Oh boy. Here I am looking back at the past year and I feel so sad at the events that have dominated it. 2014 has been the ultimate ‘time to grow up year’ for all the wrong reasons, but if I do say so I’m incredibly proud of myself for making it through because at the lowest points it seemed like all hope was lost and the days wouldn’t get better. I wouldn’t say they’re all better now, they’re just a bit easier to get through.
The year started off relatively well until February hit, and sadly it all went downhill from there. On the 1st of February, a dear friend passed away after the most courageous battle with cancer – every day I admire Hannah’s strength because not once did she let it spoil her fun. When we heard the news of her passing it cast an immediate gloom on our theatre community. Her funeral on Valentine’s Day was actually quite fitting as it meant I spent the day with friends I loved, celebrating an absolutely wonderful friend who to this day we miss so much.
Near the end of February I visited home to see my mum and Wicked while it was at Milton Keynes Theatre and oh my goodness I am so so so glad that I went home when I did, because three days after that I found out my mother had passed away. This was without a doubt the worst thing to have ever happened to me, and to this day I still have nightmares from when I found out. It’s something that will haunt me for the rest of my life I think. I don’t really need to emphasise more than most people know how much my mum was part of my life and how great a relationship we had. There’s a huge gap in my life now that she isn’t here.
Immediately I came home and was surrounded by family. Despite this being the most horrific ordeal to go through, I count my lucky stars that I had my incredible family supporting me and holding me up – without them I would not have survived throughout the months that followed. I also have to say thank you to my close friends who put up with me through the highs and lows because I was downright horrible at times when anger was the only thing I could feel aside from the sadness.
The two weeks following mum’s death are still a bit of a blur in my mind. I remember holding myself together even though everyone expected me to be a mess all the time, just trying to focus on what needed to be done. Documents needed to be found, the funeral had to be planned, I think I just went into some strange emotional lock down mode. A few days before the funeral I took a long drive down to Cornwall to see Chlöe Hart performing in her hometown. Chlöe’s been an amazing friend and inspiration especially through this year and in her concert she surprised me by singing Queen’s No One But You, knowing that my mum loved Queen and that the song meant a lot to me. Genuinely so many things have touched my heart so strongly this year, this was one of those moments. If you’re reading this Chlöe, thank you so much.
Now, there are many things that no teenager should go through, and one of those is definitely having to get through a parent’s funeral. It was definitely one of the hardest days of my life, but again I got through it thanks to my amazing friends and family who were unbelievably supportive. I’m really proud of myself still for managing to say my part in the service, that was certainly mum’s influence powering me on to not break down until right afterwards! Once the horrible part of the day was done, it was just so lovely to see a mind-blowing amount of people coming together to celebrate my mum’s life and share memories, stories and most importantly laughter about how they would always think of her. It wasn’t wholly a sad day, it was a celebration. That day was also special because I met my new niece who arrived shortly after mum passed and I immediately fell in love with her. She was the first of many new babies in the family this year!
In the months after that I returned to London and tried to figure out what I was going to do with my life now it had been turned upside down. I realised I didn’t want to be at university any more but if I didn’t go, what was I going to do instead? With the time I had left living in London I focused on just doing what made me happy, which happened to involve seeing lots of musicals (standard), and friends, and just keeping a smile on my face, god knows I deserved that. I also ended up getting a tattoo the day after Mother’s Day to keep mum with me physically in some way.
I mentioned in my blog post about 2013 that I wanted to do more with photography and try to get or make opportunities with it, and I’ve been so lucky this year in that respect. Thanks to Chlöe and Simon, in April I helped out with their band Calling London filming for their showreel; I also filmed and put together a promo video for a concert that took place in May which I also helped to film and edit – One Night Only. This was all such good fun and brilliant learning experiences which I’m really grateful for.
In June two of my best friends and I took ourselves off to Spain for a well deserved holiday which was the best little getaway. Shortly after we got back it was my birthday, and the day beforehand I drove down to Dover (my hometown) to meet up with my family and spread mum’s ashes down on the pier as it was her wish to have her ashes scattered at sea. I think a lot of people were confused as to why I’d want to do something like this near my birthday, but I wanted to make sure I did it while I was still 19 so 20 could mean a clean slate of sorts – no more horribly emotional things that I had to do myself, it was like I laid a chapter to rest. Not that I care what other people think about when I did it because that’s when I wanted to do it, and I’m glad to have had family with me to do it. Right after that I was surprised with an early birthday lunch and my sister had sneakily organised that our table in the restaurant would be decorated with balloons and decorations which really helped to put us all back in happy spirits.
