What I Should Have Said In My Interview


AKA Why I’m a Writer…

This week I had an interview for the Old Vic 12. I was over-the-moon-excited to have made the longlist and gladly spent Wednesday morning on a train to London to have a chat with them about my work. It was a lovely, positive experience. Everyone I met, from the person registering us at the door to the other playwrights to the panel members were smiley and welcoming. We were invited to wait in a green room where we could help ourselves to tea and coffee. I chatted to a lovely writer named Annie, no sense of competition, just a shared excitement of the potential of the day as we talked about our readiness to have our work on stage. When I got called, my panel member was also called Becci (sp?) and super approachable. We talked for about 25 minutes about my proposal, my background and the scheme itself. All in all, everything possible was done to make us feel at ease. The problem? Me.

Some of you may know I’m a freelance Creative Producer. Ask me to explain how to write a Grants for the Arts? I’m in my element. I could wax lyrical about what artists and theatre companies need to know about producing their own work, how to build in meaningful, mutually beneficial public engagement and the importance of considering your audience. But ask me to talk about myself and especially my own work and my writing. It’s a verbal writer’s block. I’m a mess of self-consciousness, insecurities and doubt. And the crux of it? That’s why I’m a writer. It might sound selfish, in fact, it probably is. But writing, for me, is a way of being heard, of having a voice. It’s the chance to be the articulate, eloquent, funny version of myself I could be if I could spend the same amount of time editing and tweaking what comes out of my mouth as I am able to when writing my thoughts, characters or dialogue onto a page. I’m not saying that my writing is the epitome of any of these things but there’s certainly a lot more potential than when you put me on the spot and ask me a question.

I’m not suggesting that every writer is an introvert but I’d say in a Venn diagram of the two, there’s a high crossover. The ability to understand how people think, feel and act as a consequence. To get under the skin of an issue, situation or group of people. A lot of this comes from being able to listen and observe. Which is very different to being the extrovert, outspoken, life and soul of the party. Or being the engaging interviewee that you can’t help but remember. There’s not much room for observation in an interview situation if you’re the one being asked the questions.

In short, the qualities that could and might make me a brilliant writer make me a mumbling mess in the interview room.

At the end of my chat, I asked if there was anything else she wanted to know or anything I hadn’t told them. I don’t really know why except that it’s the reverse of a question I like to ask when interviewing which goes something along the lines of, ‘Is there anything you wanted to tell us that we haven’t asked you?’ She said no, and was there anything else I wanted to say. I also said no.

What I should have said was this:

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to be here. For seeing something in my writing that was good enough to invite me down here for a chat. I have wanted to feel able to call myself a writer for so long that even just being on the longlist has given me more confidence than you can imagine. I’m sorry that I haven’t articulated my proposal very well. The project I have proposed is something I believe in and I would absolutely love the opportunity to work on it with the support of the Old Vic. I would work hard to make it the best it could be and enjoy every moment of it, exploiting every opportunity for advice or feedback or the chance to better myself and deliver something you could be proud of. I am a writer because it is the best way I know how to express myself and the world around me, to articulate all the things that make us laugh or cry, feel pain or get angry. In short, the things that make us human. I want to be able to reflect an audience back to themselves, to make them notice something they hadn’t before or think about something in a different way. It’s what being a writer is about. That’s why I write and what I want to do. So please, judge me on that and not on the things I haven’t said because I don’t know how.”

The Proposal

For anyone who is interested below is the piece I was trying (badly) to pitch is below. The best thing to come out of this experience is the realisation that given said inability to articulate this in person; for residencies and programmers, I’m going to find a way to make it happen for myself. To create a beautiful, warm theatre piece that does the talking. If anyone would like to write a letter for the project, let’s talk. Just not in person.

Letters to Myself

Letters to Myself will explore what we, as women, would say to our past or future selves, what we would say to the women we love or just what we wish every woman knew. It will examine the very particular friendships formed between women and through this, ask how we become better at being our own best friend, valuing ourselves with the same support, guidance and strength we offer to the other women in our lives. The piece will be a gentle revolution, a loving protest against our critical inner voice and a celebration of brilliant women. Letters to Myself will be written in a naturalistic style, including some verbatim text from the research and development. With two performers playing multiple characters, Letters to Myself will weave multiple stories together through shared experiences and common themes.


