January: in review

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The distance between my review of last year and this first round up of 2019 feels way more than one month apart. January has felt like a very long month but we’ve made it, and that’s something to be grateful for!

To mark the new year, I’ve given my monthly reviews a little makeover with new headers – both aesthetically and in terms of themes. At the start of 2018, my health was the dominant feature of my day to day existence, which is why it was always the first section of the blog. However, I’ve decided I don’t feel like it deserves its own section this year. I’ve come a long way with my conditions over the last twelve months, to the point where health feels like an undercurrent instead of a core theme, for which I’m unspeakably thankful.

So, here’s the first new look round up of my January – I hope you enjoy it.

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This month is the busiest I’ve had in terms of work for a very long time – where usually I try to maintain a balance with my schedule, this month I’ve packed every moment. It’s been exhausting, so I’m definitely going to revisit my balance again, but I’ve really enjoyed working on a range of different projects.

The core of my work schedule has been with Rethink, where I’ve been delivering teacher training on youth mental health, recruiting and training Young Champions, and co-producing a youth mental health conference. I’ve taken over leadership of the project since the start of the new year, so it has been demanding but I’m feeling really thrilled with how the project has been going.

Alongside Rethink, I’ve continued my work with Future First and MyKindaFuture on employability workshop delivery and content design for secondary students. I’ve also been gearing up for future work with both Brook and Inspire! Education Business Partnership. Link all this in with volunteering with Yes Futures and Action for M.E and you can see why I’ve ended the month feeling a little weary.

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As you may have gathered, life has taken a bit of a backseat to work this month (must. do. better). Most of my time outside of work has been spent resting and recovering or at health appointments (the usual!) However, I have still been working on creative projects in the background.

I’ve finally tipped over the 40,000 word mark of my novel and am getting back into the swing of a more regular practice. I’m feeling good about my goal of finishing the first draft by my birthday in June which is an exciting (if also somehow nerve-wracking) prospect.

I’ve also been lucky enough to see a long talked about idea turn into a reality. You may have read me singing the praises of Write Like a Grrrl – writing courses that empower female writers – in previous blogs. In January we launched the pilot of the programme designed especially for 14-25s. We’ve partnered with the brilliant charity Arts Emergency, who have helped us to find some wonderful participants and connected us with Faber & Faber who have been kind enough to host. I feel like a very lucky grrrl. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be testing out the model in the hope we can roll it out wider as the year goes on. Watch this space!

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The largest blinking dot on my horizon in February is the mental health conference I’m organising for Rethink, in partnership with young champions. We have five schools attending, some incredible workshop options and a truly inspiring team of young people at the helm. Event planning is always stressful but I’m feeling incredibly excited too.

February will also mark the end of my time as a coach with Yes Futures. Next weekend I’m going with my school group, as well as several others on the programme, for a weekend residential before our final coaching session. It has gone incredibly quickly but it has been a brilliant experience. The team are currently looking for new coaches for their summer programme so be sure to look them up if you’re interested in taking part.

Finally, I’m excited to continue with my writing, Write Like a Grrrl: ROAR and I also have an embroidery workshop booked to try out some new skills.

Wish me luck and I’ll see you on the other side to tell you all about it.

December: in review

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I’m writing this month’s round up a little earlier than usual, which I suppose could be seen as cheating but I thought that this time round, as I’ll be posting a review of the whole year on the 31st, it only made sense to space them out a little.

December is always a funny month for me with a myriad of emotions. It always begins with a touch of sadness, as early December was when my mum died. I’ve never been one to make a big deal of the anniversary but it has a tendency to take hold of my heart for a good few days even so. That aside, I don’t know about all of you but I also find it much harder to feel festive in general these days. There’s something about the lack of end of term feeling, the pressure of gift buying and trying to be ready for everything the holiday season holds (let’s be honest – it’s not a glossy, insta-perfect dream for most of us, is it?). This year I struggled to rouse the Christmas spirit, as I’ve been battling a little bit with burnout, but I’ve tried to make the most of festive plans all the same. Here are the contents of my mixed bag of a month.


After a couple of months of balance things slipped a little in December. I’ve definitely been feeling stretched and that has taken a toll on my health – both with my usual symptoms flaring and finally succumbing to a cold (the very evening I finished work for Christmas, no less).

That said, I managed to crawl over the finish line of my 2018 commitments and have been rewarded with a much needed fortnight off, so I’m pretty proud of how I’ve coped with not just this month but this year as a whole. I’m hoping that some rest and TLC over my time off will help me to bounce back into better form in 2019 because, I’m telling you now, I have a hell of a lot of plans.


December has been pretty jam packed with work, from my project with Rethink Mental Illness and facilitation work with Future First and The Mix, to securing a brand new client.

I spent my last working day of the year with MyKindaFuture, a social enterprise focused on designing and running employability programmes with companies and schools across the UK. My role with them is different to what you might expect, though –  I’m not the one running the workshops this time but the one designing the content. It felt really nice to get back into a workshop development headspace – I’ve always been a bit nerdy when it comes to creating resources and get a kick out of designing engaging learning experiences. It must be the former teacher in me, I suppose! I’m looking forward to spending more time with them in January, stretching my creative muscles to create interactive sessions for their corporate clients.


