Writing has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. After losing Sam, I found solace and respite in my writing, producing many children’s stories and books. It gave me an outlet for my now purposeless maternal instincts, and it gave me an escape from the grief and emotional pain.
During 3 years counselling with Hope House Hospice in North Wales, following Sam and then losing her siblings too, my incredible Counsellor, Jane, read through some of my children’s stories, and also the diary I had written for Sam and suggested on a number of occasions that, as a writer, it would be fantastic if one day, when I was ready, I could put our story on paper, as it may help other parents. This was something I never thought I would be able to do, but I did.
The writing of Dancing in the Wings commenced in November 2018, following my final miscarriage in January 2018.
Encouraged by Jane, I made the decision to tackle my reclusive life, and try and find a life I could accept, with my greatest dream of being a Mum now gone. I challenged myself to find the courage to re-enter the human race, and did this through my former passion of theatre.
Following a reluctant stage performance with Suitcase Theatre at Theatr Clwyd, I finally found the confidence, strength and support to start writing our story. Suitcase Theatre agreed to produce the play, and we had go.
With much support and 5 re-writes, Dancing in the Wings was introduced to the world in July 2019 at a Launch Forum for prospective actors, members of Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board and other interested parties.
With a Director appointed in Christine Dukes, auditions took place in September 2019 (that was much harder than I thought!…Like literally handing over your baby to complete strangers).
The world had another brief excerpt viewing at The Butterfly Awards in Warwickshire in October 2019, when I was asked to speak about my own experiences and the play. The Butterfly Awards came about as a result of a social media introduction to football legend Neville Southall MBE, former Wales and Everton goalkeeper and his Twitter takeovers, at that time focussing on Baby Loss.
From October 2019 onwards, every minute of my free time was taken up with fundraising to ensure we could actually get this play to the stage and promoting the performances.
November saw the start of rehearsals, and with great self-restraint, I let the team get on with it.
Fundraising was incredibly tough and I was very grateful for the ongoing support from Neville Southall. Following a rollercoaster ride and a cut back in the tour, we finally achieved our funding, with considerable help from Unison Cymru, and also personal donations through Twitter.
So in February 2020, Dancing in the Wings opened at Theatr Clwyd. My aims for the play were to raise awareness, understanding and support for anyone affected by baby loss through our story as well as raising some funds for Hope House Hospice and also Sands UK.
We had phenomenal feedback and reviews from so many members of the audiences, including teams of counsellors, midwives and healthcare professionals, members of local government, other bereaved parents and every day theatre goers. We raised an astonishing £1000, that has been split between Hope House and Sands UK.
Following overwhelming response and reaction to Dancing in the Wings at Theatr Clwyd, Dancing in the Wings, we were due to move on to Chester Forum Theatre 3 weeks later. After battling to sell sufficient tickets we reduced 2 nights to 1, but then with a huge, heart-warming social media response we were all set to open on Friday March 20th, the start to Mother’s Day weekend. Sadly, the final barrier was just too big, and as Covid-19 hit, the performance had to be cancelled, but for all the right reasons.
This is only the start with Dancing in the Wings, and we are now planning the next steps for this play, and developing this is other formats…..watch this space!!
It is such a challenge writing and producing a story that nobody wants to think about, particularly in such a public format, but that is why I wanted to do it. I want to open the door to an incredibly difficult world, that is experienced by so many, and allow people to see the true effects of baby loss, and the needs of those who have to face this tragedy and trauma. I want to raise awareness and understanding in order that bereaved parents can get the right support from everyone around them, to help reduce long term isolation and associated mental health problems.
I would very much like to thank the following people and organisations for their incredible help and support so far at different stages of the process –
- Sam’s Dad, for supporting me in doing this and all his work and help (@DadofOurSam)
- All my family, Mum, Dad and brother and friends who have given me so much support.
- Hope House Hospice / Ty Gobaith (@HopeHouseKids) – The whole team, but with special mention to Lead Counsellor and my incredible Counsellor Jane Gibbins and Fundraiser Eluned Yaxley
- Sands UK (@SandsUK) with special thanks to Rhian Lewis
- Rob Derry and Suitcase Theatre Company
- Chris Dukes (Director) and all the incredible Dancing in the Wings cast and crew
- Liam Evans-Ford (Executive Director – Theatr Clwyd @clwydtweets) and all his team
- Gail Young (Chester Playwright)
- Si Kneale (North Wales Actor)
- Ally Goodman (Actor and Events Specialist)
- Neville Southall MBE
- Unison Cymru (@UNISONWales)
- Mark Polin (Chair, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board @BetsiCadwaladr)
- Karen Roberts (Matron, Women’s Directorate, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board)
- Hemant Maraj (North Wales Clinical Lead for Women’s Services – Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board)
- Lucy Dobbins (Bereavement Midwife, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board)
- Delyn Safety UK Ltd, Mold (@Delyn_Safety_UK)
- Westbridge Furniture (@Westbridgeuk)
- Hannah Blythyn AM (Delyn)
- Andy Dunbobbin (Flintshire Cllr)
- Bernie Attridge (Flintshire Cllr)
- Pamela Attridge (Flintshire Cllr)
- Carolyn Harris MP (Welsh Labour)
- Mel and all the team at The Butterfly Awards (@ButterflyAwards)
- Louise and the team at Cradle @Cradle_EPL
- Footprints on our hearts (@skyesfootprints)
- Kevin Hughes (Freelance Journalist – Hope House)
- Alastair Gittins (Press and Communications Officer – Unison Cymru)
- Aaliyah Rugg (Journalist – Flintshire Leader)
- Finvola Dunphy (Journalist – Cheshire Live)
- Paul Crofts (Press – Chester Forum Theatre)
- Mark Ellis – Technician, Theatr Clwyd
- Rachel Bennett (Sam’s Mum) – Lisa Ford
- Jack Bennett (Sam’s Dad) – Stewart Venables
- IVF Consultant – John Derry
- Kayley – Elisa Edwards
- Nick – Ben Wheelhouse
- Midwife – Rowena Owen
- Mr Robertson (Obstetrician) – Rob Turner
- Undertaker – John Derry
- Hospital Counsellor – Rowena Owen
- PC Harker – Chris Morgan
- GP Counsellor – Laura Taylor-Black
- Psychiatric Nurse – Chris Morgan
- CBT Counsellor – Rob Turner
- Anonymous People – John Derry, Rowena Owen,
Chris Morgan, Laura Taylor-Black, Elisa Edwards
- Julia – Hospice Counsellor – Zillah Edwards
- Director – Chris Dukes
- Assistant Director – Leighton Williams
- Production Manager – Rob Derry
- Stage Manager – Hannah Mitchell
- Sound – Elinor Wylde
- Hair and Make-up – Natasha Messaoud
- Properties and set – Rob Derry
- Fundraising and Publicity – Philippa Davies and
- Graphic Design – Peter Taylor
- Stage Crew – John Wylde and Tom Cutler
- Front of House – Deborah
- Speakman and Maureen Rutherford
- Programme Editor – Peter Taylor