Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Obligatory New Year Blog Post


It really gets on my nerves that at this time of year everyone moans about their situation followed by onwards and upwards for next year. It also gets on my nerves when I hear people talk about how this year has taught them so much about what really matters, who their real friends are and what they are never going back to. So, naturally I'm about to do both of these things - probably with a bit of cringe. Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Lessons Learned in 2014
The body is a fragile machine, I ought to treat her with more caution and respect. At the beginning of the year a bone bent in my foot. One day I could wiggle my toes and walk, the next I couldn't and was left hobbling on crutches for months. I have a mixed connective tissue disorder with ANA positive nucleolar pattern, secondary Reynaud's and hypermobility, apparently. This just means I am a jumble of a lot of things so no one can predict what my body will do, splendid!
There is pleasure to be had in buying presents for myself. I wish I'd learned this lesson sooner! I work hard for money so it is more than acceptable to reward myself with presents every once in a while. I reckon my mam is willing me to unlearn this after counting that I now own 19 skirts...whoops! I am just making up for lost present buying time!
I can do the things I tell myself I can't do. I can speak in public, I can do my job perfectly fine, I can wear the crazy trousers and red lip stick. There is no "type of person" for any of the above, the only person standing in the way of me was myself. It turns out that I have the ability to be confident, who knew it?
Wishes for 2015
To be able to wiggle my fingers and toes for the whole year. In other words, I'd like my body to keep its act together. No flaking out on me now we've got this walking thing down, we have more mountains to climb and dancing to be doing!
To live more in the moment, there's no use in fretting over what I'm going to do with my life, I'm twenty I'm not supposed to have it all planned out. No waiting around for the right time to do things, now is the perfect time. If you want to eat an entire cake eat it, if you want to drink a whole bottle of wine drink it, if you want to party all night do it, there are 24 hours for a reason. Do the things now, Hannah!

Less hospital trips please! Both visiting and getting treatment. Here's to a healthy 2015 for myself, my friends and my family!

I am now off to shower whilst singing to Ricky Martin, maybe 2015 will bring me better music taste.

Peace out!

Hannah x

Friday, 19 December 2014

New Woman before New Year


I don't like to make resolutions at New Year because I always thought I was setting myself up for failure. I've always wanted to be the kind of girl that owns loud clothing and wouldn't think twice about wearing an entirely sequin dress to a party. I wanted to be a person that could accept a compliment and be unapologetically themselves. To put it bluntly I have had zero self-confidence my whole life, I have 16 years of school and university reports that read "Hannah needs to have more confidence in her abilities". I can count on one had the number of things I have failed over the years so my lack of confidence in my abilities has been somewhat irrational, either way it is a thing.

Friday 19th December 2014, age 20 I have achieved the confidence in my abilities after struggling on for SIXTEEN YEARS. Well, I have proof of it. I received my first ever report that didn't read "Hannah needs to have more confidence in her abilities". Proof is a big thing to me, I find it difficult to believe something unless I have some degree of proof. Be it exam results or in this case a report. I could have cried I was that happy, I will definitely be buying myself a congrats present and potentially framing said report.

Don't get me wrong, this new found confidence is still a little bit fragile. I don't wake up every morning thinking I do all things well, some days I still think I'm absolutely terrible at my job and life in general but my word I am a thousand times better than I was this time last year. In all honesty a year ago I was a complete wreck when it came to social situations, I was forever uptight and thought that everything I did was wrong. Getting some degree of confidence was such hard work, I haven't had such brain ache since I tried to do A Level Chemistry. I have spent the last six months challenging every negative thought that popped into my mind, given all of my years of practice at putting myself down that is quite a feat.

The point of this blog post was not to be all "look how great I'm doing". The point is that there is so much hope for everyone else who like me has had a life of no self-confidence. It's never too late to be who you want to be, every minute of every day brings with it opportunities to make baby steps towards change. In terms of things to give you a helping hand, I'd recommend Dr Melanie Fennell's self-help book Overcoming Low Self Esteem.

I have faith in each and every one of you!

Hannah x

Saturday, 15 November 2014

20 Before 21: Eat a Pasty


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Despite being born and bread in the north east of England, the home of the Greggs pasty I had never eaten a pasty before. Until now. I am so unaccustomed to pasties that I had to Google how to spell it, I think I've got it right.

I didn't lead an entirely sheltered life for the last twenty years, I was more of a sausage roll kinda kid so I didn't miss out too much. 

Last week I ate my first ever cheese and onion pasty. I quite liked it, I don't feel like I've missed out for twenty years but I'd definitely eat one again.

*for those of you that do not have the delight of a Greggs, a cheese and onion pasty is a fantastically unhealthy pastry which is not necessarily warm due to the hot food tax (a disgrace) but tastes comforting and homely (maybe only if you're northern) all the same. 

Human Library at Juice Festival and BBC Radio Three Free Thinking Festival


Human Library at BBC Radio Three Free Thinking 2014, Sage Gateshead
On Saturday 25th October as part of Juice Festival and Sunday 2nd November as part of BBC Radio Three Free Thinking Festival I ran a Human Library event. The Human Library aims to promote dialogue, reduce predjudices and encourage understanding by enabling members of the public to take out 'Human Books' who represent, more often than not stigmatised subjects. A 'Human Book' tells their own, personal story and the reader can ask them anything they want to know about them.

Books that were in these Human Libraries were:

A Drugged Lesbian In Charge of a Power Chair 

After Anorexia

A Nice Jewish Girl 

The Crazy Feminist 

Invisibly Unwell

I Have Five Older Children but Only Two of Them Talk to Me

Passing It On - Genetic Illness and Motherhood

Each and every one of the books proved to be best sellers, with over seven hours worth of prejudice-reducing conversations taking place. Readers learnt that anorexia isn't about wanting to look better and slimmer, it's much deeper than that; they learnt that feminism isn't all bra burning and hairy legs and they learnt that despite disability and illness people can be successful in the face of adversity.

