Emily is a writer, performer and arts facilitator, working in schools, community centres and adult education. She is an award-winning poet and has won competitions for her scriptwriting, animations, and illustrations. She enjoys collaborating with other artists (e.g. she recently toured with harpist Delyth Jenkins) and finding ways to make her ideas accessible.
She originally trained as a social anthropologist. This foundational interest in people, social systems and the way we interact with our world continues to inform all her work. She worked for 14 years in London and overseas (including Iraq and Gambia) before moving to Wales in 1997 for a lecturer post at Swansea University. She settled in Tairgwaith, a small mining village at the foot of the Brecon Beacons where she and her partner co-founded a community energy charity Awel Aman Tawe.
Her poetry is published by Seren Books and she has been writer in residence at many diverse events e.g. Span Arts Festival of Dying, Dylan Thomas Centenary travelling writing shed, IKEA, several EU conferences on Climate Change amongst others. She worked for Women’s Arts Association for 2 years, and ran a programme of Arts and Climate Change projects for 4 years.
She has worked as a creative writer in over 100 schools (from nursery to year 13), ran the Neath Port Talbot Young Writers Squad for 4 years and has led many writing courses for adults eg at Ty Newydd, and in the community, eg a recent Stories of Change multi-university creative writing project.
She has done several long-distance walks to inform her work, e.g. walking the length of Manhattan picking up a piece of litter from every street to create a long found poem; and walking across Wales asking every person she met 3 questions about climate change. She co-founded Peacock Vein ScriptShop in 2004, a forum for scriptwriters, and continues to co-host the monthly Script café in Pontardawe Arts Centre. She produces collaborative plays and has had several of her own plays produced locally eg: Dylan Thomas, Dylan Who?, Sitting it out in Merthyr and Buoy.
She is a committed Welsh learner, and won the Chair last year at the south Wales Learners Eisteddfod. She has two daughters, and keeps bees.
As a published poet, how did you make the move into script writing?
I’ve always loved dialogue. I love listening to people, the way they talk, their turns of phrases. I’m interested in the way people interact, the spaces between them, what they say and what they hide. I have used dialogue in my poetry since I began writing, and have produced many verbatim poems. So the shift to writing scripts wasn’t a hard one. But what I have concentrated on in creating Cracked is how to put more of my approach to poetry into my process of scriptwriting. I started with a series of poems which included “the Surgical Removal of the Voice” These poems led the play in a fundamentally different way to how I’ve written scripts before – primarily through metaphor.
What made you write Cracked?
Aged 9, I wrote a story called The Very Lonely Man. In this, the lonely man’s desperate search for friends leads him to be publicly shamed. The story continued to resonate with me all my life and, in a sense, Cracked is a reworking of The Very Lonely Man.
I’m interested in the subconscious motivations for our actions; how childhood trauma can profoundly influence us even in adulthood, often without us being conscious of it. I know from my own experience, as well as from research, that our inner critic can be a huge obstacle to a happy and fulfilling life. From my creative work in schools, I find many pupils suffering from an overactive inner critic. I wanted to create a piece – for both young people and adults – that explored ‘the life of an inner critic’; something that could trigger a discussion on how we can respond to the negative voices inside our minds.
Another big influence on Cracked were 2 teachers who supported me at a difficult time at school. One of them used to invite me (+ 3 others) to her house during the holidays. This would be totally unacceptable now. Another supported me in school every Wednesday on an informal one to one basis. This play is partly a tribute to them.
Can you tell us little about the development process? How the idea of Cavelle has ultimately become the touring play Cracked?
Cracked has been through many incarnations. It originally began as a piece for the Pontardawe Arts Centre Script slam, and then I was selected for the Chrysalis programme through which I received support to develop it. Louise Osborn, as dramaturg, directed the process of helping me explore, with actors, the issues I’m interested in. We examined together the concept of the inner critic and the storyline of Mick and Stewart. I was particularly keen to see how Cavelle (Mick’s inner critic) could be manifested on stage. I was really lucky to work with Louise and a team of great actors in two R&D processes over two years. We shared the play at various stages with live audiences selected specially for feedback on the issues raised and the script has been through a great pile of revisions until finally, I feel it has gelled into the play I wanted it to be.
Why do you think Cracked is important?
‘Voices’ inside the mind are part of the human condition. They help us to make decisions, to understand situations and to comfort ourselves. But sometimes and for some people they can be more negative than positive. Sometimes the inner critic can be crippling and can lead to anxiety, fear and depression. Yet in spite of the universality of it, and the similarity of our inner critics’ messages, we barely talk about it. I would like the play to stimulate discussion about this very real phenomenon, discussion that can lead to practical ways of diffusing the power of the critical voice.
I also think it’s important to consider the storyline of Mick and Stewart. How can we support vulnerable young people in schools without compromising the need for child protection. While the play doesn’t come up with answers to this, it raises the question of what point Mick crossed the line and how he could have managed his support for Stewart in another way.
Who do you think will enjoy the play?
From the sharings we have held during the development of the piece, it received very positive feedback. Young people, parents, youth workers, teachers, therapists as well as a general drama audience enjoyed it.
With a cast of 5, an exciting set, puppetry and live music, I feel this play will be enjoyable and thought provoking to a wide audience of adults and young people.
You can see all of the tour dates at the link below