Jacqui, 26th June

The date on this mail is a bit erroneous, as I have been pondering this for a long long time. When I conceived of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ it was all about sharing positive stories. The people and communities we work with are so often misrepresented, and society as a whole can be both fractured and judgmental, simple happy stories were all we wanted to tell!

As time went on, and Dave and I started to look at who we wanted to work with, it became unavoidable for me that I wanted to work with X and H, and that work would in some way be about domestic violence. I had to examine the reasons why I had wanted to resist this – a cliche? I kept telling myself that I wanted to focus on the positive, the fact that these women – and all the others I have met through domestic violence projects – are strong, bright and with loads going for them, and in no way the shrinking violet or screaming fishwife media stereotypes perpetuate.

What I eventually had to admit to myself was that the reason I was resisting domestic violence being the subject matter, was because I too had to do what I was asking them to do and open my doors. Which meant, amongst other things, acknowledging my own experience of domestic violence, and not only that, the things in my past that may have contributed to this happening to me.

The reasons I had resisted this for so long are many and various – but I think first and foremost it is shame and embarrassment. I don’t want to be defined by this. I don’t want my professional contacts and peers to know. I don’t want to expose my husband and children to something I have gladly left way in the past. And – despite this blog – my days of exposing myself warts and all ended 20 years ago. Yet if I’m not prepared to do this myself, how can I ask it of others?

 When I met with H and X, for the first time I offered a brief description of my own experiences. I doubt either were that surprised, after all this happens to 1 in 3 of us, so why so secretive? All the reasons above and more. What both X and H were interested in is how far down it is buried – it is now something I don’t talk about, or if I do, dispassionately as if it had happened to someone else. To both of them I was able to say, because I was lucky, despite desperately wanting children, I was aware that neither of these men would make good fathers, and because it was just me I was able to get out, and despite hitting rock bottom, able to pull myself back up again and escape.

What I can’t imagine for both H & X and the 1,000’s of women with children who like them who have actually been strong enough to survive a domestic violence situation and get out, is how they cope with having to see their abuser week in week out. I pride myself on being strong, but their strength is phenomenal

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Zach, 25th June

Zach Nicholas – The Man Behind The Madness

 The person you see is just an illusion, designed to shield the real me from the world.

 When I’m alone I can be myself, something I can never be around certain people, but then guess that’s why I am different around people in general. When I’m alone I do sing, talk to myself and think of brand new ideas but people don’t know the other things I do when I’m alone or what I actually think about when I’m with friends. I think about the bad things I’ve done and I tend to literally beat myself up about it, I also have fears, we all do, my fears consist of wondering if I’m ever going to make it big as an actor, my dream job and the only other fear I have is the oncoming death.

 I want people to see what I go through and understand why I’m a tad insane, although sometimes I try to sell crazy when I wear my mask, the things I’ve seen and gone through have drove me crazy and my mind cannot keep everything thing inside and that’s why I have outbursts of anger, insanity and even happiness.

 Having an actor brain makes me want to make my own movies and I have done and I currently have 5 movie ideas in the pipeline but I am struggling to put the first one together, I wish I could get my stars together to create middle of the story as I already know the beginning and end of the movie and the beginning and end are always the easy parts for me, it’s just the filling between the bread that I can’t decide and like most decisions I need help to make a decision.

 In time you will start to see the real me and you will see that I’m not this extreme person, that I do have a sub-conscious of fears, worries and problems and my conscious will always reflect that, I’ve done bad things that I regret, I want to certain bad things but I fight the urge and all the good things I’m looking forward to, everything tends to alter my psyche in a numerous of ways.

I hope that can give you a look into my mind and how I walk this world.

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Jacqui, 24th June

Just found out that Caitlin Moran will be at the Literature Festival. Would be wonderful if she could visit BCD. In the meantime:

For Laura, Hulya, Gillian – beware the quiet boys – and celebrate being nice!


My posthumous advice for my daughter

WRITTEN BY Caitlin Moran

Published at 12:11PM, July 13 2013

The Times

‘Nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit’

My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to get out – I’ve thought about writing her one of those “Now I’m Dead, Here’s My Letter Of Advice For You To Consult As You Continue Your Now Motherless Life” letters. Here’s the first draft. Might tweak it a bit later. When I’ve had another fag.

