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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week Four

June 16th, 2016 No comments

Production week…

When one show finishes and another begins, the theatre is miraculously transformed from one world to another as if by magic…

Within minutes of the Untold Stories cast taking their final bow on Saturday night, the Watermill tech team began the ‘get out’.  This is when the theatre is completely gutted of all set, lights, costumes and props to make way for a new show.  It’s wildly exciting for the new company and somewhat heartbreaking for the old company but we get over it during what we call the ‘post-show blues’… This turnaround all happens in just a few days, including all the building, painting, rigging, wiring, sound checking, costume setting; (the list goes on).  Unlike the actors who get four weeks to rehearse the play, the tech team only have a couple of days to perform months of blind planning.  It could be likened to imagining the configuration of a huge jigsaw puzzle without the pieces and then suddenly having to put it together in record time.

Once everything is finally in place, the cast arrives and tech begins.  We start from the very beginning of the play and every time there’s a lighting change, costume change, sound effect, scene change, prop negotiation, entrance or exit, we stop to insert cues or sort out staging issues…so roughly every four or five seconds.  With the ensemble nature of this piece we are all nearly always on stage.  This means that any costume changes usually have to happen within seconds and entrances/exits have to cross smoothly through very tight gaps in the set.  Assistant stage managers and any available actors (usually none) help out those who need to change or get to their next entrance on time. Sometimes we need to actually leave the building and run around the garden in order to get from one side of the stage to the other! (Fingers crossed it doesn’t rain too much…).

Once we’ve spent two days adding the technical elements to the show, we have one dress rehearsal and then previews start! So here’s to all the unsung heroes behind the scenes who make The Watermill’s shows notoriously fantastic.  It’s over to you until our first preview on Thursday.

Who’s coming?!

Scarlet Wilderink

Scarlet is playing Hyzenthlay in Watership Down at The Watermill from Thursday 16 June to Saturday 23 July.
Find out more and buy tickets.



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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week Three

June 9th, 2016 No comments

Back to the beginning…

Now that we’ve finished working through the play we go back and start again.  This time we go through it with a slightly finer tooth comb; making changes to blocking we loosely set in week one, fixing on-stage ‘traffic’ issues, allowing time for costume changes, seeing how those costumes will affect movement we’d choreographed, allowing time to pick up/drop off instruments etc… so there’s a huge amount to do.

We’ve been given our costumes by our lovely wardrobe department and this week we’ve started to wear them in rehearsals. Your movement can be restricted by what you’re wearing so we need to get used to how it feels.  Due to the ensemble nature of this play, many of the parts are ‘double cast’ meaning one actor plays multiple characters.  This week we started to run sections of the play in real time so we can get an idea of how long we have to change our costume… Amanda in the wardrobe department has to be very crafty with elastic and velcro to allow an actor to change costume in less than 20 seconds!

We’ve spent lots of time working the music into the movement sections we finished last week.  There will be live violin, accordion, percussion and singing on stage to accompany these moments and Dom has been engineering when and how this happens.  Some of the music that Dom’s written sounds quite folk like, which works perfectly in complimenting the storytelling nature of the play.  It’s written in a very natural place for our voices, which stops it from sounding like ‘singing’ and more like a band of brothers on a journey…  I like to think that these moments represent Richard Adams’ allusions to the camaraderie of a group of World War II soldiers.  Dom has also written all the underscoring (background music) and sound effects that accompany the play’s scene changes, moments of action or tension, fight scenes and Naomi’s movement sequences.  Adding sound to these sections will allow the drama to have the filmic quality that this script lends itself to.

Nothing else to report really… Oh except we all had a lovely time at The Watermill Summer Fair on Sunday!

Scarlet Wilderink

Scarlet is playing Hyzenthlay in Watership Down at The Watermill from Thursday 16 June to Saturday 23 July.
Find out more and buy tickets.


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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week Two

May 31st, 2016 No comments

As we come to the end of week two, we’ve almost blocked the whole script!  By ‘blocked’ I mean worked out each character’s physical journey on stage.  We’ve been using a rehearsal room with the rough dimensions of our set marked out on the floor with tape.  This is so we get an idea of the space we’ll be working in when we get into the theatre.  It feels like you’re playing on a giant road map rug for adults, but it prevents us having to adjust all the blocking to fit the size of the stage.  In week five we get into the theatre and can start using the real set.

