Last year I had some of the biggest ups and downs I’ve ever had with my writing.

At the start of 2017, I took the plunge and reduced my working hours (changing jobs in order to do so) to 4 days a week, buying myself an official ‘writing day’ for the first time. My writing seemed to be on the up – my short stories were getting published on a fairly regular basis, and I was getting paid for at least one professional theatre project a year. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. I felt justified in making more space in my life to do what I loved.

But then it all went a bit pear-shaped. I got through the first couple of months feeling pretty buoyant, thanks to my second playwriting commission for LGBT History Month. But when that ended, the usual post-show crash turned into a downward spiral that felt like it might never end. I was writing a lot, trying to make the best use of my new dedicated time, but I just didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. I spent several months working on a new full-length play, something I hadn’t had the time to do for years, and submitted it to several major playwriting competitions to find that it didn’t even longlist for any of them. My short story acceptances were drying up too, and for the first time in a few years I didn’t have a paid theatre commission on the horizon. At its worst, I felt like I was kidding myself – and that I’d made a terrible mistake.

It wasn’t until right at the end of November that things started to look up again. The play I’d been feeling too disheartened with to even keep submitting got me an interview for Channel 4’s brilliant 4Screenwriting course, which I got my place on for 2018. It was a submission I’d barely thought twice about – I’d applied several times before, years ago, and received encouraging emails but never got any further – and I’d applied just because I happened to have something ready at the right time. Rejections continued to roll in for exactly the same script from other places – because of course they did – because reading and writing is subjective after all. I am trying very hard to make my peace with the fact that this career is always going to be part lottery.

Outside Channel 4

The thing my dad always likes to say – whether it’s a writing commission I’m chasing, or a job, or whatever it might be – is: ‘Persistence is incompatible with failure’. It’s often not really what I want to hear when I’m nursing a bruised ego from yet another rejection, or bitterly comparing myself to other writers, or people I graduated with, or miserably googling the age of celebrities to measure how far behind I am. But I think it is true. Other factors are important too, sure – you need talent, and skill (which is not the same thing), and luck, of course you do. There are thousands (really, literally, thousands) of other people in the same position trying to do exactly what I’m doing. But I can only expect to earn my seat at the table if I am resilient, and, most of all, if I am persistent. And that (I am only just starting to realise) means writing when it’s difficult, writing when I don’t want to write, writing with the door closed, writing even though the pile of washing up by the sink is playing on my mind and there are a million other demands on my time.

Persistence. Is. Incompatible. With. Failure.

Now that I’m in less of a panic about it all, I’m able to look back on and enjoy some of the highlights of last year. In amongst my writing despair, I performed at some fantastic events, including Bad Language at the Elizabeth Gaskell House as part of Museums at NightFlim Nite‘s Fifth Element, and the first brilliant edition of Hors Lit Manchester: a curated festival in people’s living rooms and other unexpected spaces that I can’t recommend highly enough.

Between 4Screenwriting and another big project that I’m not quite able to talk about yet, I’ve suddenly got most of my creative time this year pretty much planned out. Up until just over a month ago, I’d been readying myself for a pretty quiet year of knuckling down to a first draft of a novel, which is now going to have to go back in the drawer for the foreseeable. How fast things can change when you’re trying to do a job that means sending out hopeful attempts, like birds, with no guarantee that any of them will ever come back to you.

Right then. Door closed, eyes down. The window is open to visitors, whether they fly home or not.


Words for love

I used to be afraid of the word ‘lesbian’.

How embarrassing is that? There I was, a fully-fledged grown-up feminist, who’d been married to another (rather brilliant) woman for five years, and I was still cringing whenever I heard the L word, or had to apply it to myself.

There were lots of complicated reasons for this, and some were more valid than others. Part of my discomfort was around the idea that it would put me in a box I didn’t fully fit in. My sense of self was still fighting a teenage battle with other people’s assumptions and expectations; I didn’t know if I could be in a relationship with a woman and still fancy Poldark, or wear floaty dresses to a gay bar, or keep my hair long but insist on wearing practical shoes. When I was 17, and I first told people that I was in love with another girl, I was terrified that this statement would come to define me and change, irreparably, other people’s ideas of who I was.

