Imagine If

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You Forgot the Mince has finally come to an end (for now anyway) …

Over the past three years I have written, re-written and re-bloody-written my first full length play: ‘You Forgot the Mince’. I have never felt as scared as I did when I first sent this script out, although I’ve been writing for six years I struggled with the pressure of sharing my words on such a big scale. I’ve been on a long and at times, difficult journey over these past three years which has helped me grow as an artist and as a person. I’ve sat with victims of abuse and felt their pain, I’ve listened to perpetrators of abuse and felt their shame. I’ve written funding bids until four in the morning and I’ve left R&D’s crying thinking I can’t even write. I put my acting career on hold, I lived in various hostels and I repeatedly got told to ‘lower my ambition’. Thank f**k I didn’t listen to those people 😊

This phrase rings true for me: ‘No mud, no lotus’. A lotus flower can only grow in muddy waters and I like to think this represents my artistic and personal journey over the past three years; you have to spend time in the dark, not able to see the light and keep going in order to grow into a thing of beauty. Maybe I’m talking bollocks, maybe I’m not. The late Carrie Fisher sums it up beautifully for me: ‘Take your broken heart and make it into art’ . That’s pretty much what I did. But I made damn sure this play wasn’t just an egotistical piece of work or to gain success or status. I didn’t want to just tell my story but I wanted to tell everyone’s story who have been in love and who have been hurt. I worked myself to the bone to make sure there was an active change off the back of the play. I have worked with over 500 prisoners in total over the past three years, where the majority have physically or emotionally abused their partners. From controlling where they go to breaking their necks, I have worked with prisoners far and wide to inspire change and get to the root of the problem. A lot of people ask me why I do this, I try to explain that we are all people. We all make mistakes. And by ignoring a problem and not helping rehabilitate these men and women, we are enabling that problem to continue. These prisoners will all be released one day and if I can do my little bit to help them express themselves through watching ‘You Forgot the Mince’ or performing with us or devising a script themselves then I have given them hope. Hope to change. Hope to seek help for their issues. Hope to not repeat their pattern of abusive behaviour. I listened to their stories and devised drama workshops to help improve their confidence and communication skills and I made sure I took the play directly to them and not just to big theatres.

I’ve worked with and met hundreds of people over the last few years who have all played their role in the incredible success of ‘You Forgot the Mince’. So, I wanted to take the time to say a few thankyous…

Thank you to every single trust, foundation, charity and funding body that has financially supported the work of ‘You Forgot the Mince’. Your application forms and evaluations nearly kill me, but I am so grateful that you chose to fund it.

To the following people who have helped me with my research into domestic abuse: Pete Robinson and Lori Wiles from BRAVE, Alison Spink from HMP Leeds, Jane Thoy from Behind Closed Doors, the support workers at Women’s Aid, the staff at West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Centre and those who cannot be named to protect their identity. I am forever grateful to you.

To Mark. Thank you for the advice, the questions and the wine. You made it so much easier for me to be a real writer and didn’t use any of the fancy words half the industry use that I don’t understand. A boy from Beeston made the perfect dramaturg for a girl from Castleford.

Thank you to the lovely artists that helped me shape the play through research & developments: John Mulleady, Zodwa Nyoni, Matt Mills, Fiz Marcus, Michael White, Chris Yorke, Kate Radford and Charlotte Fox. I miss you all!

I want to thank Deborah for believing in me, being so supportive, lovely and down to bloody earth. (If I die you are taking over Imagine If).

Thank you to Stephen Whitson, my director during the 2016 pilot tour as well as the 2017 national tour. Thank you for being so caring and kind and carrying mattresses and tables across London for me. For taking your time with us and really believing in the play.

To Errol & Davina, thank you for telling me to shut up and let the movement take over my body. I needed that. Thank you for pushing me harder each time and teaching me to focus, hold my core and remind me of the strength I have. Thank you for directing the movement throughout both tours, you both amaze me.

I want to thank Julie for keeping me on my toes and being my pretend Grandma and for being one of the most ridiculous people I’ve ever met. Keep being ridiculous Julie.

I want to thank Ashley for teaching me how to laugh again and for repeatedly telling me to just be me. Thank you so much for making sure I got home ok and seeing past my insecurities, which at times, were certifiably insane.

Ursula, thank you for the hundreds of crosswords we’ve played together, if I ever need to know what four across is, it will be you I come to. Thank you for making me laugh on and off stage.

Prince, thank you for teaching me about focus. We all know I have little of that and not much of a filter, but you taught me how to focus and let go. Thanks for all the bruises and the hilarious onstage cover ups.

For Sophie, Andie, Tess and Sabina – you stage manager’s definitely know how to drink! And you always keep me nice and calm during the stressfulness of touring! What would I have done without you ladies?

For all the designers that have worked on the show, Kelli, Emma, Ed, Rebecca and Zia – well bloody done!!

Thank you to our lovely PR Consultants – Chloe Nelkin and Alison Duguid. And our graphic designers, Split Design and Rebecca Pitt.

Thank you to Tamsin for being my little ball of energy and making my job as Artistic Director so much easier.

My administrators, Rachel and Sue, thanks for being my sounding board in the office.