The Human Library gave members of the public a chance to hear the voices of those that often remain silent, the parent whose children chose to not be in contact with her and the mother who went through genetic counselling. The library also had a book who talks about having a Jewish upbringing.

I feel overwhelming proud of all of the books in the Human Library, their bravery to share their stories and ability to speak so eloquently about their experiences is admirable. I even shed a few tears when receiving positive feedback from readers. Human Library has been a delightfully rewarding project to work from and I would like to thank the following for helping to make it happen:

Juice Festival - For giving me the chance to run my first arts project by commissioning and programming Human Library.

BBC Radio Three Free Thinking - For programming Human Library as part of the 2014 festival at Sage Gateshead.

Ilana Mitchell and Wunderbar - For sharing your Human Library expertise and knowledge.

Annie Rigby at Unfolding Theatre - For leading brilliant workshops to help prepare the Human Books.

Human Books - For your honesty, openness and for being generally incredible humans!

Volunteers and librarians - For giving up your time to help facilitate the project.

Running a Human Library was an incredible experience that I would encourage others to do.

Hannah x

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Thoughts About Bodies A Year On


This time last year I was frantically trying to learn my TEDx talk on changing the way young people think about their bodies. At the time I thought I had it all sussed: there is way too much pressure on young people to look a certain way, buy certain clothes, take up certain diets. One year on my thoughts are pretty much the same, nothing has changed there, however I have come to realise just how much I buy into these multi-million-pound industries. I feed the growth of the beauty industry on a daily basis and don't intend on stopping any time soon, does this mean I can't preach the fact that I think body talk needs to change? I don't think so. 

Providing I get up when my first alarm goes off my morning 'beauty' regimen goes like this:

Skin: Cleanse, tone, moisturise

Hair: Straighten, pin, hairspray

Face: Concealer, foundation, blusher

Eyes: Eye-liner, mascara, eyebrows

I use a mineral foundation to because it looks 'natural'. What part of the above is natural? Natural would be rolling out of bed, splashing my face with water and leaving the house. I feel myself stiffen up with when my friends tell me they use soap on their faces "but it's so bad for your skin" I lecture them but at the same time I am under the impression that all of these skin products exist on the premise that whilst they improve one aspect of your skin they make another aspect worse, thus you end up buying even more products. I dread to think how much I spend a year on beauty products, whatever it is is no doubt way to much just to look 'natural'.

Not long ago I invested in one of those razors that has the soap around it because my skin was getting dry and a bit prone to a rash. I bought a more expensive razor (it costs £6 for 3 razor heads) to limit the damage shaving causes me skin. Again, something that sounds ridiculous, why don't I just stop shaving. I do it elsewhere with heat-protection spray to prevent me burning my hair whilst straightening it. Damage limitation.

I haven't said all of this to paint myself as a complete hypocrite but more consider the decision process I went through when I decided I would buy beauty products, wear make-up and shave my legs. The point is I don't feel like I have to do it, I don't think that all beauty products need to come off the shelves, what I do think however, is that the way they are marketed needs reconsidering. I think it is essential that young girls feel like they have a choice whether or not they wear make-up or shave their legs or do whatever comes next in the beauty trends but society as it exists now takes that choice away. As highlighted by feminist and writer Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex women are not born, they are made - by the influence of society as we grow up. Which reminds me of that poignant line in Path's poem Mirror: 'in me she has drowned a young girl'. That there is the change from childhood to adulthood, we go from seeing our reflection to seeing our flaws as highlighted by a society focused on negatives.

A couple of months ago I went to see Gunther Von Hagen's Body World Vitals and was truly amazed by the sheer strength and brilliance of our bodies. I'm used to seeing bodies as dolls on a page as I flick through a magazine and here in front of me was a plastinated body showing off the muscles involved in playing tennis. I looked at a collection of cells grow to be a fully formed baby in a woman's uterus. It was like I went behind the scenes of the body to see just how much work goes on just to get out of bed in the morning. I spent months being unable to use my feet properly, I was in constant pain and unable to move my toes yet now, after medical treatment and gentle, persistent exercise I can tootle about as I please. Amazing. We greatly undervalue the resilience our bodies possess, no-one would compliment your ability to recover from injury yet complimenting someone on the hair and make-up seems like a no-brainer.

None of this is new, way back in 1855 suffraget Lucy Stone said 'It is very little to me, to have the right to vote, to own property, etcetera, if I may not keep my body, and its uses, in my absolute right.' 159 years on and we still haven't got there, we're still facing the same issues. Trends change but the feeling of needing to conform to societies body rules remain. And today's advances in technology feeds into these industries that demand our attention and desire.

A year on my message remains the same: talk healthy. Remind each other how brilliant one another's bodies are, praise aspects other than modification. If you remember how unique you are then you cannot possibly have faults. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Find Your Verse to Find Your Voice - A Response


I am not normally a one for writing response blog posts, yet here I am doing just that. 

I read a blog post over at Moodscope by author Rachel Kelly: Find Your Verse to Find Your Voice and found my brain shouting YES. I am a big believer in the power of words and creative therapy. In her blog post Kelly says:

"Words are free, have no side-effects and can either free your mind or fill up the spaces that worries want to fill."

Never have I read truer words. I have Pinterest boards full to the brim of words I wish I'd said first. Words that make sense of situations that you, yourself have no words for. Words that manage to unscramble your brain and ultimately words that heal.

It isn't very often that the words I'm looking for come from myself, I wish they did but the fact is that they don't. It's one thing to have a brain that is overflowing with thoughts and worries that can be expelled into free writing but the problem comes when your brain feels like a blank slate, that is when I rely on the words of others to fill in the gaps and sew it all back together.

When my brain is drawing up a blank, the last thing I want is what I term "fanny-abouty poetry". By this I mean poetry that I have to work out, I'm already having a job working out my brain so something to the point is what I need. Simple, but has everything I need.

Below is my verse that gives me voice, the wonderful Wendy Cope.