The wonderful cast of Burnley’s Lesbian Liberator: Emily Heyworth, Judy Holt and Emily Spowage. All photos by Nicolas Chinardet

Not wanting to be defined by my sexuality is ok, I think. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as a lesbian/bisexual writer, any more than I would want to be a ‘blonde writer’ or ‘a sort-of Northern writer’. But my squirmy-ness about using ‘lesbian’ to mark myself as an outlier from the ‘normal’ range of femininity… That came from a darker place. That place that keeps anxious records of the times when other people – friends or strangers – have used a word that belongs to you, and in their mouths it has become diminishing, or strange, or disgusting, or ridiculous, and sometimes it’s been done so subtly or unintentionally or it’s taken you by surprise at a pub table so that it punches you in the gut before your brain has time to step in and give you any rational protection. And then you have smiled, because that is what you do first, if you are a woman and somebody says something that makes you uncomfortable. You smile.

Some of you will know exactly what I mean, and others will have no idea.

I let these influences get the better of me, and I don’t doubt that some of the amazing women who came before me, and made my life as it is possible, would have been ashamed. Yet somehow, during the process of working on my latest playwriting commission, the word ‘lesbian’ became less scary.

Judy Holt as Vanessa Redgrave (yes, really) and Emily Heyworth as union leader Ken Ludlam

As part of a theatrical double bill called The Burnley Plays, produced by Inkbrew Productions for LGBT History Month, I researched and wrote a play called ‘Burnley’s Lesbian Liberator’. It told the true story of a woman called Mary Winter, who stood up for herself when she was sacked from her job as a bus driver in Burnley in 1979 for wearing a ‘Lesbian Liberation’ badge.

It has been a wonderful project to work on in too many ways to list. Producer and co-writer Stephen M Hornby pulled together a fantastic team to bring the two plays to life, including my amazing director Helen Parry, and our brilliant cast. Meeting and working with our historical advisers, the people who ran our venues (especially Burnley Library), our ensemble from Burnley Youth Theatre, and hearing from our audiences has been an absolute joy. I could not represent such a great project, wearing my ‘Lesbian Liberation’ badge as the cast and crew led each audience outside to re-enact Mary Winter’s original protest, and not end my struggle with that word. I found that I could not repay Mary Winter’s bravery with my own cowardice.

Emily Spowage as Mary Winter

In an attempt to tackle this head on, in an almost-final draft of the script, I wrote a speech that was essentially to myself:

“It’s about lesbian liberation. Alright? Lesbian. You don’t have to like that word… but that word is our bloody birthright. And we’d all better be here for the liberation of lesbians, and her right to get that tattooed across her bloody face if she wants to.”

Judging from the remarkable audience Q&As we had after the performances, I believe that our Burnley Plays may have helped some others to feel braver, too. I am constantly surprised by how exploring someone else’s life can have a deep and lasting impact on our own. Mary Winter – who I hope is still alive, but will probably never meet – has helped to free me from a small but heavy burden that I’d forgotten I was carrying. Without her knowing it, her hand has reached through history, and taken mine.

There are many forces at work in the world right now that are frightening; but we should not be afraid of words for love. We should name it – I am a writer, which means that I believe in naming the things you value – and we should wear it on a badge if it helps to stop us from falling silent.

Lesbian. (Darling Rachel – I love you.)

The cast and members of Burnley Youth Theatre re-enacting Mary Winter’s demonstration outside Burnley Library

Links to things

My interview on That’s Pride TV, talking about Mary Winter and the Burnley Plays

Read more about the Burnley Plays in The Guardian

Some of the stories I’ve written about love: read Little Brass Lamp or listen to Evangeline

Follow me on Twitter: @AbiFaro

Some things I’ve learned about script-writing

Over Christmas, I’ve been deeply immersed in researching and writing my latest theatre project, for LGBT History Month with Inkbrew Productions. More on my Lesbian Liberator very soon.

A quick teaser for the play I’m writing. Burnley Plays will be staged in February 2017

But, having just got through a shaky first draft (literally, I stopped typing an hour ago), it’s got me thinking about some of the things I’ve learned about writing drama that they never taught me on any playwriting courses.