We’ve focused a lot on movement this week.  Although we’re telling the story of a group of rabbits, Naomi Said, our Movement Director, doesn’t want us to physically mimic a group of rabbits.  Instead, she’s created seamless moments in the play where we see glimpses of a rabbit’s physical behaviour without having to act the entire play as rabbits.  This means that the story can still be told with truth and poignancy, which was one of our director’s main priorities. We were also given a very important part of our costume… our ears!!  They will act as a visual in communicating that we’re playing rabbits without needing to literally hop around or thump the ground with our feet.
We do a ‘bootcamp’ warm up every morning with Naomi to make sure we’re fit and strong for when we start performances.  Due to the nature of a small animals’ movement, we’ve been working on a very contained and controlled type of movement to make sure we can dart, twitch and jump just like rabbits but in our human form.  This requires a lot of strength and agility, especially when we’re all sharing a small stage, so all those squats and sit-ups definitely won’t be in vain!

Most of the movement has been devised through improvising and work-shopping ideas as a group.  It’s a very creative way of working which has produced lots of exciting and stylistic movement sections.  Now we just need to add music and we’ll be well on our way to creating the cinematic atmosphere that will complete these moments of action…

See you next week!

Scarlet Wilderink

Scarlet is playing Hyzenthlay in Watership Down at The Watermill from Thursday 16 June to Saturday 23 July.
Find out more and buy tickets.



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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week One

May 26th, 2016 No comments

Week one of Watership Down rehearsals has flown by! We’re having so much fun putting this great play together, so I thought I’d update you on how we’re getting on…

Lots of people have been asking me how on earth it’s going to be done… Rabbit onesies?  Avenue Q style puppets? Animatronics? (actually, no one suggested that) but I can assure you that this version of Watership Down will probably defy all of your expectations.  Our director Adam Penford and Movement Director Naomi Said, are working together to create a language for our rabbits that is both genuine and stylised in order to tell this magical and nostalgic story.

Day one of rehearsals always begins with meeting everyone over tea and coffee and then we all sit in a circle to read through the script. This is usually followed by one of my favourite parts of the rehearsal process, the model box viewing.  A toy-size version of what will soon be our life-size playground, equipped with miniature props, staircases, platforms, and backdrops.  Richard Kent has designed a fantastic set which represents the stunning countryside of Watership Down.  It won’t be long before The Watermill is transformed into a labyrinth of rabbit warrens and patchwork fields… We even had a cast field trip to Watership Down itself so we could take in the view!

Later in the week we sang through composer Dom Coyote’s folky and filmic music, with some of us singing, and some playing instruments.  But to answer another one of your FAQ’s, it’s not a musical.  There are musical moments in the play but there aren’t any tap-dancing bunnies…yet.  We also spent a day playing with some brilliantly designed puppets by Matt Hutchinson which will add yet another creative element of story-telling to this incredibly unique production.

As we move into week two we’ll start to see some of the magic happening…
Until next time!

Scarlet Wilderink

Scarlet is playing Hyzenthlay in Watership Down at The Watermill from Thursday 16 June to Saturday 23 July.
Find out more and buy tickets.

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Bees, Badges and Bunny Ears

May 26th, 2016 No comments

The Watermill Summer Fair looms and Jan, my wife, now a Bee Keeper, will be there – on the Bee Keepers stall with lots for children to do including making their own badges.

I’ve been asked to write a few words about the Andrew Lloyd Webber Trainee which is a one year (paid) appointment at The Watermill Theatre, starting in September. However, my concentration is broken by the background grumblings of “how stupid” and other what I can only assume are Bee Keeper’s sayings.

The Watermill is once again, looking for a Trainee Production/Stage Management Assistant and I’m trying to think how to describe the sort of person we are looking for – the description is not going very well.

Eventually the request of “Lawrence come and sort this out will you” stops my writing – Jan is trying to assemble a button badge maker she has just bought from the Internet with Chinese instructions.

My wife is far more intellectual than I and much better qualified but has not spent her life with the daily and random challenges I meet as a Production Manager.

So I stop and go help her with her challenge at the same time she helps with mine.

This is a bit like describing the sort of person we are looking for. You don’t have to be academic or want to go to university. You just need an enquiring mind and to have that random collection of skills that means you don’t want to be tied down doing just one thing – but also willing to try anything and I mean that….