Some More Light Verse - Wendy Cope

You have to try. You see the shrink.
You learn a lot. You read. You think.
You struggle to improve your looks.
You meet some men. You write some books.
You eat good food. You give up junk.
You do not smoke. You don’t get drunk.
You take up yoga, walk and swim.
And nothing works. The outlook’s grim.
You don’t know what to do. You cry.
You’re running out of things to try.

You blow your nose. You see the shrink.
You walk. You give up food and drink.
You fall in love. You make a plan.
You struggle to improve your man.
And nothing works. The outlooks grim.
You go to yoga, cry and swim.
You eat and drink. You give up looks.
You struggle to improve your books.
You cannot see the point. You sigh.
You do not smoke. You have to try.

Hannah x

Friday, 12 September 2014

20 Before 21: Leave the Country


Brenate, Italy

Last month I crossed off the first thing on my twenty before twenty-one list. I left the country!

I went to Milan with my best friend Emily and did all of the lovely things! I almost managed to do no work whilst I was away, well, no work for me. I thought I'd let you all know a few of my lessons learnt in Milan:

1. There is a certain degree of assertiveness required when saying no grazie to an all too kind Italian man who takes it upon himself to straddle you in order to apply sun cream to your so-pale-it's-transparent back because "YOU WILL BURN".

2. If you are ever on a train and are not sure if the stop is your stop, assume it is and save yourself having to use the emergency exit (biggest thrill), ending up in Switzerland with zero francs and panic buying a ticket too far the other way.

3. The Metro is no better in Italy than it is in England, guilty pleasures follow you wherever you go. There is no escaping The Metro addiction, just because you don't speak Italian doesn't mean you won't try and read it's pants content. Horoscopes were decent though.

4. It is acceptable to eat ice cream multiple times a day because you know you will go home never to eat such fabulous iciness again. I mean, Tesco's own soft scoop doesn't quite compare to the ice cream you will eat in Italy. Also, it pays to re-contemplate your ice cream eating tactic when some Italian lads make that kind of joke about you...opt for a tub rather than a cone.

5. When life is overwhelming you and you can't remember the last time you had a day off, book a flight to Italy. Drink good coffee with cream when you're used to instant without, have pizzas piled with your five a day and forget all of your earthly commitments.

Monday, 28 July 2014

20 before 21


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Yesterday I turned twenty and I have decided this next year I am actually going to do things. I have a habit of saying I'd like to do things or some day I will do that so I figured if I wrote a list and published it I would have to actually do it. I intend on doing a blog post each time I cross something off.

Here is is, my list of 20 things to do before I turn 21:

1. Leave the Country

2. Get a Tattoo

3. Climb a Mountain

4. Go Canoeing

5. Go Back to Dance Classes

6. Unplug for at Least 24 Hours

7. Learn How to use Tofu

8. Swim in the Sea

9. Learn to Drive

10. Run my First Arts Project

11. Successfully Stand on my Head

12. Walk at Least a Section of Hadrian's wall

13. Run the Great North Run

14. Make an Item of Clothes

15. Finish Writing a Play

16. Make Cocktails with the Favs

17. Eat a Pastie

18. Write a Letter to Myself

19. Make Ice Cream

20. Have a Trip With Beth

Monday, 14 July 2014

What is Forgiveness?


I remember a couple of years ago I was struggling to forgive a family member and my Mam said to me "Hannah, you're a Christian, you are supposed to believe in forgiveness". Yes, that is true, I am a Christian and the bible does say: "forgive and you will be forgiven". But this is all so much easier said than done. In my eyes there is no one forgiveness just as there is no one wrongdoing.

Some things are really easy to forgive and forget, using that last of the toilet roll and not replacing it comes with a grudge that lasts about sixty seconds. Your best friend ditching you for their boyfriend, takes a bit longer to forgive but chances are they have built up a number of get out of jail free cards so, again, it doesn't last all that long. But then you get to the people that seem to require your forgiveness every other week, that's where things get difficult. I like to assume the best of people, I find myself making up excuses for why they have been such an idiot and before I know it I make it my fault so then I find myself forgiving them again. I'm not too sure that's the kind of forgiveness that is healthy and a one I am trying to edge away from. I'm starting to think that there must be a happy medium between forgiving someone for every wrong-doing under the sun and not forgiving them at all. I think that happy medium is acceptance and with acceptance sometimes you just have to walk away from the situation until life is a little more comfortable.

There is a quote from The Pact by Jodi Picoult that I am going to interpret in an entirely different way to its meaning in the book:

"Just because you can't see the wound doesn't mean it isn't hurting. It scars all the time, but it heals."

This is generally how I feel about forgiving people, generally I'm told that I give people way to many chances. The thing is I can act like everything is fine, I would prefer to pretend than live in awkward tension with someone that I have to see on a regular basis, but this doesn't mean all is well. In my mind they're still on probation, the tiniest petty crime will have them back in jail. In this way I think acceptance and removing yourself from a situation can be the real route to forgiveness. If you forgive someone time after time it wears you down and it isn't genuine any more. It's okay becomes your catch-phrase when everything is far from okay.

Coming from one of the busiest of people, time out is definitely a healer. Removing yourself gives you an entirely new perspective on life and will in the end allow for true forgiveness.

Hannah x

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Leaving Negativity Behind


you can't always choose what happens to you but you can always choose how you feel about it // danielle laporte // NEW MOON #16

About two weeks ago I made the decision to not have a bad day again, I'm not saying I am going to stop bad things from happening to me but I'm going to stop them ruining my day. A bad thing happening doesn't make a day a bad day, just like a bad day doesn't mean a bad life. I used to be the type of girl that thought that how her breakfast went would dictate how the rest of the day went, say if I accidentally put out of date milk on my cereal my day would be a total right off, now that is just silly. There is no use ruining an entire day over off milk.

