When I was 23, I was lucky enough to be selected for the Motley Theatre Design Course, then based at the Riverside Studios in London, and under the direction of the late Margaret Harris. We were fortunate enough to work on projects with Danny Boyle, Edward Bond, Bill Gaskill and Hayden Griffin, which included Early Morning by Edward Bond, The White Devil by John Webster and The Father by August Strindberg.
It was a very special year, and the influence of both the course and the other students has always formed an enduring part of my creative life. Meeting up with my fellow students again was a privilege, and after much conversation and reminiscence, we joined to drink a toast to the late Paul Brown, one of our year who sadly passed away in 2017.
Sadly my father passed away on 3rd July this year at the age of 90. He was a complex man who stayed pretty energetic and living at home to the end. It remains difficult for me to appraise his less tangible legacy.
Out of many facts about me, the fact that I am an assault survivor was not an issue I ever thought I would need to discuss online. And so – although I have fought not to let aggression towards me as a child affect the present, moving back to Newcastle meant that those old fears began to affect all aspects of my life.
One of the more enlightened decisions made by the authorities was to refer me to a cognitive therapist when I lived in London. Since then I have successfully used techniques from a type of cognitive therapy to help me to overcome my anxieties and remain positive. To this end I set myself targets to master (it doesn’t matter how small they are). I then make a list of how I will achieve those targets and continually appraise my own progress in achieving each aim towards my ultimate goal. At first my targets were tiny things which seemed huge at the time, like going for a walk.
I used to write it all down but I have been using these techniques for so long that they are totally internal now. I have rarely explained them like this, as I’ve never considered it to be all that interesting to anyone other than myself. The techniques may not work for everyone but they continue in the background, whatever else is happening in my life.
I hope that some good will come of my making this post, and that it may be helpful to some readers. My advice is not to share your journey on public social media platforms such as Twitter, as trolls can undo the work of twenty years in half an hour if you let them.
I somehow missed the sad news that my fellow student in Group XVIII at Motley Theatre Design Course and sharer of my birthday – Paul Brown, passed away in November 2017. I think all the students in Group XVIII were aware of his other worldly talents as he worked away diligently in the corner of our studio at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. What I had to learn about design, Paul already knew. My thoughts are with his family and friends.