They’re my own rules, and you may despise all of them. But, in case one or two might be useful to someone else, here’s a list.

  1. People never say what they mean in drama. If a character says: “I’m annoyed with you because you don’t pull your weight around the house” and that’s really all that’s going on – that isn’t drama. That’s just your parents arguing.
  2. Use some specialist script-writing software. You can usually try them out for free. It saves loads of formatting time, and it makes you feel like a real professional in a way that selecting a ‘typewriter’ font in a Word document just doesn’t.
  3. If you haven’t heard your script out loud, it isn’t ready.
  4. ‘Write what you know’ is boring advice. So is the favourite slogan of theatre literary departments: ‘Tell us something about the world we live in now.’ Write what interests you instead. Look things up if you need to. The only commandment is ‘Thou shalt not bore’.
  5. Constantly ask: ‘Do I need to write that?’ It goes for everything you put on the page: dialogue, stage directions, the dreaded ‘notes on performance’. You are not Tennessee Williams. Leave space for the other creatives who will hopefully bring your work to life.
  6. Always submit a script as an uneditable PDF. Seriously. If an actor or director has to make handwritten changes, they’ll think about them first.
  7. Be kind to your characters. Be kind to your story. Be kind to your audience. Be fucking brutal with yourself. (Cut that speech.)
  8. Give people names. Be specific in everything you do. If anything is purely symbolic, you haven’t done your job yet.
  9. Don’t let anybody in your script actually say the point you’re making. Lie, conceal and cheat. Then we might believe you.
Tennessee Williams
This is Tennessee Williams. You are not Tennessee Williams. *describes curtains for four pages*

Other stuff

If you thought this post was a bit self-righteous, you might prefer this list of all the bad things I’ve ever written

Should you wish, you can read some of my stories for free online here

As it happens, I’m currently putting a playlist together of songs that the characters in my play (a group of feminists living together in 1978) might have listened to. I’d love to hear suggestions for anything I’ve missed – let me know in the comments below?

I’m funnier on Twitter: @AbiFaro

Happy New Year, everybody!

Paperchain Podcast – ‘My horse is a show jumper’

I had a lovely interview with my friend Daniel Carpenter for his Paperchain Podcast – we talk horrible writing mistakes, why theatre likes to stay still, and all sorts…

This episode also includes my new short radio play, ‘My horse is a show jumper’, performed by the brilliant Laura Danielle Sharp and Jenny May Morgan!

It’s the sixth episode of The Paperchain Podcast, and we move out of the studio to a very strange hotel that hates breakfast to chat with Abi Hynes, a Manchester based poet, writer, and playwright. We chat about how to know when something is a play, or a story; working with actors; and Abi’s terrible writing. We also get a bit cliquey and briefly mention a few people (Ben, and Rob) who were in our writing group together, and who are both excellent writers too (Rob runs the brilliant End of All Things podcast). Finally, Abi does something no other guest on the podcast has done so far, and I attempt to edit it all smoothly together (spoiler: one of these things doesn’t happen).

The cast of My Horse is a Showjumper are:

Debbie is played by Laura Danielle Sharp (@misslds)

Ellie is played by Jenny May Morgan (

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How to be kind

I’m pretty sure it was Dumbledore who first said that being kind is a seriously underrated quality.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. The longer I spend writing, the more I realise that I’m developing a private ‘code of conduct’. It’s a sort of informal, unwritten set of rules that I’ve come up with to help me make decisions, both about my writing itself, and some of the practical things that go hand in hand with trying to forge a career out of it.

Do other people do this? I have no idea. But hey, I’m a big fan of lists, and also they’re a really handy format for blog posts.

When I started trying to put these ‘rules’ down on paper, I noticed a recurring theme. Loads of them these days can be filed under ‘being kind’.

Laura Danielle Sharp as Mata Hari in 7 Veils. Photo by Phil Benbow

1. Be kind to your audience

This might be personal preference, but when I read a story or watch a play, I don’t really want to feel like I’m being bludgeoned over the head by someone who hates me.