This decision to change came after a Changemakers coaching session which went in a totally different direction to what I intended but was also probably more useful than what I had planned. We talked at length about how I distinguish between a good day and a bad day and it appears that I thought if one thing went wrong it meant that my whole day was going to go wrong. I'd never really noticed I did this until we were talking about it. It was getting to a ridiculous point where on the day I got a new job I still deemed it to be a bad day because something bad happened both before and after finding out about my new job. Both of the things that went wrong were entirely out of my control yet for some reason I let them control how I felt. After this I decided I was going to graph my days into how I felt on a scale of one to ten and why, so if there was a thing that happened to make things good or bad. If it was a bad thing I could then think about whether or not it was in my control and if it wasn't I would 'bin' the thought.

It is quite tiring having twice as many thoughts, as in asking myself what I think of my thoughts but it seems to be paying off. I feel like I have come to terms with the fact that I shouldn't let other people's actions affect me, I can't feel bad for every bad thing someone else does. That is just silly.

Take control of the negative thoughts, don't let the negative thoughts take control of you.

Hannah x

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Emily Park Appreciation Blog


I feel like I've been living in Emily Park's pocket for the last few weeks so here's a blog telling you why she is mint.

1. Emily's pocket is usually in Starbucks.

2. Both me and Emily have horrendous phone batteries so we are kinda impossible to contact. However I think I have some sort of Emily tracking device in my brain because I can usually track her down even if we don't have phones. Best friend telepathy.

3. Emily enables me to feel like a cat lady despite the fact I have no cats, when you have five there's enough to go around.

4. I need someone else who is marginally obsessed with hip-hop dancers.

5. Emily is not alarmed when she needs to meet me for an emergency "my life is a mess" coffee. We'll pretend this doesn't happen every other day. Soz mate.

6. Everyone needs someone who they can bond over having equally foot-like faces with. My face looks like a foot most days.

7. Being Emily's assistant is mint because she feeds you with sweet potatoes at 3am. Very good brain food!

8. Emily is very accepting of my Buzz Feed Quiz problems, so much so that we are the dream team. If there was a degree in Who Said It James Franco or Kanye West we would definitely get firsts.

9. It's nice to have someone who can sympathise trying to fit about five lives into my one life. I have no idea why we do it to ourselves though.

10. Because someone has to make plans to go to Canada with me even if it never happens.

Bet you are all jealous that Emily Park isn't your bezzie.

Key Change


Key Change
Live Theatre
Saturday 7th June 2pm
Written by Catrina McHugh
Directed by Laura Lindow

It's been awhile since I've taken part in a standing ovation at the theatre but Open Clasp and Dilly Arts' Key Change was fully deserving of the entire audience being on their feet at the end of the show. The project worked with female prisoners to explore their stories to then put them on for a male audience. Following this, Key Change has came to Live Theatre to share their stories with the wider community.

The play shows, in simple terms prisoners are people too, everyone has a back story. Everyone has a reason for getting to where they are. Key Change tackled the issues of domestic violence and drug abuse in a brave, head-on manner, giving me a few teary moments. The stories aren't just stories of five women prisoners, they are stories of nations of women suffering domestic abuse in silence or feeling like taking drugs is the only way to escape their lives. The women featured are far from prison sentences, they are stories to be invested in and supported to regain their lives.

Key Change is far from an all doom and gloom production, in between the serious more teary moments were points of absolute hilarity. Kudos to Jessica Johnson particularly, for a truly believable and animated performance of Angie.

Leaving Live Theatre the revolving door people of the criminal justice system were still whirring in my mind. It's no wonder people get stuck in what seems like a crime routine, if it is what you've always known how does one undo that learning and create a new life for themselves.

I never fail to be overwhelmed by the power of a well written theatre piece, Key Change shoots straight up into the best theatre I've seen lately.

The Dementia Monologues


The Dementia Monologues
Thursday 5th June 2014
Live Theatre
Fiona Evans

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Produced as a result of twenty-one workshops in Newcastle care homes, The Dementia Monologues explores the lives of people with dementia, their families and the people working with them. The evening of films provided a powerful insight to the reality of dementia.

The five films take from laughing one minute to being entirely heart-broken in another, a perfect depiction of dementia as a disease. Many think that as soon as someone is diagnosed with dementia it is somewhat of a death sentence, they lose all of what they had been. "The Dementia Doctor" demonstrated that that negative effects of dementia are not necessarily a constant state, the illness.

The films have great potential in educating a community in becoming more dementia friendly, this was evident in the post show discussion and it was nice to be an environment in which people were talking openly about dementia; a topic which is all too often shied away from.

Fiona Evans' writing is an absolute testament to the lives of people with dementia and their stories. The considerations taken to where the people had came from is an absolute delight to see. It will be great to see the films have a life beyond Live Theatre in education.

You can become a Dementia Friend by visiting where you will learn a little bit more about dementia by watching a short film. Dementia Friends will then send you a pack of information and tips about supporting people with dementia and their carers. Dementia is everyone's business and we all need to become more clued up on it to best support our communities.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Weighing Up Education


& it's an amazing feeling that fills your heart when you finally realize that you're so much more than that number

I was eleven the first time I weighed myself. Before I was eleven I had only ever been weighed at the doctors but even then I have no real memory of it, I'm just assuming it happened. However, at age eleven I was made to weigh myself at school, in a class full of people. Not only did I have to weigh myself, I then had to plot it on a graph against everyone else in my class. I've been thinking about this quite a lot recently and find it very worrying that my first exposure to the body as some sort of competition was as part of a lesson at school, it was so called education.

Before this first weighing I had been brought up in a nice little bubble with no concept of body weight only to be popped by such a bizarre scenario. Given this, I had no idea what classed as heavy or light but when I had to tell my classmates my weight so they could graph me I was met with "oh my god you're so skinny" comments. I didn't really understand what that meant, was that a good thing or a bad thing? I can't remember much else of the lesson, I don't remember the point of this weighing and plotting, I don't know what was good and what was bad. I just know it happened and I felt really weird about it. I was always quite small through school and have countless "you're so skinny" memories of getting changed in PE, I didn't understand that then and I still don't understand it now.