My social life has definitely taken a hit this month, as the combination of chronic illness, burnout and a heavy workload aren’t the best of friends. However, I’ve managed to enjoy some lovely moments with friends and loved ones. From festive film nights and lunches to a second trip to see part one of The Inheritance, the build up to Christmas had a good few magic moments.

Christmas itself was quiet overall, spent at my Dad’s house in Buckinghamshire. It was nice spending time with my sister and sharing some rather indulgent meals (including Christmas lunch which sent me off for a two hour nap!) This year I asked for gifts that would help me move forward into 2019 positively – arts supplies, places on creative workshops and some new reading material.

For the final few days of the year I’m dog sitting, resting, writing and spending time with some of my favourite people. I hope you all have a wonderful end of the year and I’ll see you on the other side.

On gender and leadership


Last week I attended the ‘Gender Equality Symposium on Leadership and Opportunity for Young Women’, hosted by the University of Exeter and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Alongside sharing initial findings from the hosts’ joint research project, the event proposed to act as a platform for knowledge exchange and to facilitate new partnership opportunities.

The day offered a broad array of perspectives from a range of different organisations working to support young women, who shared their experiences of empowering girls and their views on the challenges we face in tackling gender inequality. It provided a great deal of food for thought for my own journey with the Teach First Innovation Series.

I’m so grateful the event organisers made it free to attend, so that I could learn from all of the incredible speakers at no cost. So, in the spirit of sharing, I thought I would pull together my key reflections from the day.

1. Education needs to come with action

One of the organisations showcased, Fearless Futures, highlighted that educating young women on inequality is only a small part of the equation. We need to ensure that we consider the challenges young women face in depth to understand not only those individual issues but also the root causes as it’s those we need to tackle if we want to achieve sustainable and significant change. For example, working with young women on body image and self esteem can only go so far if media portrayals and commentaries about women and beauty remain the same.

All too often we work with a deficit model, putting responsibility on girls’ shoulders to “be more”, but the onus shouldn’t be on girls to “improve” themselves. It’s not that girls are lacking in ability or qualities – it’s that they are reduced by society to be seen and treated as lesser than. As such, interventions with young people must focus on recognising, amplifying and nurturing their existing strengths, rather than equipping with something they’re “missing”.

However, education on its own is a sticking plaster – not a solution. Which leads me to my second point…

2. Empower girls to be the solution

We need to do more to enable girls to become changemakers in this space – I firmly believe we should take on the role of facilitators for their leadership rather than leading change on young women’s behalf. If we shut young people out, we are reducing them as well. They are experts by experience and are the best equipped to advocate for the differences they need and want to see. If we can equip them to challenge the status quo, developing a new generation of compassionate, critical thinkers and activists, we are much more likely to see a shift. Not to mention the positive impact of social action on young people’s confidence and wellbeing.

If you won’t take my word for it, this was one of the key suggestions made by young women in the University of Exeter and WAGGGS research. I told you girls know best.

3. We need to consider the journey of leadership development for young women

During the event it became clear that there seems to be a gap in early intervention. Many interventions appear to begin during teenage years, when many gender stereotypes have already been internalised. For example, the majority of girls surveyed by the University of Exeter believed they would need to work harder than boys to achieve the same things. What would the difference be if these issues were tackled from an earlier age?

The research conducted by the University of Exeter also highlighted that girls are least confident in their leadership abilities during transition points, such as moving between school and university or from education into work. Now it may be my #iwill campaign hat slipping back on, where developing a journey of social action from a young age is a key aim in order to establish a habit of participation, but it struck me that a journey of leadership and empowerment for girls could make a world of difference. Particularly considering the research discussed in my previous blog, that showed young women’s experiences of the world and self confidence get steadily worse as they grow up.

4. There is no one-size-fits-all approach

“There is no such thing as a single – issue struggle because we do not lead single – issue lives.” – Audre Lorde

Although the day’s discussions grouped girls together into a general whole, we were reminded that we must keep intersectionality in mind. It’s vital to recognise that a range of other aspects of girls’ lives will affect their experiences of the world and the support they need as a result. So, how can we make sure that programmes and initiatives are accessible and inclusive so that no one is left behind?

It isn’t a question I have the answer to, but this point really resonated with me, not only because I have worked with young people from a broad range of backgrounds over the last twelve years, but also because I know factors such as disability strongly influenced my perspective of who I was able to be as a young woman. During my teenage years, many of the interventions I heard about at the event would have been inaccessible to me and wouldn’t have chimed with who or where I was in my life.

Along with the above, it’s an integral thought that I will be taking with me into the Innovation Series, which I’m looking forward to beginning officially today. 

(Edit: since this blog was first posted, I have chosen to withdraw from the Innovation Series, but am continuing to consider what I can do to make a difference.)