Most of us will have been part of an audience that has felt like we were under attack by the person on stage. In my experience, it kills the room. Now, I’m not saying ‘Don’t get angry’. Lots of people do angry really, really well. Look at Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s fantastically furious Fleabag, which is mad as hell at all kinds of stuff, but brings you along for the ride.

But for me, I usually find that I’m better off channelling the reason for my anger into something gentler. One of the early drafts of a scene in my play 7 Veils, basically went like this:

Mata Hari:           (to audience) Hey you lot – especially you MEN. Look at you, WATCHING THIS PLAY and JUDGING WOMEN. History is fucked up because of YOU. TIME TO FEEL REALLY FUCKING GUILTY.

Luckily (and thanks to my savvy collaborators, Annika and Laura), that version never made it in front of an audience. In fact, we made it a rule (see how much I like rules?) that, however angry she got, our Mata Hari would never take it out on her audience, because we wanted them to be on her side. We thought that if they liked her, and cared about her, we’d actually get our point across about how history has treated her much better.


2. Be kind to other writers

I’m talking in a critical sense – I don’t really care that much whether you hold doors open for them or not.

Most of the time, I actually really love giving feedback on other writers’ work. But what has only dawned on me relatively recently is that, to give a better critique, I need to focus on what is useful for the other writer, even if that means holding back some really clever and insightful comments.

At Playwright School, they used to get the writer to lead their own feedback session, by asking the group only the questions they wanted to know the answers to. In my current fiction writers’ group, it’s the opposite; there’s an unspoken agreement of shut up and take it on the chin, mate, even if we all say your story made us throw up repeatedly out of sheer embarrassment for you. (I might be exaggerating. A bit.)

I think maybe the approach I want to aim for now is somewhere in between. Harsh criticism can be necessary and important, but I try and remind myself that this isn’t my piece – I don’t have to feedback absolutely everything I would do differently.

A moment of kindness in my play Mister Stokes. Photo by Nicholas CHinardet – zefrographica

3. Be kind at events

This one’s obvious, and can be filed under ‘Don’t be a dick’. If someone invites you to read at an event, and you agree, then be nice about it. Say nice things to other performances if you liked their stuff (I get horribly shy about this, but I give it a go). Wait til you get home to slag off the ones you didn’t like. Thank the organisers when you leave, and don’t make in-jokes on the microphone, or get drunk and run way over your time limit.

And if you’re an event organiser – be bloody lovely to your performers if you possibly can. Make an effort to learn how to say and spell their names, and if in doubt, clarify what they’d like to be billed as. Thank them and congratulate them on their performances, unless they were so dire that your expression of horror and bemusement will only give you away. It’s tough, I know. But it’s your job – and you kinda brought it on yourself.

The ever-kindly crowd at First Draft. Photo by Rachel Fernandez-Arias

4. Be kind to yourself

The thing I hear most often around Manchester’s delightful literature scene is this: ‘I feel so bad about not going to… [insert event title of your choice].’ Even if it feels like all your friends and everyone who matters in the whole universe went to something that you were too ill/burnt out/busy with your wife’s science fiction themed birthday party to go to – the world won’t end. The great thing about living in such a creative city is that there’s so much to choose from, you couldn’t possibly get to everything.

Same goes for deadlines. I work full time, and I also try to have a life. The trouble with that is that sometimes things get in the way of STUFF I REALLY SHOULD DO IF I’M SERIOUS ABOUT THIS WRITING THING – things like having a drink with a friend in need, or my grandparents dying. These things matter too. It stings if you miss an opportunity or deadline that mattered to you, but sometimes you just have to breathe, and let it go.

5. And, just for good measure, try and be kind to the other people in your life who love you.

Especially the ones who aren’t writers. Dear god, you’re gonna need them.