In my adult life I still get the "you're so thin" and "eat some pies" type comments and I never know what to say back. Well, I have quite a quick answer to the second one, I don't like pie because one time I got food poisoning from a pie. But the first one, what is that supposed to mean and why is it even said? If it is meant as a compliment I don't take it as one, my size says next to nothing about me. Or is it supposed to be an insult when followed with the pie comments? If so, why is that an insult? I've found myself just saying "okay" to these comments now, in a sort of protest against negative body talk, I'm not sure if this is the right response though.

I just feel really angry that at age eleven I was taught to compare my weight to others. What on earth is that all about?! My body weight wasn't a competition then and it isn't one now so why do people act like it is?

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Moving Stories Exhibition


Moving Stories
Seven Stories
From April 2014 to April 2015

Moving Stories at Seven Stories follows the journey of the nations favourite children's stories from the page to the screen. The National Centre for Children's Literature's latest exhibition is a one all of the family will enjoy. Running until next April you have plenty of time to visit the exhibition again and again. 

See yourself as the fairest of them all in the mirror from Snow White, dress up as Fantastic Mr Fox and make your own mixed up fairy tale. Moving Stories gives you the opportunity to become fully absorbed in the world of fairy tales. To enhance your experience further, pick up a sensory explorer bag from reception and engage with the exhibition on a whole new level.

The exhibition features original sketches, notebooks and manuscripts from some of the most well known children's literature. A particular favourite aspect of the exhibition for me had to be being able to see the progression of these traditional stories to their current representation in society.

Of course it's not just Moving Stories  to see over at Seven Stories. Hear one of the cast members telling a story at story time, get crafty down in the creation station or pick yourself a new book in the independent book shop. Whatever the age, Seven Stories has something for you at their new exhibition. 

Find out more about what's on at Seven Stories on their website:  

Monday, 26 May 2014



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Breakin' Convention
Whitley Bay Playhouse
Saturday 24th May 2014

I first saw ILL-Abilities perform back in October 2013 as part of Just Jam at Juice Festival and was totally blown away. I wrote this blog post about equality in hip-hop dancing as a testament to the power of dance. On Saturday night I found myself in that exact place again, I felt the same empowerment I did the first time around and so much more. 

People who follow my blog will know about my foot problems I have been having over the last few months, for those few months I felt totally stuck. However, recently I have found a new lease of life and have actually RAN. I felt really excited about this and put it all down to mental strength, the bent bone in my foot hasn't changed, my mindset changed. This is not an entirely irrelevant ramble in the middle of a review, I promise. 

The ILL-Abilites' performance featured spoken word over the top, the words that have stuck with me most are these ones from Redo:

"It is your own strength that can carry you where you want to."

I think this is the key to achieving your dreams. If you really want something, hold onto it and give it your all. The only thing that disables you is not trying. 

The way Kujo commanded the floor I would never have known he couldn't hear the music, his performance seemed so woven through the music it was incredible. Far from his healing disabling him, it makes him super human.

"No excuses, no limits"

If you get the chance to see ILL-Abilities, GO. You will be amazed by their performance and inspired by their stories.

Hannah x

Breakin' Convention 2014


Breakin' Convention
Whitley Bay Playhouse
Saturday 24th May 2014
Breakin' Convention is a touring, international festival of hip-hop theatre. The evening gave an amazing display of the merits of hip-hop theatre with each performance bringing with it its' own story.

There is no school of hip-hop. Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson didn't graduate from any higher education institute. If we're all individuals then why is a class all tested using the same criteria? Exams results will not decide our fate say Hustle of Darlington in their performance of The System. Choreographed by dancer Anna Read, The System is a perfect illustration of what theatrical hip-hop can achieve.

Having seen them perform before, I was most excited to see ILL-Abilities a second time and they did not disappoint.

"No excuses, no limits"

I am still in absolute awe of what these guys can achieve off the back of adversity, they are one of the best groups of dancers I have ever seen. It just goes to show disability means nothing when you can dance like that. The guys of ILL-Ability prove that living life with no excuses gives you the freedom to pursue your dream no matter what.

I'm not sure I'd ever seen an artistic use of smoking before seeing BirdGang's Vice, I felt almost hypnotised by their performance. Vice depicted the heart-breaking reality of addiction. A seamless blend of hip-hop come contemporary performance Vice taught me how addiction gets in the way of pursuing your true desires and left me with a few tears in my eyes.

Wanted Posse bring a revolution of their own to the stage with a display of individuality, imprisonment and freedom. My notes say "It's like Dirty Dancing got butch and took to the streets" but I think this might just because I am a little bit in love with them. Any show with a dramatic lip sync will always get my seal of approval.

Broken up with an equally hip-hop interval of dance circles, Breakin' Convention gave the new generation the chance to show off what they can do. Overall a amazing night displaying the biggest and littlest talents in the hip-hop world. I am forever in awe of the power of hip-hop theatre.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Spring Awakening


Spring Awakening
Headlong Theatre
Northern Stage
Tuesday 20th May 2014

"Someone can't help what makes them happy or not happy, that doesn't make them a good or bad person."

A contemporary version of the original rock musical of the same name, Anya Reiss' adaptation of Spring Awakening tackles tough youth issues with a contemporary edge. The cast of young actors takes you on a heart breaking whirlwind of a sexually oppressed nation.

Definitely not a production for the prudish, sexual issues in young people are tackled head on with explicit sex scenes from the off. Despite modern day culture becoming more and more sexualised there are still massive flaws in sex education and Reiss' adaptation highlights these particularly well with the character of Wendla. Wendla's limited sexual education becomes more evident as the play progresses and we watch her struggle with the difference between love, sex and aggression. From the moment Wendla took to the stage in an argument we've all had with our mother's about what is appropriate to wear to her final exit I was transfixed to her story.

Spring Awakening also looks into the issues of drugs and mental ill-health, both in a somewhat brave manner. I believed each and every character throughout the play and couldn't help but wonder if things would be different for them if they'd been exposed to different environments in their younger years or had been given the support they deserved. I feel Spring Awakening makes real all of the youth issues that adults like to brush off as merely hormones and the detrimental effects not giving them all of the information they need in life.