I then spent my birthday being covered in silly string by my nephews (thanks boys!) and driving back up home to see Singin’ in the Rain at Milton Keynes Theatre. It’s a very special show to me as I took mum to see it as an early surprise Mother’s Day present last year, so it felt weirdly right that it happened to be in the area exactly when my birthday was. I have to admit I was really worried about my birthday this year with it being the first without mum but it was the right balance of sad nostalgia and cheer. My sister and I also visited the bench that Hagerty International (mum’s workplace, a wonderful bunch of people) have had built in memory of her by the beautiful lake where they’re located. They treated me with champagne and also made sure that I was having a good birthday, not a sombre one.
Following my birthday I then slaved away for the British Grand Prix which ended up being a good laugh as I was able to work with two of my best friends – making the most out of the longest weekend ever! The Tuesday after that, I hopped on a plane to France for the summer.
Booking a one way ticket out of the country was maybe one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. As soon as I was there I realised how much I just needed to get away from everywhere that suddenly became a huge trigger on my emotions, I needed that distance to sort my heart and head out from where they’d been pulled and stretched all over the place. It also meant I could reconnect with my dad more which I desperately needed after having felt a bit like an orphan after mum passed away.
My best friend Sabine came to stay for a while which was wonderful, and towards the end of my stay there my sister, brother-in-law and my nephews were nearby and it was great fun to spend time with them. On the 28th of August I finally took a long coach back to London, ready to restart real life feeling a bit more refreshed and together.
September was spent catching up with friends and family who I’d been miles away from over the summer and re-adjusting to England having been in a very laid back France all summer. I began looking for a job, not really in a specific field but just something to earn some pennies, though secretly I was desperately waiting for either the Royal & Derngate Theatre or Milton Keynes Theatre to say that they were hiring. Lo and behold after avidly checking their Twitter, Facebook and website every day (yes, really!) at the end of September MKT announced they were having a recruitment evening on the 3rd of October. Obviously I went along feeling quite nervous but knowing that I had to do anything I could to get a job there because it would be a dream. After a nightmare year, to finally be working in one of the areas I loved the most, sounds too good to be true right?
The next day they called to offer me a job, and for the first time this year I burst into happy tears.
Another awesome photography opportunity came along when Chlöe and Simon allowed me to join them in the studio to take photos for another of their ventures, Voicebox Productions, and again I have to say a big thank you to them for not only being there for me this year with support and advice but also for helping me grow as a photographer and giving me these opportunities, I’ll always be grateful.
Mid-October I had my training at Milton Keynes Theatre and straight away I was there working. Within a week I was ushering on my own and already absolutely loving it. Everyone there is so nice and instantly accepting you into the ranks, it’s the happiest I’ve ever been in a job so far and I know I’m lucky because not a lot of people can say that.
At the end of October I asked Michelle Pentecost, who was understudying Eva Peron in Evita at the time, if I could maybe photograph her preparing for the role, explaining that I wanted to get more experience with theatre photography and to my delight she happily let me do so! These are definitely my favourite photographs from the ones I’ve taken this year and I can’t wait to hopefully do more of it in 2015.
The weekend after that I was involved in filming and photographing Natalie Weiss who came over from America to perform in the UK, another brilliant opportunity. November was such a busy month with a couple more shoots here and there, a few musicals, a lot of working hours and collectively quite a bit of built up stress!
And finally December, the month full of pantomime, Christmas stress, illness and very little sleep. Half of me was dreading Christmas but with the help of family and friends it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I visited the pier on Christmas Day to wish mum a ‘Merry Christmas’ and let some beautiful flowers drift off into the sea. It was nice to have that peace, quiet and still, something I’ve not been able to have recently just because that’s how life is.
It felt like a really perfect moment to be on the pier, with just a few people walking by the beach with their dogs or kids riding new bicycles that they’d been given for Christmas. In the little spot where we scattered mum’s ashes I was detached from everything – it was just me and the sea. I spent Christmas with my sister and her wonderful little family, the best reminder of how lucky I am to have such a great family surrounding me.
So there it is, another year wrapped up. I know I’ve missed so much from this post, I’m finding it hard to remember everything that’s happened just because so much has happened. I’m planning on writing a little post of what goals I have for the new year so I won’t mention it a lot here, but taking the time to document the little things is definitely on my list. Even through the worst parts of my life I want to capture it somehow – I know in years to come I’ll read this and hopefully be amazed at how different life can become after the darkest times, that’s what I hope anyway!
Writing this post, I’m proud of what I’ve managed to achieve regardless of the circumstances. I know I’ve said to many people this year that if I can survive this year then I get through pretty much anything, and here I am. While many chapters have closed, lots more have only just started, and that’s what keeps me going.
Thanks for sticking with me, here’s to 2015.