My wonderful volunteer placement student, Kathrine, thank you for making sure I always knew what time it was, I never actually set fire to the office and for listening to me being crazy stressful and not even battering an eyelid. I needed that.

Thank you to my Aunty Alison for coming in and helping me with my accounts when I had no one else to do it and no money left, you are amazing!

I want to thank my Grandma for always being my light, my heart, my soul. My Grandma told everyone I had written a play about her as I named one of the characters after her (the play wasn’t about her but I let her believe it). My Grandma was my ultimate soul mate, my beauty and grace and I don’t go a single day without thinking about you. I will love you forever and can’t wait to see you again.

I want to thank my Grandad for keeping my Wednesday nights beautiful. You calm me down more than anyone else can and you are the strongest person I know. I wish your eyes could let you see what I do, I think you would be proud.

Thank you to Hannah at the Arts Council for being a constant support of my work and for letting me have my little rants to you.

I want to thank Taj for keeping me alive and helping me howl with laughter through all the pain.

Imelda & Rich – my now London ‘mum and dad’. Thank you for the support during the tour and for letting me crash with you guys and for feeding and watering me. I am blessed to have met you both.

Thank you to every single prisoner that came to see ‘You Forgot the Mince’ and participated in the workshop with us, your braveness is second to none.

Thank you to The New Bradford Playhouse for supporting me in my first ever research and development stage with ‘You Forgot the Mince’. Thank you to Slung Low for hosting me for my second R&D.

Thank you to The Civic (Barnsley), CAST (Doncaster), Theatre in the Mill (Bradford), Square Chapel (Halifax), Hope Mill Theatre (Manchester) and Carriageworks Theatre (Leeds) for supporting Imagine If with our pilot tour of You Forgot the Mince.

Thank you to The Pleasance (Edinburgh), The Courtyard Theatre (London), Hope Mill Theatre (Manchester), MAC (Birmingham), Castle Theatre (Wellingborough), Shoebox Theatre (Swindon) and Interplay Theatre (Leeds) for supporting our national tour of You Forgot the Mince.

Without theatres investing in emerging writers and companies, the play would have never been seen by the public, so thank you all for programming us and for all your support.

Thank you to the following prisons for being so supportive of Imagine Ifs work and dealing with a bunch of crazy artists: HMP Leeds, HMP Wealstun, HMP Doncaster, HMP Peterborough, HMP Durham, HMP Lindholme, HMP Moorland, HMP Downview, HMP Onley, HMP Holme House. Your prison staff have been incredible to work with and helped us sort the mountain of logistics to make sure this project could happen.

Thank you to the random audience member who travelled 200 miles to see the show. I felt like I had made it when you told me that.

Thank you to Sir Ian Mckellen for supporting me, never in a million years would I have believed a legend like yourself would support someone like me. I have your letter framed in my office and will continue to use this anecdote at family parties to keep them from asking me the notorious artists questions of ‘How do you earn a living?’ ‘When are you going to be on TV?’ so thanks for that Sir Ian.

A huge thank you to my mum (who doubles as my dad too) who is my biggest fan. To my mum, who has helped me carry furniture up flights of stairs, driven vans for me, batch cooked me twenty meals in Tupperware when I got my first office so I wouldn’t starve when I set Imagine If up. To my mum, who has bought me flowers for every single show I have been in since I was five years old. To my mum, who doesn’t question any of my life choices but texts me saying “go girl” no matter how crazy the life choice I’ve made is. To my mum, who once made a ten-pound donation to Imagine If and couldn’t figure out how to stop it so has now made £140 worth of donations to us (Cheers mama!) To my mum, who excitedly showed the petrol station cashier my picture in the newspaper and said “That’s my daughter!”. To my mum, thanks for believing in me all this time.

Thank you to: West Yorkshire Playhouse for supporting me on Summer Sublets, Tempus Novo for your insight, Safe Ground for training me in delivering courses in prisons, Cardboard Citizens, Clean Break and National Offender Management Service for the help with my research. Venues North for providing me with a platform, BBC for the opportunities you have given me as a writer, all the reviewers and newspapers that featured the show, the journalists who took the time to come and watch the show and share its truth with the world. Thanks to Iain Bloomfield for the advice, Clare Clarkson for the nomination and Livvy for letting me crash with you.

To my trustees past and present, John Wright, Emma Golding, Felicity Elder, Ruth Fawcett, Andrew Salthouse and Susan Burns – thanks for putting up with me and for your incredible guidance for Imagine If.

Thank you to my incredible agent, Sally Hope Associates, who have been so supportive of my work over the past year. I’ll be much more available now for auditions, I promise 😉

To every single one of my friends and family who have bought a ticket for the ‘You Forgot the Mince’. Thank you for being there.

To every single audience member who watched the play, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you sincerely.

And finally, thank you to the women who have shown me strength over and over again. To the women who have reached out to me and expressed their stories of abuse. You are the bravest people I know. To the women that have nodded along with me in the Q&A’s, the women who have looked at me like they are looking in a mirror, the women who have left during a performance as the story is just too close to home for you, I feel your pain. I see your strength. I honour your fight.

You Forgot the Mince…over and out.

Until I meet any of you again, THANK YOU

Love & light, Chesca xxx

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