NB: There are, of course, times when ‘being kind’ is not the order of the day. For each of the rules above, I could probably have added a caveat of ‘(but don’t take shit from…)’. Sometimes you’ve gotta be a warrior rather than a peacemaker. But that’s a subject for another blog post…

Stuff coming up

I’m about to launch myself into a pretty busy and exciting autumn. Here are some highlights:

  • First Draft, the cabaret night I run in Manchester, has two pretty exciting events on the horizon. On 17th October, we’ve got our Crush event at The Castle Hotel, and for Halloween we’ll be getting spooky at the marvellous Chetham’s Library. Find out more and come and join us!
  • I’m about to go back into rehearsals with my theatre company Faro Productions to develop 7 Veils – my play about exotic dancer turned spy Mata Hari. We’ve got a fantastic new creative team on board and I can’t wait to see how the next phase of this project turns out, so watch this space!
  • I’ll be performing something animal-friendly at Cheers in Chorlton on Saturday 1st October, at brilliant looking event organised by RSPCA Manchester and Salford branch. The spoken word section is organised by wordsmith Dave Hartley and there’s music and comedy too. Come along!
  • I couldn’t possibly say who the next guest on my writing pal Dan Carpenter’s Paperchain Podcast is going to be. But, y’know, you might wanna check it out…

There when we need it

From Manchester to Orlando: my blog post for Arts Council England about why communities turn to art and culture when they are most in need…

When I first moved to Manchester to study theatre, I was 18, and I wanted to be an actor. I enjoyed my degree course, and I’m enormously grateful that I had the opportunity to do it, but I am even more indebted to the teacher who taught me most of all: this city.

Manchester, for anyone who doesn’t already know, is overflowing with creativity. I threw myself into the wonderful work made by our producing theatres like the Royal Exchange and Contact Theatre, the world class shows brought here by Manchester International Festival, and the city’s thriving live literature scene, which orbits around Manchester Literature Festival. I came out of these experiences feeling like I was a part of something bigger than myself. Art and culture made me feel at home here.

For those of us who stood in the spectacular Manchester rain last week at that vigil for Orlando, we needed to sing. The experience of singing together helped to unite us, to comfort us, and to remind us of our strength.

Read the rest of this post on the Arts Council website

Blackheath Halls youth choir

Yoga for Writing

This week I wrote guest blog post for Yoga Manchester about how discovering Ashtanga transformed my relationship with my body and continues to have a positive influence on my writing…

yoga camping
Me getting my yoga on with my nieces and nephews last summer

I was always the un-sportiest of children. A bookish little girl, fond of sitting still and thinking, and deeply fearful, I now realise, of trying something I might not be good at and humiliating myself. Team sports have always been pretty much my worst nightmare. High school P.E. lessons only strengthened my belief that I was not one of those girls; I wasn’t netball skirts and football trips. The bleep test was something you endured, sweaty and red-faced and miserable, until a sufficient amount of time had passed so you could fake a stitch and go and sit on the benches with the rest of my awkward teenage ilk who had not come into their bodies yet, who had never discovered a form of exercise that made them feel good. I thought this was my fate. My body and my brain seemed to be pitted against each other. I thought it would always be that way.

As a young adult, this trend looked set to continue. It was partly laziness, but the biggest thing that held me back from taking any kind of control of my body through exercise was fear. I’ve always liked dancing, but adult dance classes left me ashamed that my limbs didn’t work the way I wanted them to, that I didn’t have the strength or the stamina to actually enjoy myself, that even five minutes of vigorous exercise would leave me maroon and out of breath, and desperately hoping that nobody else in the room would notice.

It doesn’t matter, I would reassure myself. I am not one of those people – the ones who talk about exercise as if it doesn’t constantly hurt. I am a writer, I am an intellectual. What does my body matter?

Read the full piece here: Yoga for Writing | Ashtanga Yoga Manchester

Bad Things I’ve Written

Aka: Things I’ve written that would mean I’d never write again if I thought about them too much

Sometimes I lie there at night ticking these off in a big list, prodding them like bruises to see if they still hurt. THEY DO.

shameful painting for bad writing blog small

This is, of course, just a snippet of a list that could go on for actually ever.

