I Did What In The Last Ten Years!?
As 2019 comes to a close and we welcome a new decade in 2020, I find the current state of the world, to be frank, depressing. In many ways it feels like we heading back in time. Hate crime is on the rise, poverty is on the rise and Boris is still our PM. But I'm not a person who focuses on the negative and so choose to talk about the positive things around the globe, such as Billy Porter becoming the first black, gay male to win a Best Actor award at the Emmys, or the fact that Costa Rica now has 52% forest cover compared to 26% in 1983. Did you also know that a giant tortoise, thought to be extinct, was spotted in `Galapagos in February? Or that our legendary childhood presenter Floella Benjamin was made a Dame!
The last ten years has also bought me personally a wonderful set of memories. Here are just a few that I'd like to share with you:
The decade started out being a pretty mixed bag for me. I lost my mum to lung cancer. As well as my mum, she was also my friend who really understood me. It's an odd feeling losing a parent. When anyone asked how I was feeling, all I could say was I felt odd. I was devastated of course, but also relieved that she didn't have to fight anymore. Losing mum also starting an obsession with my own mortality which lasted a couple of years. After mum died, I took myself to A&E 6 times in 6 months thinking I was having chest pains and losing my breath. Eventually the doctor made me realise I was grieving.
In the process of mum's illness, I created the Twin Peaks UK Festival. Mum passed 3 weeks before this very first festival which was almost a blessing as I had the fest to concentrate on, but the grief was delayed because of this as well. The festival was something that changed my life quite a lot! What I intended to be a one off to celebrate the 20th anniversary of David Lynch and Mark Frost's TV show 'Twin Peaks', became a huge success and an annual festival which has just celebrated it's 10th birthday! The festival opened doors for me both here and in the US and
connected me to a whole new set of friends from all over the world. It's something that I am very proud of creating and developing, with my incredible team, and will always consider one of my biggest achievements. And I know my mum would be proud of that. 2010 was also the first year I worked at the Edinburgh Festival for Assembly, more on that later.
As most people know, Los Angeles is my second home. I love the people, the vibe, the mountains, the beach, the city, the history, the film industry and of course, those Californian avocados. I have been to LA numerous times but it all began in 2012 when I finally plucked up the courage to book a flight by myself and head on over. I already knew people in LA and my friend Susan lived in San Clemente in Orange County.
Susan picked me up from the airport and I stayed with her for a few days before heading back into LA. Susan is a tattoo artist and is responsible for the tattoo on my foot which is dedicated to my mum, Heather. Susan knew my mum and wanted to do this for both of us. So she tattooed a beautiful sprig of heather on my foot...that everyone thinks is Lavender! I then took the double decker train to Los Angeles where my lovely pal Lenny Von Dohlen picked me up from Union Station, and so began my first adventure and love affair with the City of Angels. I still have a goal that this wonderful city will one day be my permanent home.
Since 2010 I had worked for Assembly Festival at the Edinburgh Festival, the world's largest Arts festival. Assembly is the sister company of Riverside Studios, where I had worked since 2009. In 2013 I was venue managing Assembly Hall on The Mound, it was the biggest of Assembly's venues and I was fortunate enough that year to work with a company I had always wanted to work with; The Jim Henson Company.
Actually this was the Henson Alternative with their brilliant show 'Puppet Up'. Imagine 'Whose Line Is it Anyway' with puppets and you're halfway there. The puppeteers were live on stage, responding to audience shoutouts of ideas, and then creating scenes which, as well as seeing on stage, you were also seeing on huge screens above the stage. The whole thing was co-created, directed and brilliantly hosted by Patrick Bristow, whom some of you may remember from 'Ellen' and 'Showgirls'.
Working with this company was a joy from beginning to end and I'm happy to say that I stayed in touch with many of the company members especially Patrick, who is one of my favourite people in this world and has become a dear friend. They even gifted me my very own puppet! I named her Glenda!
This was the year I pushed myself to my limit! I took on far too much, went at 110mph all year and was pretty much broken by the end of it.