My personal, political manifesto


Disclaimer:  I know I’m only one voice and that there will be thousands of blogs and on-line responses to today’s election result.  I am no more informed than anyone else, my voice no more or less important.  There’s a million things I should be doing right now but I couldn’t concentrate on any of them until I got this out of the way.

If you asked me 10 years ago I would say I wasn’t political.  I don’t think I ever voted as a student.  I have no loyalties to a particular party, only to values that I believe in.  Even this is in some ways a new thing.  I’ve always been a compromiser, a ‘try to see it from both sides’ sort.  It’s only recently that I’ve been able to distinguish this from having an opinion of my own on what I believe to be right, without taking away others’ rights to disagree.

At the last election, I took my vote seriously.  I watched all of the TV debates and made decisions based on my understanding of the policies.  I voted Lib Dem.  They let me down.  This time, I didn’t watch any of the TV debates live but I followed responses to them on twitter.  To make my decision I picked the issues that mattered most to me and researched the party manifestos for those areas.  I thought tactically.  I’m in a pretty safe Labour constituency and like many of my friends was choosing between Labour and Green.  I voted Green because I hoped it might show that there was a desire for a change from the status quo.  My constituency voted Labour.  The majority of the North East voted Labour.  But I woke up to near certainty of a Tory government.  I was sad, angry, frustrated and helpless.  My anger fuelled a desire to fight.  I contemplated which political party to join.


After a while it dawned on me that given the Labour majority of the North East, if I fight here, who am I fighting against?  I am preaching to the converted.

What can I do?  I want to be active, to have an impact and to make a difference, however small.  So I made a manifesto, a personal political manifesto.  A list of things I can do, to feel like change is possible and my voice is being heard.  Feel free to agree or disagree (see point 1 below).  Please, correct me if I am wrong.  I want us to talk about this, to open up to each other, to be a society who listens and then takes action.  I hope our country can be brilliant, kind and compassionate.  Because for today, it feels like hope is all I have.

My Personal Political Manifesto:

·  I will be better informed.  I will read the papers, watch the news (even though it makes me sad) and engage in meaningful debate.  I will recognise that it is okay to admit that there’s a lot I don’t know or don’t understand in an effort to allow myself the opportunity to learn.  I will actively listen and seek to understand all the arguments, even those I assume I won’t agree with.  Alongside the need to get non-voters to vote (perhaps by providing a system they can believe in) we need to engage everyone in political discussion.  The opinion polls and social media got it wrong.  So who were those who did not speak up but made themselves heard on the ballot paper?  Perhaps, they were well informed and made the decision that was right for them.  But I don’t think we should leave that to chance.

·  I will be fuelled by anger and frustration but I will not take this approach with others.  I do not want anger to win.  I want hope, love and compassion to win (and I don’t care if that sounds cheesy)

·  I will prioritise the areas I care about the most – the NHS, working towards  a better education system, providing comprehensive mental health support  and sustaining the arts.  Alongside this and in order to serve these I want a better, fairer political system.

·  I will campaign for these in whichever way I can.  I will write letters (I have drafted a letter to David Cameron in my head which starts something like ‘I am a 31 year old woman in the North East and you and your government do not represent me’.  I should probably start with a note of congratulations to be polite and respectful but I haven’t got much further than that), I will try to overcome my anxiety at being in crowded places to protest, I will use theatre and the arts to inform, engage and inspire.

·  I will look for ways to help my community (in the broadest sense).  I will create and look for everyday acts of kindness, search for solidarity and prove to myself, to the government and to the country that people matter, that we care about one another and that we are capable of wonderful and brilliant things.