  • The story in which I tried to let readers know that my character was a vampire by having him think about necks a lot
  • ‘Romeo and Juliet slowly commit suicide to the soundtrack of Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet while their parents watch because PARENTS FUCK YOU UP, YOU GUYZ’
  • That story written entirely in a made up dialect that my wife still likes to do impressions of
  • ‘Written, directed and performed by Abi Hynes’
  • The blog post about how being unemployed and usually drunk led to my realisation that I am now a serious writer
  • All stage directions = ‘They dance.’
  • One of the first stories I ever submitted to my writers’ group, which prompted one of them to say: ‘People taste each other’s mouths too much in this. Which is a bit weird. Unless it’s going to be… a romance?’ (I’m not quoting that one for love nor money, soz.)*
  • All titles ever. Especially ones with punctuation. E.g. ‘Silt; Silt’ and ‘The Station. Midnight.
  • Every story that involved someone looking for a lost lover in a forest and then thinking about having a bath
  • Q: Who’s there?                    A: The Men.
  • The sonnet I wrote about the tragedy of turning 26
  • The show that had all its scenes out of chronological order so characters kept having five minute costume changes because the audience needed to see them in a slightly different brown waistcoat or how would they possibly understand the passage of time??
  • The phrase ‘Open Sesame’ when referring to sex. A favourite among the friends who had to sit in the audience for that one
  • ‘Fine. Don’t reply to that tweet, any of you.’
  • The time I gave all the characters in my story names beginning with ‘A’. This was last week. My own name also begins with ‘A’
  • Email: ‘This is actually a story about feminism but if that’s not the kind of thing you’re interested in publishing then fair enough.’
  • My first ever play which began with someone asking ‘Have you seen the captain?’ No one had seen the captain.
  • Everything I’ve ever written with the word ‘Hark!’ in it
  • The undergraduate essay in which I used the word ‘tool’ and my tutor annotated it with: ‘Do you mean this sexually???’
  • All my poetry.

We’re all capable of being morons. Feel free to share your own humiliating failures in the comments below.

You never know, it might stop you lying awake at night, counting them.

*Except for money. I’m a writer: I would obviously do that for money.

Tilley poster
This is a thing that actually happened


I’ve got some stuff coming up that I promise will almost definitely not contain any of the above or at least not very much of it…

  1. I’ll be performing a brand new piece inspired by archive film footage at Manchester’s Jewish Museum on 12th May, for a brilliant evening with Bad Language and Manchester After Hours. Come!
  2. A few days later, my cabaret night First Draft have an extra special one-off event at the People’s History Museum, which is going to be thoroughly awesome and you must absolutely be there
  3. I’m now a reviewer for the lovely people at The Short Story. If you’ve got a fiction-focused event coming up or a short story collection you’d like me to review, say hello!
  4. If you’d like to read or listen to some of my work and see if you can spot any of the above mistakes, do feel free to linger and have a look around my blog

The Man-Woman of Manchester

Last weekend, a remarkable thing happened.

Two actors stood on three different stages, and became the characters that I’d be stewing over for the last three months. They spoke the words I’d scripted, and transformed them; in their mouths they were funnier, or smarter, or more heartfelt than anything I’d written down. This is the magical part of theatre that I never get used to. You send your hawk away from you, and it comes back with something in its beak that you could never have imagined.

Quite a few people came along to watch.

Our 100-strong audience at The People’s History Museum. All photos by  Nicholas Chinardet – zefrographica

I suppose I should be accustomed to this by now. An hour before our first show, when my wife asked me if I was nervous, I told her no, because I knew I was in safe hands. I had already visited the actors in rehearsal; under the watchful and generous gaze of director Helen Parry, I knew that they had turned my flimsy little pages of text into something worthy of an audience. And yet, as I took my seat, and the lights went down, and a room full of the great and the good in the world of LGBT academia descended into a hush, I still found myself rigid with tension. I held my breath until Jo uttered the first line.

Joey Hateley and Jo Dakin as Harry Stokes and Ada

Mister Stokes has been a remarkable play to work on. It began at the end of last year, when I was commissioned to write a historically accurate play based on the life of an LGBT figure from Manchester’s history. My eye fell very quickly upon the story of Harry Stokes.

Not a huge amount of evidence about him survives, and the sensationalised (and often fictionalised) newspaper articles about him take some sifting through. But we do know that he was a bricksetter and chimney doctor who lived and worked in Manchester and Salford during the Victorian era. He was married twice; the first marriage breaking down when his wife took him to court for mistreating her and withholding household expenses. Nevertheless, he was well thought of professionally. He was a special police constable. He ran several alehouses, and reached the level of superintendent in the building trade.