However, it was also the best year as I found myself becoming a pet owner. My beautiful boy cat Chester came to live with me when he was just 3 months old and made everything so wonderful...and really quite hairy. Having a furry friend really changes the dynamic in a home, and now I just couldn't imagine life without him!
I went from 'Fan' to working on a short film called 'One Last Dance'. I actually offered my time for free on this film, as all the cast and crew did, as Jonathan Pryce was playing the lead and, as my all time favourite actor, I jumped at the chance of working with him. He didn't disappoint. He was charming, funny, respectful, professional and full of stories from various projects he had worked on. I spent a lot of time with him alone as I drove him places and spent time assisting him on set, and he was as interested in my life as I was in his. It was a cherished time I'll never forget, even if the actual shoot almost killed me and my car blew it's head gasket on the journey back to London!
This year turned out to be just a teeny tiny bit quieter than 2015. During 2015 I was commissioned by Octopus Books to write a 'Twin Peaks' inspired cookbook.
I had 6 weeks to write the book and the deadline was the same week as the Twin Peaks UK Festival, it was also the same year the festival doubled in size and became a weekend event so you can imagine the crazy! But 2016 was full of photo shoots for the book, edits, legalities and a LOT of interviews, including BBC Radio 2's Art Show with Jonathan Ross (now hosted by Anneka Rice). Finally 'Damn Fine Cherry Pie' was published in the November and my love of writing was born. The book was well received and even published by Harper Collins in the USA. Now, you can find it all over the world...I'm pretty chuffed with that! 2016 was also another big milestone; I turned 40 years old! I celebrated by inviting 100 of my nearest and dearest on 1950's boat cruise down the River Thames and becoming utterly obliterated in the process! If turning 40 wasn't enough, I also became a great aunt again (which admittedly I did think you had to be 90 to become) when my wonderful nephew Kurtis had his second child, Lilly, having had his first in 2014 named Freddie, after my Dad!
2016 also saw something else pretty special.
I was invited along, thanks to my pal Kate, to the world premiere of 'Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie' in London. It was everything I wanted it to be; glamorous, loud, tacky, full of drag queens and well...fabulous! I took my good friend Karen along and we took full advantage of the free champagne cocktails at the afterparty, which was held at the glorious department store Liberty. They had cleared two entire floors! My lovely friend Harriet Thorpe is an Ab Fab regular so it was wonderful to spend time with her at the afterparty too! All in all it was a fabulous, colourful, messy splendour of an evening!
This was the year I'd been waiting for since I was 14 years old. In 2018 I finally visited Washington State in the US and the towns of North Bend, Snoqualmie and Fall City, otherwise known as the real Twin Peaks. It's hard to put into words the emotions I felt upon visiting this area, especially on seeing the Snoqualmie Falls, which are known to Peakies the world over as the falls at the Great Northern Hotel. Possibly this video, shot by my good friend Jen, will sum it up better.
I visited the real Twin Peaks with my good friends Scott, Jen, Courtenay and my niece Georgia and then we met up with more friends who lived in the area. I drank coffee and ate Cherry Pie in Twede's Cafe, the real RR Diner, I had diner in the Salish Lodge, the real Great Northern Hotel and I visited all the locations I had only seen on screen. As far as bucket list goes, this was definitely a big tick!
One of my favourite films from my angst ridden teenage years is the dark comedy 'Heathers', and in the early part of 2019 my lovely friend Melanie offered me the opportunity to interview one of the Heathers for the 30th anniversary blu-ray release.
It just so happens that Lisanne Falk, who played Heather McNamara, now lives in the UK, so I got my friend Dan Poole from Timebomb Pictures on board as cameraman, and off we trotted to spend the day in the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford with Lisanne. How very. Lisanne was possible the nicest person I've ever met and she was also super fun and interesting to work with. I didn't dare ask her for her yellow scrunchie though!
So as I look back on the last ten years, I consider myself very lucky to have been gifted the opportunities I have, but I also know that I have worked very hard to achieve those things too. I thank all that have supported me along the way, and I know that 2020 and beyond will be just as rewarding, and I head into this new decade with an open mind, open heart and a feeling that life really is only just beginning.
A very Happy New Year to you all!