Mentoring: In theatre and food


Mentor (noun): An experienced and trusted adviser

To mentor (verb): Advise or train (someone, especially a younger colleague)

I’ve been thinking a lot about mentors recently and the vital role they play in the success of newcomers to any industry. To have someone who is ahead of you in their career, who can spot your potential (and your weaknesses) and help to navigate you through your first, formative years on your chosen career path can be the difference between success and failure. It’s a role that can be formal or informal, short or long term and often results in a chain of learning and support with many being simultaneously mentored and a mentee.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a position to feel confident calling myself a mentor, though as a theatre producer I regularly offer support and advice to those at the early stages of their career. However, I have been a mentee on a few occasions and am currently fortunate enough to be part of a development scheme for playwrights (funded by Arts Council England and supported by ARC Stockton and Fin Kennedy of Tamasha). The scheme has seen eight new playwrights paired with an established, professional playwright; someone already working successfully in the industry. Having just completed the interim report for the project, it’s clear that the thing that the writers have valued the most is having that person to talk to, to call for advice and whose career path they can aspire to emulate. As this is the first time a lot of us have written a full length play, having the support of someone who has ‘been there, done that’ along the way is invaluable. All of the mentors on the scheme (Fin Kennedy, Ali Taylor, Kenneth Emson, Vivienne Franzmann, Stella Feehily, Alexandra Wood and Anders Lustgarten) have also made crucial introductions for their writers; to venues, programmers, directors and other writers, offering up new opportunities that would simply not otherwise be possible.

It is this trait which, in my experience, makes the role of a mentor so important, not only offering their own experience and advice but in fact use it as a way of making new introductions and further possibilities for development.

So then to another creative industry and a chef who is taking exactly that approach. Dan Doherty, Executive Chef of Duck & Waffle in London, is the founder of new scheme Chefs of Tomorrow which seeks to provide just those sort of career advancing opportunities to young chefs. Through a series of dinners, some of the rising young talent in the culinary world will be given a chance to showcase their skills. They’ll get the opportunity to work with Dan and the restaurants hosting the events – giving them experience of not just the planning, preparation and cooking of the meals but also looking at ordering, front of house and service and everything in between. It allows them to take risks in a safe, supported environment and to generate real excitement about their work at an early stage. Crucially it will also start to build them a valuable network of contacts and relationships.

What’s exciting for a foodie like me is that this also gives customers a chance to experience chefs destined for great things at the beginning of their careers. As with scratch nights and rehearsed readings in the arts, this is a great motivator – not just to witness these bright executive and head chefs in the making but also to be a part of the support network for them getting there. Artists are nothing without an audience and chefs are nothing without diners.

Suffice to say I’m gutted not to be in London for the first one (Mon 16 Feb, SOLD OUT) but I’ll definitely be planning my next trip to London around one of these exciting dining events and I hope you’ll do the same. Who knows maybe they’ll even take it national…

Writers ARCADE (#WritersARCADE)

Details of all eight rehearsed readings can be found at http://www.arconline.co.uk (May-June 2015).
Follow the writers on twitter: @inkproducer (that’s me), @sugaredeggs, @meledgerwood, @nicolacameron7, @allidavies1, @scottscruff and @thedanperry

Chefs of Tomorrow (#CoT)

Find out more and book tickets to the events at http://www.ChefsOfTomorrow.co.uk

Follow Dan on twitter @DanDoherty
See also @chefs_of_tomorrow on Instagram

Eats from the Streets – Teesside Shopping Park


Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 October
Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 November
Saturday 13 & Sunday 14 December

Think retail parks, think weekends, think soulless overcrowded and best avoided.

Richard Johnson is seeking to change that and after turning up to Teesside Shopping Park to see a big red double decker bus, quirky seating on a family friendly green space and a range of street food vendors, I think he just might.

Dining on a Double Decker - the wet weather option

Dining on a Double Decker – the wet weather option

Eats from the Street seeks to provide an alternative to high street food chains by bringing exciting, independent food retailers to car parks across the UK. In this three month pilot, Teesside is amongst the lucky few (along with Edinburgh, Glasgow and Chester), to trial the concept and there was no way I was missing out.






Banoffee Crepe

Banoffee Crepe

First up was the very inviting Crêpe Lucette. With fabulous vintage inspired outfits, a really warm welcome and an extensive mouth-watering menu of both sweet and savoury options that I would happily of worked my way through, it was a great start. We opted for a banoffee crepe, which included a caramel biscuit spread, bananas and toffee, creating a sticky sweet treat. Having trained in Brittany, this was as authentic as any I’ve eaten in France and well worth the £4.50.


Fish &

Fish &





Next up was a ‘sampler’ from Fish &, which consisted of three fish pieces each in a different batter (£3.50). There were batters with chilli, pepper and lemon amongst others and it was the best Fish’n’Chips I’ve had in a very long time. It’s easy to see why they were crowned Winner of the Best Main Dish at the British Street Food Awards 2014 and I’d definitely be first in the queue if I spot them at one of their many appearances at UK Festivals and events.