This week Lee, our current Trainee has set up rehearsal rooms, made props and has spent a day shopping in London with Amanda our costume supervisor. He was also a rabbit for a morning – yes, our next show is Watership Down!  Lee was asked to stand in by our movement coach as a routine had to be worked out with the right number of people.

So if you fancy not only gaining great technical skills – and the possibility of playing the odd furry animal – then why not apply to become our next Trainee Production/Stage Management Assistant?

If you love all sorts of technical stuff, love breaking things and putting them back together again, love art and drawing or are keen on design and technology then this could be for you. This is not a gap year fill in -  but aimed at those who want to just do stuff – practical or physical or technical and creative -  hey you might even become a badge maker at the Summer Fair

For further information please email: csm@watermill.org.uk or call Kerrie on 01635 570925 or you can download an application form by going to our website: https://www.watermill.org.uk/work_for_us

Lawrence T Doyle
Production Manager

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OUR UNTOLD STORIES – Letters to Tomorrow Me

May 26th, 2016 No comments

Kiki wrote to herself in her mother tongue

Swanswell clients recovering from alcohol and substance misuse wrote letters to their future selves as part of Our Untold Stories

Summer 2035

Dearest Tara,

I’m writing this letter to remind you of your goals all those years ago and to congratulate you on achieving them! You were in a very hard place and have overcome some very hard obstacles! Well done you!

Leonie is now 21 years old, very beautiful and well adjusted, a bright and loving young woman. You knew you would have that nice silver, Audi sports car, money to maintain that youthful glow, and above all stayed abstinent from alcohol and kept all your close friends and family dear to your heart.

You were, back then, an amazing person to have been through what you did and came through to be an inspiration to others that has made me the amazing woman I am today: a model mother and 1000% there for Leonie.

Yours sincerely, x


For support with addiction, you may like to visit swanswell.org or call 0300 003 7025

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May 25th, 2016 No comments

Image created by the author

We’d like to warn you that you may find this contribution to Our Untold Stories upsetting…

This is the story of a close friend, which doesn’t seem like a romantic story, but I still fell in love with him.

I was an art student in my last years of college when I met Mark at a local AS group in the Spring of March 2011. I was new there. He resembled the Hollywood Nerd stereotype often seen in 80’s/90’s films in the clothes that he wore such as his thick rimmed rectangle glasses and woolen sweaters. I sat at his table, and soon enough, we got on and we discovered that we had things in common, like Cartoon Network shows and psychology and he also talked about a show he was very much into called Good Luck Charlie, a sitcom that aired on the Disney Channel. Up until then, we only ever saw each other at the local group.

Several months after we met, I proposed about us meeting up somewhere outside of the group. He was shocked at first, but agreed on the notion that he’d meet my mother afterwards just so that she knew that he wasn’t just a random stranger that I found from the streets. From that day on, we met at our local Costas every other Saturday, often at the same time 2pm. Sometimes we would go to Reading, often to a buffet restaurant named Cosmos. Other times, if there was a film we both wanted to see (such as Wreck It Ralph and Inside Out), we would meet up in Boswells, in Newbury, and then head to Vue, accompanied with a trip to Nandos afterwards. As for paying, since he had a job, he was often the one to pay for the drinks and food, but as the years went by, we agreed to go dutch (we split the bill). Often when we were arranging to meet up, he would initiate it.

Speaking of a job, Mark was working in a mortgage office in Newbury filing papers but he hated that job. He wanted to go to college, but felt because of his Aspergers, he couldn’t go; also he was only in the job for the money and it was what other people wanted. As a result, he was becoming increasingly stressed with the changes that went on with his job. I was the one who said that he should follow and think about what he wanted to do, and not that other people wanted. In the summer of 2012, he resigned from his job and attended college studying Accounting, which was his dream job. He also landed a new job doing bookkeeping for a company in Theale.