“Dear Lizzie. Hello, it’s Mummy. I’m dead. Sorry about that. I hope the funeral was good – did Daddy play Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen when my coffin went into the cremator? I hope everyone sang along and did air guitar, as I stipulated. And wore the stick-on Freddie Mercury moustaches, as I ordered in the ‘My Funeral Plan’ document that’s been pinned on the fridge since 2008, when I had that extremely self-pitying cold.

“Look – here are a couple of things I’ve learnt on the way that you might find useful in the coming years. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. Also, I’ve left you loads of life-insurance money – so go hog wild on eBay on those second-hand vintage dresses you like. You have always looked beautiful in them. You have always looked beautiful.

“The main thing is just to try to be nice. You already are – so lovely I burst, darling – and so I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’, ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’.

“Second, always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’d be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two. Get a big biscuit tin.

“Three – always pick up worms off the pavement and put them on the grass. They’re having a bad day, and they’re good for… the earth or something (ask Daddy more about this; am a bit sketchy).

“Four: choose your friends because you feel most like yourself around them, because the jokes are easy and you feel like you’re in your best outfit when you’re with them, even though you’re just in a T-shirt. Never love someone whom you think you need to mend – or who makes you feel like you should be mended. There are boys out there who look for shining girls; they will stand next to you and say quiet things in your ear that only you can hear and that will slowly drain the joy out of your heart. The books about vampires are true, baby. Drive a stake through their hearts and run away.

“Stay at peace with your body. While it’s healthy, never think of it as a problem or a failure. Pat your legs occasionally and thank them for being able to run. Put your hands on your belly and enjoy how soft and warm you are – marvel over the world turning over within, the brilliant meat clockwork, as I did when you were inside me and I dreamt of you every night.

“Whenever you can’t think of something to say in a conversation, ask people questions instead. Even if you’re next to a man who collects pre-Seventies screws and bolts, you will probably never have another opportunity to find out so much about pre-Seventies screws and bolts, and you never know when it will be useful.

“This segues into the next tip: life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES. However awful, you can get through any experience if you imagine yourself, in the future, telling your friends about it as they scream, with increasing disbelief, ‘NO! NO!’ Even when Jesus was on the cross, I bet He was thinking, ‘When I rise in three days, the disciples aren’t going to believe this when I tell them about it.’

“Babyiest, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world – even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and coordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes, talk to Daddy and Nancy about me every day and never, ever start smoking. It’s like buying a fun baby dragon that will grow and eventually burn down your f***ing house.

“Love, Mummy.”

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Claire, 23rd June

I love it Laura !

I think maybe we talk about ‘play’ for children… There’s also lots of scope for exploring ideas around childhood and maybe what that’s means.

On my visit I was struck by the baby toy that you had as a child and that was now being used by Keegan ( not sure I’ve spelled that right ? ). You also mentioned that you keep safe treasured mementoes of your children’s lives. I’ve thought about how the passing down of objects, memories can create a narrative/story of our lives.

( your sharing of the fairy tale of the queen that didn’t need to kiss a frog to make everything happy ever after…made me smile, and think that each of our stories follow different paths and have different moments and endings that shape us. The choices and circumstances of our lives are so varied )

Other things that I’ve thought about is when you said that you don’t have any images of the children all together and you would like some .. This made me wonder about, if we could actually make this happen …

Would it be of them playing ?

Could we dress up ?

Should it be serious / fun / formal ?

What aspect of your children would you like to capture ? I haven’t met Katie yet but they all seem quite wonderfully distinct

Would you be in it too ?

Would you be behind the lens ?

I think it’s good to ask questions of why ? So many family portraits are posed and composed…

I’m not completely clear how this process, the conversations we have, and the work we want to make will evolve, and if I’m honest I’m apprehensive and excited in equal measure …

It’s a real honour to be welcomed into your home..

I guess it’s up to us to shape what it will be…what we make, create and discover

maybe it’ll be good to communicate with each other any ideas / thoughts / sketches / writing / photos / links to things that we think might be of interest to each other ..

 On that note of sharing … Could you send me an image of the yellow baby toy ?

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Jacqui, 19th June

H and I have worked with each other for the last 3 years and now know each other well. I have been there as she extracted herself and her daughter from a destructive and manipulative relationship and admired her strength as she built them both a new life, coping alone despite an ongoing disabling knee condition and living 2 floors up.