Finally, I was drawn by the sizzling sounds and hunger inducing smells coming from the Beer BQ bus. I tried the 18 hour pulled pork cooked in ‘Brooklyn EIPA’ in a brioche bun. As the name of the bus suggests all of the dishes on offer feature a expertly matched beer element and it seems like it’s a recipe for success. There was a generous serving of pork and it was succulent and rich, with a BBQ sauce type flavouring but with much more subtlety of flavour than in your average pub lunch.

Beer BQ Bus

Beer BQ Bus

Even though I was desperate to try the other stalls on offer (including Newcastle based Pizzette whose 1975 van includes its own wood fired pizza oven) I was full of food and filled with that sense of contentment you only get with eating beautiful, fresh food outside. The other thing that street food illustrates is the benefit of doing less but doing it well. All of the stalls on offer had a key ingredient or speciality and in focusing in on this are able to produce to a high standard, using good quality ingredients.

Talking to Richard, it’s easy to see the passion behind this venture that is the key to success. It seems like a win-win situation. For the park’s regular retailers a sense of excitement, greater footfall and an added incentive for potential customers to linger longer, creating a general buzz and sense of excitement. For shoppers, there’s a festival feel, the chance to support smaller independent retailers and an added value to the overall shopping experience. The whole event was also really family friendly, with the double decker bus providing an ‘indoor’ seating and eating option if preferred, and conveniently providing kids’ books and magazines.

So, if you’re around Teesside tomorrow, or even if you’re not, get along and sample some of the best of British Street Food, get along to Teesside Shopping Park. I might even be back to pick up where I left off…

The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook – Review


I work in an office full of foodies. In particular, we love cake and there is nearly always a sweet treat of some variety in our communal kitchen. The only surprise then, when someone suggested we should do an office Cake Club was that there hadn’t been one before. There was a long debate about whether it should be scored or not (I was in the ‘not’ camp) and eventually we agreed it shouldn’t be competitive, that we’d draw dates for the following 12 Mondays and that whatever offering you bought in, should be home made. I disagreed with scoring not because I really minded getting scored myself but because if someone was going to give up their Sunday to bake for me (and let’s face it, it would be a whole day event) I wasn’t going to have anything but praise for them. We had everything from refrigerator cake, to salted caramel flapjacks to brownies, muffins and a chocolate Guinness cake.

Book cover

Book cover

For me this was, of course, a chance to buy a new cook book. Despite my near 100 collection, I don’t actually have more than a handful dedicated to baking. I was delighted when I spotted a shiny new copy of The Clandestine Cake Club Coookbook in one of my local charity shops (with a habit like mine I rarely buy cookbooks new!) for a bargain £3 (£20 RRP). The book is a collection of recipes from The Clandestine Cake Club founder and members from around the country (find out what I thought of my first Clandestine Cake Club meeting here). Although the work’s Cake Club wasn’t meant to be competitive you still want to impress and this looked like just the ticket to help me do just that. Those of you who know me will know I don’t do things by half.  So of course I wanted to make the beautiful looking cover cake.

Pistachio & Lime Cake

This was a mission of a cake. Including pictures the recipe was four pages long. So I was at least sensible enough to know this needed a practice run and a whole Sunday in the kitchen. There are several different elements to the cake and its decoration; the cake itself, lime syrup, lime curd, frosting and homemade decorations.


Pistacchio and Lime  Cake

Pistacchio and Lime Cake

Although there are multiple steps and processes the recipe is easy to follow and guides you through step by step. I’ve never made a lime curd (or any other kind before) and was amazed at how easy it was. However, it was a very different colour to the muted tones in the book and came out a much brighter greeny/yellow. My sponge was a bit of a disaster, being very thin and unevenly baked. I suspect most of this, and definitely all of the lopsided-ness of the bake, was down to my ancient oven and made worse by my lack of skill at evenly splitting a mix into three when I only have two cake tins.