While I was at university, 3 years later, and I chatted to the girls in my animation course on toon crushes, I fell in love with him. Among his traditional values, he was a gentleman, in the way that he often escorted me to the train station whenever we were parting. If there were eras to pick if we were in an alternate timeline: it would be either the Victorian Era (I gave him the nickname Mr Darcy) or World War II, because he resembled the men often associated with those timelines. He showed me that there are intelligent life forms on this planet, something I saw less of in secondary school, apart from a few exceptions. I also loved that fact that he was willing to make an effort to socialise, and to try things with me, even though it was out of his comfort zone. We were like high school/childhood sweethearts in the way we were around each other, or at least a potential Disney couple. We were also as weird as each other and we each had our dark secrets, that only we knew about each other.

We were like two animation styles that existed in the same world, like in The Amazing World of Gumball and Drawn Together. I was the wild, expressive, theatrical Tex Avery/Disney type while he was the rotoscoped, down to earth, realistic Mike Judge/Marc Brown type. We were also two like two sides of the human brain: logic and emotion. There are loads of analogies that I could come up with to describe us: He was the water to my fire, the Japan to my America, the cat to my dog, to name a few, but the most important analogy was the art and technology. In short, we were polar opposites: I was the fiery, creative, outspoken, imaginative, theatrical, social, emotional, artistic, chaotic and passionate. He was quiet, logical, traditional, down to earth, realistic, shy, practical, organised, neat and tidy.

I dreamt of us dating, getting married, having children (and that’s saying something since I am not a fan of kids by any stretch! (2 boys and one adopted Asian girl)) and growing old together (similar to Victor and Margaret from One Foot in the Grave and Leon and June from Gogglebox). The reality though, was that a relationship wouldn’t have worked between us. Mark hated being touched, for one. Second, he was one who had difficulty dealing with other people’s emotions and told me that if I was upset, he wouldn’t know how to comfort me, so because of this difficulty, if a relationship was to happen between us, I would end up angrier at him, especially when I knew it wasn’t his fault. So essentially, he was like Edward Scissorhands.

That being said, I wrote several love notes and drew several artworks declaring my love for him, but I never delivered them mostly because it would have made him uncomfortable. I confessed my love to him on two Christmases, but on both occasions, he said that he loved me, but he wasn’t interested in a relationship for the following reasons previously stated, mostly because he didn’t want to potentially hurt me. He was honest and upfront, another quality I loved about him. It broke my heart, sure, but I eventually accepted that he just saw me as a friend, as much as I wanted to date him. We remained close friends, and we still saw each other, but even though we weren’t dating, it felt like I was married to him.

I tried dating other people, including a guy I met through a local autism group in Southampton, who some of my friends set me up with, but it lasted a month before he cheated on me and stalked me the next night. I even tried dating websites, and applying for The Undatables, before they turned me down on the second round, all just to move on from him romantically. And no matter how many guys I met who happened to be handsome and with similar/same interests to me, and were intimate, I always felt guilty that I was deceiving him and I couldn’t quite move on. We were like TV’s most faithful couple Homer and Marge in retrospect, because no matter how any times the couple met people who were essentially dream versions of their better halves, they always went back to each other by the end of the episode.

The last time I ever saw him was when we went to see The Good Dinosaur. The week after, when I was sitting opposite my mum ordering coffee pods online, a phonecall from his mum came and mum answered it. As soon as mum got off the phone, I asked: “What is it?”. Mum was silent for a moment and I thought, “What have I done now?” She then told me the news: the man I fell in love with and only friend committed suicide by hanging himself. That was when my heart shattered to pieces. I cried wildly that afternoon and wanted nothing more than to escape the house, to escape the madness that I was feeling at the time. I was so devastated, that everything felt meaningless and I even wanted to commit suicide myself, just so I could be with him, like in Romeo and Juliet, but of course, that’s not the answer. He didn’t leave a suicide note, so no-one knew why he did it, but I have an idea. On top of his high IQ, he had many issues with his self-esteem. He was ever anxious, and if there was one thing he hated, it was himself. He hated having Aspergers, and he wanted nothing more than a cure for it. Unlike me, who quite frankly couldn’t give a monkeys, Mark was the opposite. He was highly self-conscious, often resulting in him often overcompensating just so he could try and keep up with the Joneses, something that is incredibly difficult for people with autism. I heard that he often said to his mother that he wished he was more like me.

I saw Mark’s body at the funeral directors, in order for closure and I was finally able to give him something that previously would have been impossible for me to do: A Valentines card. I also touched him, and kissed him, which was also something previously out of the question. I read a eulogy for him at his funeral, in which everyone who attended there loved. It was harder to say goodbye to him when I left. I am currently seeing councillors now and am currently getting better. It feels like now that water has gone, fire ignites everything. Now that order has abolished, chaos reigns. Facts disappeared, and now fantasy has nothing to stand on.