Being adapted from a musical which debuted a century ago, Spring Awakening had potential to be outdated in parts, however I felt that the modern adaptation takes good advantage of the technology now available in theatre production. Particularly the use of projections onto the backdrop of the stage and the use of webcam between the young people.

Ultimately, after watching Spring Awakening I feel like nothing has changed but time. Young people still face the massive pressures of teenage life that they did way back when the original was produced a century ago. If anything the newer adaptation explores the ease of accessing pornographic material and the unrealistic expectations the internet sets for young people.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Playwriting Problems


Back in October I came up with a basic idea of a play, or should I say an idea of what I wanted a play to achieve. I decided I wanted to write a play that explores the struggles of trying to lead a 'normal life' whilst having anorexia. I thought I could use this play as a way to dispell some stereotypes of the disorder whilst having the opportunity to play up the stereotype of student life. This was totally different to my usual approach, I normally start with characters and plot and back story but this time I just had a concept.

This concept mulled over in my brain for a good few months, for one reason or another I just had no idea what I was going to do with it. Now that I think about it, I think I was scared of doing it wrong because I really care about getting it right. In a way it is never going to be right for everyone because there is no one experience, there are one million and one stories.

Then I eventually started to write, this all went okay at first purely because I'd thought so much about it. However, lately I seem to be hitting problem after problem - one of which I have no idea how to solve. Reality is far more shocking than what a stage can handle and I'm not really sure how to get around that. I want to do justice to the people that fight the disorder every day but at the same time I need to pull it down to a believable reality. How I'm going to do this, I've got no idea.

I suppose in a way this is all good because the best writing is done with care and attention but it feels like I am being frustratingly gentle with the characters at the moment. Fingers crossed I'm going them justice!

Hannah x

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

LGBT Society in School


I was watching Loose Women and found out about a school in London who have been the first to set up an LGBT society. I thought this was a massive step forward in terms of acceptance, handing things over to the young people is amazing. I think if there is a demand for it, HAVE IT.

I only left school two years ago and not only was it commonplace to be bullied if you were lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender but also if you were friends with anyone who was. I think having groups for these people is a great start to providing a more supportive culture within schools. You can always tell the types of people who had an easy ride at school and will say that it is not needed because it needs to be a cultural change rather than a change in schools, well that's where it all starts. School. To ignore it in schools is just as bad as saying it is fine to bully people because of their sexuality or gender identity.

Schools are the foundations of the rest of your life, if environments in schools can change I think it will change the future of society. I don't think creating these groups emphasises the divide at all, far from that it says : "you exist and you need support".

Local North East support can be found via following website: 

National support:

Monday, 12 May 2014

Am I There Yet - GNR Training



Today marked day one of my Great North Run training, if someone told me one month ago that I would have ran just over two miles today I would have laughed at you. I've only been walking without a walking stick for just over a week and stopped taking tons of painkillers at the end of last week.

For those of you who haven't been following my blog, I had an injury in February because of a connective tissue disorder which lead me to be dosed up on pain killers every day, using two crutches and having to take two months out of university.

So, today, I bit the bullet and tried my first run in what feels like a forever. I am so impressed with how my body held out. I ran 2.29 miles in just under half an hour, yeah, it's not going to break any records any time soon but it's amazing given that I couldn't walk properly the other week. I am anticipating the pain tomorrow but today I feel great about my achievement. Bring on the next run!

I'm raising money for B-eat who support people with eating disorders, their families and friends. They are an absolutely amazing charity and their work is vital, especially with mental health services facing even more cuts.

B-eat have support groups around the country, provide online and telephone support. B-eat campaign for those who can't do it for themselves. I urge you to visit their website to find out more about the charity:

If you would like to sponsor me, my just giving page is below.

Thank you very much!

Hannah x



Today Write Now Newcastle is one years old!

Happy Birthday!

One year ago today I set up this blog and had no clue what on earth I was doing, I'm not quite sure that has changed but I'm still going. Thank you to everyone who has been reading over the last year, Write Now Newcastle has now had over 6,000 views which is incredible. It's nice to know that people want to read what I have to say.


Hannah x

Friday, 9 May 2014

Making Changes - Eating Out


I have started making some steps towards leading a better life; I am aware this sounds a bit dramatic, allow me to explain. I hate that I'm becoming the type of person that says some day I'll do this and that, I want to be the person that starts to make the change now. Today.

This all started the other day when I decided I was going to become the type of woman who wears patterned trousers, to me patterned trousers say you are confident. I always look at them and wish I could wear them, which is totally ridiculous because anyone can put a pair of trousers on. I took the plunge and bought two pairs of patterned trousers, this was the start of me making the changes I have always thought about.

After this initial trouser purchase I then decided I was going to buy a lipstick and a hat because they are two other things that I had also said "I wish I could wear" about.

Now, onto the point of this post. I spend most of my time in coffee shops and it doesn't bother me to go for a coffee by myself, I mean I usually get more work done when I'm along. However, someone once asked me is it not weird to go by yourself, y'know because I'm a loner. I never thought it was weird, probably because my mam does it too so I just copied. What I don't understand is the fact that I find it a little bit uncomfortable to go for food by myself, which makes no sense given I will happily have coffee and cake. I tend to feel quite envious of people who go for food by themselves like it is some sort of massive achievement. So today I went for my first 'meal' by myself, admittedly I started gently and only went to YO! Sushi but still. I went for my first meal by myself. Success!

Until my next changes.

Hannah x

I Think I Was an 80s DJ


So, I've always had quite an eclectic (aka: weird) music taste but recently it seems that my brain has taken a liking to a bizarre combination of tunes for a nineteen year old. Most of the songs I am currently listening to are 80s which makes me think that maybe in a past life I was an 80s DJ then something awful happened to me like I got suffocated with a pair of leg warmers or something causing me to die and be born again in the 90s. Who knows. Either way, I'm gonna share with you the tunes of the week.

Ah, Whitney. I have been listening to a lot of Whitney Houston recently. I'm not sure when or how I became a fan of Whitney Housten because I never used to be but at the minute when I feel like I'm having a rubbish day I seem to resort to her music. I can't continue to have a bad day if I'm listening to I Wanna Dance With Somebody, they just don't exist together. 