Pistacchio and Lime Cake

Pistacchio and Lime Cake

Although I made the syrup, curd and frosting for the cake, I admit I began to lose heart a little when it was clear mine was looking nothing like the beautiful version in the book and so I stopped short of making my own brittle for the top. I also came to the conclusion that this was too much to be attempted for the work cake club (or in fact at all for a very long time!).  You can see the difference between the two versions in the picture and yes, I know, mine looks more like a dodgy burger with a runny egg…

So when the time actually came for my turn at the office Cake Club I decided to try something a bit simpler and opted for an Elderflower Cordial Cake and a Vegan Lemon Cake.

The Elderflower Cordial Cake was a much simpler one and again, the recipe was easy to follow. My oven behaved and I achieved a much more even bake and a good rise in the sponge.

The Elderflower buttercream filling and white ganache topping were simple to make and I added some cut strawberries to the top of mine for some colour. Even with this cake there was some discrepancies with the colour, my ganache was a creamy colour (the colour of white chocolate) rather than a bright white and the sponge was the usual yellow, whilst in the book the sponge looked white. It might simply be that I’m not as good and made a mistake along the way somewhere but it’s difficult to match up to the stunning imagery that inspires the bakes in the first place.

Lemon (left) Elderflower (right)

Lemon (left) Elderflower (right)

Taste-wise, the sponge was wonderful and light, the taste of the elderflower really came through and the white ganache was a perfect match. A slice of this was a slice of summer and I’ll definitely be making it again.

My final bake from the book was the Vegan Lemon Cake to accommodate a colleague who doesn’t eat eggs.  I’ve never made a vegan cake before and really wasn’t sure what to expect. This was the simplest of the three being essentially a twist on a Victoria Sponge. I didn’t have a couple of the ingredients but because I wasn’t making this for a strict vegan I was able to substitute things like soya margarine for standard margarine. The decoration on this was simple some icing sugar and a slice of lemon which, far from looking boring looked really invitingly homemade – like something you’d expect your mum to make as a post-school treat when you were younger. It was also far tastier than I would’ve imagined and I didn’t notice any difference from having no eggs.

The Verdict

Although the Vegan Lemon Sponge was really simple, I’d say on the whole, this is not a baking book for beginners, and I don’t think it claims to be. The Clandestine Cake Club itself is for those who love baking and are probably excited by new recipes and pushing themselves to try new, exciting and creative bakes and this book reflects this. This is its downfall in some respects and the desire for beautiful pictures throughout does sometimes leave you feeling deflated when you’re unable to match them. I’m all for beautiful photographs in cook books (especially as I regularly read them like a book) but they should ultimately be attainable. You might not have the beautiful set table in the background and yours might be on an ikea plate but it should resemble the picture enough that you can feel proud and inspired to keep trying more recipes. Having said that, if you’re a fairly confident baker, this book offers a wide variety of options to expand and explore your creativity in the kitchen. I cook more than I bake so I think this book was a little over ambitious for me though I’d happily give more recipes a go and allow time to practice and perfect them.   I’m sure with time (and with a better oven!) I’d be a much better baker at the end of it. For more experience bakers, who can get their basics right every time, this is definitely more of a book for you. If you bake every weekend, there’s only so many times you can do a Victoria Sponge and this book does offer real motivation to try ‘tried and tested’ recipes with new ingredients, merge two favourite recipes together or go all out on decoration. There are lots of things to try and although not every one will work out right, I’d guarantee you’ll have fun trying and get to eat lots of tasty cake in the process.

Pinata Cake


The premise of a Pinata Cake is pretty simple. Pinterest is filled with more complex versions but essentially it’s a cake filled with sweets so you just need enough layer of a sponge to be able to make a hole in the middles. The ‘recipe’ below details what I tried along with what worked and what didn’t.

The Cake

I decided that if the cake was to be filled with sweets I didn’t want anything too rich for the cake and I also didn’t want too many clashing flavours. I’d already decided I wanted smarties spilling out of the middle; partly because I thought the size and shape would create a nice ‘waterfall’ spill and also for the mix of rainbow colours they would provide. With this in mind I decided to go for a basic Victoria Sponge recipe and add colours to the sponge. In order to get enough layers I (stupidly) tried to do a basic Victoria Sponge x 1.5, thinking it would make enough for three layers. This somehow left me trying to use half an egg so I’d recommend just doubling your quantities to make your life easier. You can then decide to make three fat layers or four standard (and adjust your cooking time accordingly).