A month since my Mr Darcy has gone, and I am still pining for my love till this day. All that I have left of him is the doll he gave me, which resides in my handbag. I don’t know if I’ll ever love again.


For support with bereavement, you may like to visit crusewestberks.org or call 01635 523 573

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OUR UNTOLD STORIES – The World My Child Sees

May 25th, 2016 No comments

Simon is dad to Grace, 6, who has ASD, ADHD, hyperacusis and sensory disorders. When Simon is sketching Grace will often join him. Drawing gives them time together and gives Grace something to focus on, which helps her mind relax.

These Our Untold Stories are reflections on life by parents of children with additional needs, through the eyes of their children…


Why is life so hard to understand?

Why do I not fit in?
I just want one day where I don’t have to worry
I stand at school, I feel overwhelmed
So many noises, people brushing past me, I don’t want them to touch me
I feel worried, I just need quiet
I am screaming inside, no one can hear me

I won’t give in, I won’t let bullies win
I will get up every day
I will face them, I will succeed.
I am better than these people.

People don’t know the real me, only what I show them
I hold it in so they accept me
I just want to be me.

- Anonymous



8.20pm at Eddie’s
My hand waves, I tap the strap to come out, my eyeballs burn into Mum’s head, my staring is saying “I want to go bed”

I will put my arms out and swipe whatever is in my reach as Mum pushes me, “weeee, this is great fun!” CRASH, there goes the DVDs, books, teddies, and let’s break the door as I open it the wrong way

Oooo, bed… I love my bed and my toys here. “I need to have that one there, no not that one, THAT one!” Can’t you see my eyes pointing and hand waving?

Here comes the hoist, Mummy lowers it so I need to give her a hug at the same time. Oh, Mummy banged her head on the metal bars, oops, I did that. Oh well, look, “I need that book now”.

Flying into bed I must go, weeee! “Oooo, my bed-socks”, I wave my foot at Mum too to put them on, also whilst she is lowering me onto the bed.

Mum, am I on the bed yet? “Ooo, Kermit, Elmo, Teddy, bed socks, blankie, must have blankie!” In my position I wriggle and give my kisses and hugs.

Now I settle…. But what destruction can I cause overnight?

- Eddie, 17, is non-verbal. He has global development delay, PMLD, adrenal insufficiency, under-active thyroid, scoliosis and cerebral palsy. This translation of his bedtime conversation was written by his mum, Trish.


Before and After

Before, for my boy, withdrawn, pale, bags under his eyes, getting no sleep, everything was negative. There were no positives. He was self-harming. He refused to leave the house. His mind was full of,

How can you do this me?
You’re in control of my life, how can you do this to me?
It’s the kids, they don’t listen; they just need to learn to shut up.
What are you doing? Where are you going?
What if you get sick, I won’t be there.
Don’t go in the car with Daddy, if you crash you’ll both die.

And now, away from school, there’s a twinkle in his eyes, he smiles, he doesn’t self-harm, he’s willing to go out and try new things, his sense of humour is back and his anxiety levels have clearly reduced. He interacts a lot more with other people, he’ll even strike up conversations and ask for things even if he doesn’t know the person. He’s happy.

- Anonymous


You just don’t understand him

He fell in the pond
It’s out of his system now, he won’t do it again, you said
He then pushed his sister in

He’s scared of dogs
So you’ve decided to get a dog
He’ll be fine after a few visits, you say
He’s refusing to go to your house if you get a dog

You booked a night in a hotel
He’ll be fine once he’s there, you said
Meltdown City

You made a cake and gave him a slice
The slice wasn’t perfect and he wouldn’t eat it
You then gave him another slice but cut it up for him
He’ll eat that, you said
He didn’t eat it, you’d cut it up
You just don’t understand

It’s the small things that make huge differences.