Last Sunday in the car my parents had absolute 80s on and I started to sing along to Relax - Frankie Goes to Hollywood which caused them both to complain about the song. We concluded that I only like the song because I wasn't around when it was out and played to death. This goes hand in hand with my theory that I used to be an 80s DJ, I was the one playing this song to death! I always wonder when I see teenage girls with "Frankie Says Relax" t-shirts on if they actually know the crack or not...

I am a big Michael Jackson fan, this is not a new discovery. I reckon his best stuff is in the 1987 album Bad, so here I am again, back in the late 80s. I don't really know what to say about him other than the fact his music is mint, if I'm listening to Michael Jackson I have to listen to solely his music. I seem to get into some sort of Jackson zone which seems to go on for awhile.

Bowie, Bowie, Bowie. I have a David Bowie t-shirt and I was telling a friend about my intentions to rip the bottom off it because it had his name on and I was like "really, of course it's David Bowie, there is his face, who doesn't know that face?!" One of my favourite songs of all time features Bowie. There are no words for this song. BTW, I don't like Queen.

I'm going to finish with Duran Duran. I quite like Wild Boys but I every time I hear it I laugh and cringe because it takes me back to when I used to do dance at school. I remember one of the younger dance groups doing a dance to Wild Boys, the girls in it must have only been about fourteen if that and they were dressed in cargo play-suit things and it was just horrendous and I can imagine some shocked parents in the audience. So, I'm not putting Wild Boys here to save my own cringe, why not have Girls on Film instead?

That concludes my current 80s DJ brain. I had to resist putting a song by The Cure in, mostly because there aren't many upbeat ones to pick from and I'm trying to listen to cheery music. I also missed out the fact I'm totally bashing the Dirty Dancing soundtrack so I didn't look like a total girly girl. I am a little bit!

Hannah x

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Anthropoetry Review


Live Theatre
Thursday 8th May 2014
Ben Mellor and Dan Steele 

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"The route of a lot of our unhappiness is how we measure ourselves"

Tonight I went to see Anthropoetry at Live Theatre and it was an amazing mix of heavy dub metal step, poetry and anatomy. The best of combinations to create a good giggle!

I'm not usually a fan of the whole 'show before the show' thing, you know when an actor walks around to interact with the audience? Mostly because I am terrified of having to engage in audience participation yet I somehow found it totally find for a guy in a white lab coat to approach me and ask if he can measure my forearm. He informs me that the length of it should mean that I can handle my drink quite well and I tell him it makes me awful at rock climbing. After this brief encounter Dr Ben (not a real doctor) introduced the show and proceeded to take us on a tour of the human body with his willing lycra-clad assistant, Dan.

Mellor's poetry is a one I find difficult to put into words, I found his ability to utilise crude imagery in an eloquent way somewhat bewildering. I'm usually that woman who is scared to laugh at sex jokes in public or awkwardly looks around to check there aren't any kids in the room like some sort of anxious parent but Live Theatres cosy theatre space felt like exactly the place to laugh at sex jokes and cringey puns in.

Far more than a poetic science lesson, Anthropoetry explored the way in which we connect with our bodies to the way in which society as a whole views our bodies. Whether the bodies explored are those of page three of The Sun or those who we fall in love with.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Happy Sunday


I am feeling really happy today, I feel like I've had a massive breakthrough in my life this week which has came on the back of what felt like a domino effect of bad luck.

Lately I've been asking myself why things keep going wrong for me, this week I made a conscious decision that that would change. I need to stop victimising myself over everything that happens to me. Acting like a victim won't get me any further forward, acting like a fighter will. For that reason I am fighting for everything I want out of my life. I'm a one of those people who does what they think they are 'supposed to do'. That's all about to change, I'm going to start doing what I want. I am vowing to be unapologetically selfish for a little while.

I have spent way too much time crying recently, I'm just sick of being sad, I am now actively seeking the things that make me happy, one of which being climbing on a mountain. I'm working on doing one soon, as soon as I find someone willing to come with me.

This week, I did however cry with happiness because my granda was so cute. Bit of back story, my grandparents are in their 80s, my grandma has had two heart attacks, triple heart bypass surgery and a stroke. Despite this her and my grandad walk around Saltwell Park everyday, they're still mega fit but they don't go very far. A couple of weeks ago they randomly went to Yorkshire which really surprised me but I thought nothing of it until the other day. My granda was driving me home and he said to me "I was so excited when your grandma said we could go to Richmond, we've barely been anywhere since she had her stroke four years ago", he then went on to tell me how impressed he was that she let them get the bus somewhere because she's usually nervous about being in crowds of people. Then he comes out with the fact she wants to go to the Lake District for the day but he's gutted because they can't really go for the day because it's too far. This was all too cute and I was crying by the time I got into the house.

I read something on Pinterest the other day that said something along the lines of healing doesn't mean the damage never existed it means the damage no longer rules your life. I keep thinking back to that and I've decided that it's a good way to look at things. Bad days don't equate to a bad life so bad things happening to you doesn't mean you should have to live by them. It is virtually impossible to control most things that happen to you in your life however you can control how you respond to the things that happen to you. You can choose to fight the bad things, fight the negativity with positivity about the future.

Positive Quotes For Life: Take time to do what makes your soul happy

Now that I am writing this on the internet I have to do it.

I am making time in my life to do the things I want to do and do the things that make me happy in the hope that they will get me to a good place in the future!

It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply.

Hannah x

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Changemakers at Mind the Gap Conference


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Today I went to Mind the Gap Mental Health Conference with Changemakers to collect people's opinions for our Change Your Mind About Young People Project. We were asking people what should be the priority for improvement within GP surgeries:

GP's knowledge about mental health in young people, do GP's need more education in this area?

GP's ability to signpost to other services, do they know the appropriate NHS and charitable organisations that can help? 

GP's ability to provide support to young people with mental health problems, do they know they support people need? 