Green colouring pattern

Green colouring pattern

Because the theme of the bake was Cake Surprise I wanted to create a marbled colouring when you sliced the cake. So for each layer I spooned most but not all of the cake mix into the time, coloured the remaining mix and then swirled this through the uncoloured mix. The trick is to have a very small amount of the coloured mix. I had too much with my first (red) attempt) and so ended up mixing it completely in the cake tin to make a red layer. It worked much better with my green try (see picture below).

That said, it didn’t look overly impressive when sliced (see final pictures) so next time I’ll probably just have fully coloured layers.

The Construction

Once your three layers are baked and cooled, you need to cut a whole in on layer, which will become the middle, filled layer. I used a saucer as a template to quite a big circle and plenty of sweets. If you’re going with a four layer model, you’ll have more depth and can probably afford to use a large cup to cut around instead. I used a basic whipped cream filling and spread this on the bottom of my doughnut layer (as opposed to putting it directly on the base layer and trying to guess where the cut layer would sit). You then fill the gap with sweets, before spreading filling on the top of the doughnut layer and add your top layer. It really is that simple.


Pinata Cake

Pinata Cake

Pinata Cake

Pinata Cake








The decoration is up to you – I opted for a simple icing sugar top with stars and edible glitter.  Then the fun comes when you slice into the cake…

Pinata Cake Sliced

Pinata Cake Sliced

Pinata Cake Decoration

Pinata Cake Decoration








There all sorts of possibilities with this cake and next times I try I think I’ll be playing with combinations of cake, filling and sweet choice but it’s definitely a really easy but impressive cake with a bit of a wow factor at the slicing stage (especially if it’s unexpected). Have a go and let me know what combinations you try.

Clandestine Cake Club: Newcastle


I first found out about Clandestine Cake Club after I found the cookbook of the same name in a local charity shop. After a bit of research I thought it sounded like a great idea and immediately signed up to both the Newcastle and Gateshead clubs. The idea is simple; it’s a locally run cake club for any one who likes baking and eating cakes – what’s not to like? New events are advertised on the website along with a theme. Sign up is via email and you have the option to say what cake you’ll be taking.  A few days before the event you get an email with the exact location. Crucially (for nervous new members like me) you can also take a guest.

I was really excited when the next Newcastle event was announced with a nice open theme of Cake Suprise. I quickly found a willing guest (Friend: What do I have to do? Me: Turn up, eat cake and help me make friends – it was an easy sell). Then just as quickly, I started fretting about what to bake. Ideas ranged from the wildly over ambitious (towers of different coloured cake, with moving parts, in the shape of a unicorn) to self-doubting simplicity (so, it’s a Victoria Sponge but the jam is…wait for it…Blackberry!)

My Pinata Cake

My Pinata Cake

In the end I turned to my office comrades who suggested rather excitedly that I should make a Pinata Cake (cue the whole office logging onto Pinterest for pinata-cake-porn). After an examination of some of said photos it seemed to be a perfect mix of simple but impressive. For those of you who haven’t already left me to google it, it’s a cake filled with sweets… who could resist?

And so the day of the meet arrived. I left work early (as I work some distance away), raced home, collected my cake and headed to The Forth Hotel. My friend was waiting for me outside and together we heading in – me cradling my tupperware and hoping I wasn’t about to embaress myself. I needn’t have worried. We were greeted with friendly faces and a couple of very tasty looking cakes already laid out. I added mine to the table, labelled it and grabbed myself a name sticker. Iona, who runs the Newcastle group was really lovely, running through how things worked and chatting to us at points throughout the night to ensure we felt welcome.

Cake Club

Cake Club

There were seven cakes in total; all amazing and completely different. What was lovely was the genuine lack of competitiveness or comparison. People swapped recipes, chatted and caught up with each other and tried as many of the cakes as was possible!

The cakes on offer were; Choo choo chai cake, Northumberland pbattenburg, Savoury Pizza cake,Tiger cake, Brownie surprise and Stripey banana caramel nut cake and I’m embaressed to admit I only managed two.  However, the other perk of the night is being able to take home a very generous doggy bag (after we donated some to the lovely members of staff).

All in all it was a wonderfully welcoming, sugar filled, fun night and I’ll definitely be back again.