- Anonymous


My Life with Leigha

Me: What would you like for your birthday?
Leigha: Umm, a cow
Me: Okay, what would you like that Mummy can buy?
Leigha: Okay, I’ll have a horse
Me: Leigha, unfortunately your pet shark died last night
Leigha: It’s okay Mummy, Daddy will look after him in the sky now
Nanny: Look, Leigha! There’s a kite
Leigha: No, Nanny, that’s a bird
Leigha: Nanny, the dog won’t play
Nanny: Call the dog, Leigha
Leigha: Leigha! Leigha!
Nanny: No, her name’s ‘Lady’
Me: But you told her to call the dog ‘Leigha’!
Me: Quick, Leigha, jump in the lift
Leigha proceeded to jump between the floors until the lift stopped
On a visit to my Nan and Grandad’s grave, which Leigha calls their ‘garden’
Leigha: Mummy, do all these gardens belong to other people?
Me: Yes, Leigha, that’s right
Leigha: Is one of these Daddy’s garden?
Me: No darling, Daddy’s garden is at our house
Daddy doesn’t have a grave at present; we have a tree at home for him

- Leigha, 4, has suspected autism. She takes things very literally and speaks her mind frankly.


If You Meet Me
You: Hello Molly…
Me: waving my arms, cuddles and kisses Aarghhh
‘Come here and give me a cuddle! I want to play now, now, now!’

You: What would you like to do, Molly?
Me: patting chest, waving arms, indicating or dragging you to play
‘Now, now, now, I need to play now!’

Me: patting on the chest Ah, ah ah
‘I need to be here, here, and here, and here, now!’

Me: dragging you with me to meet everyone
‘Oh hello, oh hello to you, too, and you, and you, and you’

Me: finding and chewing a toy duck
‘Ooo, a duck! Quick, I must – no, NEED – that now! Quick, chew it, make it mine!’

Me: pulling you with me
‘Let’s go for an adventure into where I’m not allowed to go… Ooo, office! Let’s clear the desk of everything, right now! Crash, bang, wallop! Who did that? Not me… Let’s try the art room. Ooo, paint! Let’s eat that and make rainbow poop! Let’s wash the tables, chairs, floor, walls and myself in all the colours I can.’

Mum: Molly, it’s leaving time…
Me: protesting and taking residence on the floor
‘Uh no, no no, no and no. I’m not leaving, so no!’

- Molly, 6, is non-verbal. She has microcephaly, hypertonia and severe development delay. This translation of her conversation making friends was written by her mum, Kellie.


For support for families with special needs children, you may like to visit swingsandsmiles.co.uk or call 01635 285 170

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OUR UNTOLD STORIES – Art Beyond Belief

May 25th, 2016 No comments

1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem throughout their lifetime. But nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional. Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders. - David Sparrow, Creative Lead at Art Beyond Belief

Wearing a mask is part of daily human life. We all do it whether we realise it or not. One individual contains multiple personas and we present a different facet of our character to the outside world depending on our mood or surroundings. Often this can become a coping mechanism, especially for those struggling to reconcile their inner world with the reality of everyday life. One's own mask can offer us safety and protection but reading other people's masks can be challenging, causing distrust and misunderstanding. I try to give other people the benefit of the doubt, looking past their "mask", wanting to get to know the person deep down, without judgement or preconception. I hope that other people will want to do the same. - Clive Miskin

The magic of life is gone after bereavement, everything stops, even things that should be a go (positive, fun, enjoyable things) are just a stop, like everything else; pointless, mundane, boring, routine. - Dan Bross

I saw this painting at the Courtauld Gallery in London. It is by Gabriele Munter and called 'Portrait of Young Woman in a Large Hat'. I was taken by the woman's self-confidence, enhanced by her knowing smile and intense gaze. I just wanted to make many of those. - Ashley Jewel

The chair and shadow is like all the mess and turmoil and anger, negativity, depression and stuff all inside and it’s all a depressed person is, or all they are left with after crisis. The strips of duct tape, barely keeping the door closed, are the supposed crutches or things that should help, but don’t really. - Dan Bross

Tall wild flowers. Wild and free, standing tall. My gran whose memory of peace, love, protection and the simple beauties in life in the garden I escape share and owe to her… My lil back yard sanctuary. - Pam Scott

Art Beyond Belief kindly contributed these pieces of artwork to Our Untold Stories.