Soon and unexpectedly a new partner and pregnancy followed, and H is now proud mother of two beautiful children, Bewilderingly for her, despite being more supported than she has ever been in her life by her new partner and his family, she is struggling emotionally. When we meet today she is in tears, and, as with X, all thoughts of discussing BCD go out the window. Not for the first time the thought crosses my head that we run the risk of trivialising all that these strong, bright, amazing woman are going through.

Yet as we carry on talking, the parallels, mutual understanding and mutual desire to expose and challenge this reality that so many incredible women and families are experiencing, breaks through. As we talk, I see H’s shoulders that were rigid when I arrived, start to relax, and she is enthused, excited and passionate about the project.

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David, 18th June

For me, choosing Zach to work with was a no brainer. I’ve worked with him many times before and know his strengths and weaknesses. But despite this familiarity Zach is still a challenge for me to work with – in a good way! His brain works very quickly, there is no resting when you are with him. When we are both on form ideas flow at such a pace that we really need someone taking notes! After a session I have to remind myself of the artist and participant roles as when we are at work, it feels more like two friends collaborating.

Although we know each other well I do still find Zach to be a bit of an enigma, and I know others do too. Perfect for the BCD project. I also know he is unafraid of the free and open ended artistic process that so many other participants find challenging. Perfect for BCD. Zach will always give 100% and pulls everyone along with his enthusiasm. Again, Zach is perfect for BCD.

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Zach, 18th June

Opening The Door

 ‘Behind Closed Doors’ is going to help me a lot and help the other subjects as well.

 To me behind closed doors is a chance for me to show people how I live, how I feel and what really goes on in my head.

 I’ve worked with Creative Solutions before, so I know how they like to do things and they know what I’m capable of and I am glad I’m working with them again, something great always comes from Creative Solutions and when I work with them that only makes it greater.

 I can’t wait to get this bandwagon rolling and I am anxious (in a good way) to see how this project will turn out, I heard some great things from the other subjects and I can’t wait to step through their door and I welcome them to step through mine.

 I’ll talk again when we get a step further to using the key to see BEHIND CLOSED DOORS!!!

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Jacqui, 13th June – 1st mtg with X

I met with X today to discuss the potential of her being involved in this project. X is a hugely intelligent and articulate young woman, who I originally met through the Your Futures project. It has taken us many false starts to try and meet up, as X is literally going through hell due to custody and court issues with her ex. When I meet her on the Square, it is so she has some company when handing over her daughter for a two hour visit, after which we go and talk.

One of main, horrific, aspects  about domestic violence that is not covered in the media or elsewhere, is that women with children have to maintain regular contact with their abuser. The impact of domestic violence on children in all senses is way too big to even start to touch upon in a blog , I/ we are not ignoring it, but for BCD we just want to talk about the women – to use X and H’s word’s, these awesome, beautiful, strong and amazing women who somehow have all their confidence, pride and beauty sucked out of them – yet in the case of all 3 of us find the inner strength from somewhere to break free.

When I look at H & X, I see incredibly strong survivors, creative, inspiring, and intelligent young women with a huge amount to give. How can that be reconciled with what they have been through – and how they are portrayed.

Lots of what X said to me that evening will stay with me a long time. As far as us co-creating an artwork for BCD, there are a few key starting points:

We need to create a safe place to meet and talk, without children or partners.

X talked about the women on the Phoenix project, how long it took them to open up, how they all appear normal outside, but ‘crying rivers of blood inside’

Things she did while with her ex ‘how did I become that small?’

Dancing to express herself – X would be happy to set up a camera to record her doing this

The importance of location for our artwork – although it could be sited in H or X’s flats, showing work referencing domestic violence in social housing just perpetuates another myth. We may look into the potential of siting the work in an affluent home, and discussed how we might identify someone willing to do this.

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Laura, 11th June ( from Facebook)

Once upon a time there was an unmarried princess who ruled her land wisely and we’ll. she made the laws collected the taxes and was loved by everyone! One day she was sitting by her lake when a frog hopped out, ‘hello princess I am not really a frog, I am a handsome prince, if u kiss me I will regain my human handsome form and marry you. You can have my children care for them, I would like 8, you can wash my clothes and cook my meals you can keep the palace clean and tidy I will take over as ruler and enforcer I will be king I will collect taxes and keep all the money. Of course I will give you generous allowance for household expenses’

Later on that night whilst eating her dinner she suddenly thought to herself, I don’t fucking think so, I do fine on my own and no man will put me down or take over my life!

I read this earlier and just found it so true, although most of us would of kissed the frog .

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