yirrkala!
I did go back and spent a few days working at the school, then at the festival and spent time with my friend Djapirri, who looked after me like I was her sister. We wrote a Garma song together and sang it round a campfire with the other women elders for some of the other important elders in Arnhemland. The women cried the song in and out with a Milkari, which is a heartfelt chant that is used in special ceremonies. It was astonishing. Djapirri then adopted me into her family as her sister. The women gave me a Yolngu name and I felt very blessed indeed. By naming me, they gave me a place in their kinship system. I fell in love with the depth and beauty of the Yolngu culture and the strength of spirit they were having to develop in order to combat the appalling treatment their people have received from successive Australian governments. Some of the areas in and around Yirrkala looked third world. There are terrible problems with drugs, alcohol and violence. But there are still people like Djapirri fighting to improve the situation for the Yolngu people. She has been instrumental in bridging the cultural gaps between white and black Australia. Like many of the Yolngu, she enjoys the best of both cultures and tries to help each side understand the other. She certainly helped me. I am humbled by their struggles and by their resilience in trying to keep their culture alive when they are challenged at every turn to assimilate into "normal" Australian society.
I was profoundly touched by my experiences in Arnhemland and made a vow to myself that I would promote the understanding of Aboriginal culture in any way I am able. I was shocked at the lack of understanding regarding Aboriginal people and culture in Australia and the lack of will of many Australians to find out about the amazing, ancient cultures within their own country. The people who have participated in my workshops will hopefully be more culturally aware, should any of them visit Australia in the future.
WORKSHOPS, BABIES and SCHOOL
After all my adventures in Arnhemland, I continued to run Aborginal art and culture workshops but I now provided a far deeper experience for the students. I could speak from first hand experience and had also gathered a range of fascinating artefacts. I ran many workshops in schools but also worked in West Sussex nature reserves. I ran sessions for West Sussex County Council's Gifted and Talented programme in venues such as Woods Mill and Pulborough Brooks. Mapping our journeys around the nature reserve in an Aboriginal style worked very well and the sessions were a great success. I took my workshops to festivals where I was able to teach adults as well as children all about Aboriginal art and culture. I ran my workshops whilst at the same time working part time in two local schools. I did general PPA cover in Somerhill Junior School, which often meant me planning and taking art, music and RE lessons (and also maths) and in Hertford Junior School, where I am still the music co-ordinator and take all of the music lessons throughout the school.
In 2009 I took maternity leave and had my beautiful daughter, Elsie. Since then I have worked mainly in my two contracted schools, so that we had more of a routine and could plan childcare more easily. Over the last 4 years I helped Somerhill Junior School achieve Gold Artsmark status and have always had a hand in the development and maintenance of the creative curriculum there. However, with Elsie now going to school I decided to step away from Somerhill and start to run my wonderful workshops again.
2014 has been a big year of change so far. I have been busy setting up new workshops and preparing the ground for new creative adventures. There are a couple of books that need to be written. There is a puppet play that needs to be written and puppets and props made. But the first thing on the list was this website....
2015 has been a year of preparation. Having wanted to make everything happen immediately, I have had to step back and decide that the way has to be paved first before swift progress can be made. I have therefore been devoting some time to applying for funding from The Arts Council for the poetry projects i would like to run in several schools. I have also been developing a new range of products called KitkatKay, featuring kits that can be taken away and made or made alongside me in workshops. I am hoping that these will make it easier to access the festival circuit next year as well as offer a more versatile range of workshops that can take place in different venues. Of course it is always necessary to balance these ambitions alongside being the best mum and partner that i can be, so it will all take slightly longer than I would like...but watch this space...