We're hoping to get out and about in Newcastle and Gateshead in the next month asking more people these questions but the current results from the forty-seven people we surveyed today are:

Knowledge     - 23 votes
Signposting     - 11 votes
Support          - 13 votes

The following are some improvements suggested by people at the conference today:

- People would like to see a better referral system that offers support whilst people are waiting for treatment.

- Increased education for family members and carers around mental health.

- GPs to improve their knowledge about mental health conditions through mandatory training.

Thankfully it wasn't all doom and gloom experiences, I spoke to someone who told me that their GP was an amazing support and was the most useful practitioner that they had seen for their mental health. I have hope that everyone will have this equal positive experience some day, after all they deserve it.

The Buden of Mental Illness and Parity of Esteem


Dr Tom Brown
Associate Registrar at Royal College of Psychiatrists
Mind the Gap Mental Health Conference 
Newcastle University Students Union

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Dr Brown opened his talk with an anecdote of working in liason psychiatry. A twenty year old student presented in A&E after expressing a desire to die, the young man had been struggling with compulsions regarding washing and cleanliness. The man had been referred to psychiatry by his GP and prescribed a low dose antidepressants, he was then told he would have to wait many months for psychological therapy at which point he said he would rather not have it. After turning up at A&E liason psychiatry took him under their wing, upped his antidepressants and gave him cognitive behavioural therapy. Within six months the young man had his life back on track.

"By no means was he cured but he had a reasonable quality of life."

This is where people are missing a trick, thinking that mental health can't be cured and this is a problem. If mental health and physical health were seen on par with one-another this wouldn't be a problem. Take diabetes for instance, the condition is treated but by no means cured and that is okay. Similarly conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder are treated but by no means cured yet it seems to have some sort of stigma attached. 

The World Health Organisation Global Burden of Disease study 2010 featured seven mental health disorders within the top twenty causes of disability from disease, injury or other risk factors. Yet despite this and the fact that 23% of morbidity in the NHS is caused by mental ill health, mental health services within the NHS only receive 13% of the resources.

Dr Brown thinks that the only way to gain head-way with mental health is to achieve a parity of both professional and public respect. Massive barriers to achieving this are mostly due to the stigma attached to mental health which causes both social isolation of those suffering mental health conditions and the professional isolation of those working within mental health. If attitudes towards mental health change will that in turn change the treatment? When people learn that mental health conditions can be just as treatable as physical health problems and working within mental health is just as a rewarding job.

“Psychiatry is all biological and all social. There is no mental function without brain and social context. To ask how much of mind is biological and how much social is as meaningless as to ask how much of the area of a rectangle is due to its width and how much to its height”
- Leon Eisenberg

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Organisations That Changed Me


Last summer I got onto the Changemakers leadership program and could never have anticipated how much it has helped me or how many further opportunities I would get from it. I had done leadership courses before I went onto Changemakers but they all teach you how to manage people where Changemakers teaches you how to manage yourself first. The program to taught me to think about what really mattered to me, it taught me to get more in touch with what I am passionate about and where I wanted to go in the future. 

I graduated from the program in October but I am still working with them on a project called Change Your Mind About Young People which aims to improve young people's experiences when accessing their GPs. This has been such an amazing opportunity. Throughout the Changemakers experience I realised how important giving people a voice was to me and now I have the chance to give lots of young people voices and opinions. 

One to one coaching through Changemakers has been such a valuable experience for me, I have such a busy life that being given the space to just talk about where I want to be going is great. It's great to have someone that can ask you the difficult questions that you know you have to answer but you have been avoiding.

If you are good enough then you are old enough, embrace the young leaders of your community!  

I think I was about fourteen when I first got involved in New Writing North's young writers programs and my involvement with them seems to have grown since then. Way back at the beginning I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my writing, I quite enjoyed writing but never really saw it going places. 

New Writing North enabled me to have my work published for the first time, they gave me my first opportunity to perform my own work and my first opportunity to support others through editing work. 

Five years on writing is so much more than something I just quite enjoy, I write now because I can't not write. I have constant ideas of things I want to talk about and it appears now that scriptwriting and blogging are the ways I can do that.

The Girls' Brigade didn't really change me, I'd say it made me who I am today. I started going to a Girls' Brigade company when I was five and have went there ever since. I think they've brought me up to live my life the best way I could. They've taught me how to support others and how important it is to empower people. I also tried out synchronised swimming in my time at Girls' Brigade. 

Girls' Brigade gave me my first leadership experience from which many others have followed. 

Girls' Brigade have very much been my foundation.

The Writing Squad have built mountains upon the foundations laid by New Writing North's support with writing. I joined the Squad over two years ago and when I look back at the state of my writing from the beginning it is a credit to them to how much I have changed. I had the ideas at the beginning but had no idea what I was doing with the ideas. For one I didn't realise that scriptwriting suited me despite that any prose I wrote was about 95% dialogue. 

The Writing Squad gave me the opportunity to have a radio play produced which was so exciting for me because inside I was still that fourteen year old girl who enjoyed writing but didn't think it would ever actually go anywhere. 

They have provided me with one to one support with things I am trying to work on and have asked all of the write questions to help me find my own answers. 

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

When is it Time to Change?


Do it now.  Sometimes 'later' becomes 'never'.

Last night I decided I was going to change.

I decided that we only seem to hear about the bad things we do and it is about time that that changed.

Just like that I am going to change, I think that if you aren't happy with the way you are running things in your life now is the time you can change it. There is no use saying you need time to change, the more time you spend living the way you don't want to the less time you have to live the life you want. Right now is the time to change.

This morning I got up and sent an email to the angels in my life to let them know what is great about them, what I appreciate of them. I had a think about it and thought what if they were having a really rubbish day and I didn't know about it. What if I change the way I thought about people, what if I assumed everyone was having a rubbish day. All I want when I am having a rubbish day is something to make me smile, that could be a tiny thing but it could change my day.

What I'm trying to say is, if there is something you want to do different about your life do it right now. You might not be able to change everything in one minute but you can make a start.