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 on my outdoor blog. Unfortunately I was outed by an organised group of trolls and gaslighters who were constantly haranguing me on my outdoor sites. I really resented feeling pressured into confiding about this issue on my blog, rather than here on my personal site.
And so – I am still feeling my way around how to express this issue. 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.
Since my twenties 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 various 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.
To illustrate using an example of this process, I often set targets which challenge or conquer my fears, so I set myself a target to become experienced at wild camping on my blog. To achieve that target I set five goals:
To set myself some hard and fast challenges which would give me a reason to wild camp, and some deadlines to work towards. (I made the mistake of sharing an early challenge on Twitter, and it was savaged by trolls).
To gradually assemble a kit in which I have confidence.
To progress gradually from bed and breakfasts to wild camping on my long distance trails.
To seek advice and support if needed. Some people have been very helpful (hopefully they will know who they are, and who they are not).
To recognise when people are trying to undermine me.
I can only hope that some good will come of my making this post, and that these methods may be helpful to some readers. My advice is not to share it on public social media platforms such as Twitter, as trolls can and will undo the work of twenty years in half an hour if you let them. Remember that this is entirely their problem and not yours. Hopefully social media safety people will realise this eventually and toughen up their responses.
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.