Art Beyond Belief uses a unique blend of art, study, computer-based graphics, photography and discussion to get people thinking and talking about their own and others’ perspectives. For more information, visit art-beyond-belief.com

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OUR UNTOLD STORIES – Mencap Friendship Skills

May 25th, 2016 No comments

Cathy and her husband Adam outside the church they married in 20 years ago

As part of Our Untold Stories, the Friendship Skills group from Mencap thought about times that they, like Alan Bennett, had faced difficulties and come through the experience to reach an achievement.

I wanted to become independent, living away from home. It was difficult because I was, I didn’t know where to go and I was waiting and waiting and waiting for this opportunity, right place and find out about Pelham House. It was a great move and I am now happy there.
- Jonathan

When I was young I didn’t think I’d find anyone to marry. I felt other boyfriends weren’t serious. Then I met Adam, at Castle School. We met with a look across a crowded room and we’ve been married 19 years, 20 in August. We moved into own place – flew the nest! – in 1994 and we decorated. We’ve been there ever since, 22 years. It was 1996 we got married, it was hot day. We had our honeymoon in the Isle of Wright, we had a fantastic time there.
- Cathy

When I left home I was 16. I moved to a place called Lambourn. It was meant to be a house for life. I choose to move because it was not right for me. I then moved to a house called Great Shefford. It was not right for me because I got told I could not ring my mum all day. When I moved to Greenham I am happy. I can see outside, like the woods, and I can hear the animals at night. The problems are gone.
- Leigh

I never knew I had a half-sister and she thought she would never find me. She sent a Facebook message to my mum saying she was my half-sister. Mum asked she questions and we arranged to meet which was really exciting and nervous. I was really scared, worried and did not want to meet her but part of me wanted to. I met her and it went really well and we are going to meet again and our relationship is going well. I am now an aunty again.
- Anonymous

Yesterday I was working at work and there was a new lady working there who asked me – I was doing my jobs but she wanted me to do her jobs as well so I do cleaning and things out the cupboard and you understand I can’t do everything and her cleaning and my work so I had to ask the boss to say to her, ‘look, I can only do what I can do’. The lady had to speak to her to tell her not to overload me with jobs when I’m already doing jobs. I’m doing her jobs when I’ve got time. She managed to tell her in the end. If you don’t speak up you’re not going to get anywhere.
- Debbie

The bus stop changed. It made me feel anxious because I did not know where to go so I have to ask the bus driver where the new stops are. This made me more confident.
- Faye

I had this carer who worked at Pelham House, which is where I live, a few years ago and honest-to God I never met such a two-faced person in my entire life. To my face he was as nice as anything but behind my back he was one of the most evil carers I’ve ever met in my life. He stole from me, stole money from me. What happened was, I was in the pub the night before and an agency carer went and stole some money from me the week beforehand. So I had a credit card back then. I was trying my best not to upset my mum because I know how much it would break my mum’s heart if she knew that some money went missing so I went to my credit card and cashed out a load of money trying to put the money back – I didn’t think at the time that was the wrong thing to do but when you’re upset, when things like that happen to you, you just don’t think at the time. But anyway, I was in the pub that night and I noticed that when the barman served me I noticed that I had some of that money leftover so I thought “I’m going up to Reading tomorrow and I’m gonna make a whole day of it” and of course this guy came in to support me the following morning. When I got to Reading, I started doing some bits of shopping and I noticed that half of the money was gone. So I went to Halifax up in Reading and this guy came from downstairs – I take it he was the manager – but he said, “Sorry, sir, there’s nothing we can do for you here. You have to go to the police and report it”, which is what I did do. I was so angry and so upset at the time, I just thought this needed to be dealt with. The woman police officer, I tell you what, she was very helpful. She wanted to know everything about this carer but I wasn’t allowed to give out any names. I don’t know exactly what happened to him next but he doesn’t work there anymore, thank Christ, and the happiest thing that happened to me was that I had a police meeting at Pelham House and I got this bell on my purse so if any carers who work there now try to steal it from me this’ll ring so that’s made me quite happy. I’ve got to admit, though, the carers I’ve got there now are very, very good. It’s all changed a hell of a lot now, that’s the good thing that’s come about from it.
- Shaun

I met Catherine in 2011 at bowling and then it took me 23 years to ask her out and finally going out as a couple now in 2015. Well, that’s my story.
- Neil


For more information about all the activities Mencap offers to people with learning disabilities, visit westberkshiremencap.org or call 01635 41464

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