It was only when he was found drowned in the River Irwell in 1859 (the newspapers excitedly claim that he was standing upright, and only spotted thanks to his top hat floating on the surface of the water, but who knows) and examined the body, that they discovered he was biologically female.

Joey and Jo as Harry Stokes and his first wife

Well. That’s the way I phrase it, anyhow. The truth is always more complicated and more slippery than the stories we tell about it; when we try to put history on stage, it is always through the lens of how we see the world. Other people’s lives, even when thoroughly researched, will inevitably become intermingled with our own. One of the fascinating things about LGBT history, is that you have to sift through hundreds of years of oppression for the facts, to try and give voice to the people that the history books have rendered silent and invisible. We will never get it quite right. The retelling is always a work in progress.

And yet. Through whatever imperfect dramatisation of real events we achieved, our production of Mister Stokes: The Man-Woman of Manchester, seemed to make a connection with our audiences. My nerves on opening night remained only until the first time the audience laughed. I had always intended to make something that could be funny, and warm, and loving, even in a piece set in a mortuary, haunted by the lives of trans people like Harry that have been needlessly difficult and tragic. Our wonderful actors, Joey Hateley and Jo Dakin, found a lightness of touch and a playfulness that made the piece feel truly human. Feedback was great, we’ve had a lovely review, and I am all a-glow with successful play vibes.

Joey Hateley as Harry Stokes

Enormous thanks are due to our wonderful creative team, headed up by producers Stephen Hornby and Ric Brady of Pagelight Productions, which also included marvellous stage manager and sound designer Phil Buckley, and magician-like movement director Ceris Faulkner. To our brilliant historical advisers: Emma Vickers, Billie-Gina Thomason, Stephen Whittle and Jenny White. Also to LGBT History Month, for giving us a platform, to the staff at the Martin Harris Centre, the People’s History Museum and MMU Business School for taking care of us, and to all the festival audiences over the weekend who came along to meet Mister Stokes.

I am so very grateful. I’m not someone who believes that Harry himself was watching over us, but I like to think he might have been proud. I hope his story will go on to be told to wider audiences, whether that’s through my words or someone else’s. I owe him a great debt, for lending me his history.

Ada lays out Harry Stokes’ body

Find out more

Listen to me talk about the play on BBC Radio Manchester

Take a look at the full set of Mister Stokes production photos, snapped by Nicholas Chinardet

Read more about the show on the Pagelight Productions website

For more about the history of Harry Stokes, take a look at this great blog post from Jenny White

Follow me, Pagelight Productions and LGBT History Month on Twitter

Hello and welcome to 2016

Like almost everybody else, I’ve burst out into this year with Big Plans.

One of them was the creation of this site, so that I have a place to collate my the various bits and pieces I’ve written down, and, because, being a Digital Producer and total Twitter addict, I just really wasn’t spending enough time on the internet. For the time being, and to stop this blog from looking too sad and sickly, I’ve dropped in a few posts that I’ve written for other places over the last couple of years. (The stuff that’s vaguely relevant to being writer-y, anyway, not just the stuff about my cats.) It’s still a work-in-progress, so please do have a poke around, and feel free to let me know what works and what doesn’t.

Abi and Jez sparkly
Me performing with Jez Hewes at First Draft’s Christmas event with The Real Story

So, then – the rest of the Big Plan. I feel very privileged to have had to give up most of my Christmas break in the service of a new short play commission from Pagelight Productions, which will form part of the LGBT History Month celebrations in Manchester at the end of February. The piece is called Mister Stokes: The Man-Woman of Manchester, and it charts the fascinating story of Harry Stokes, a bricksetter who lived in Manchester and Salford for around 40 years, during which time he was married twice, who was found drowned in the River Irwell in 1859. It was only when the coroner examined the body that they realised Stokes was biologically female.

There still aren’t many opportunities to tell trans stories, and this feels like a wonderful opportunity to bring a little known piece of Manchester’s LGBT history to life. I’m lucky enough to be working with a very experienced and talented creative team, including our director Helen Parry, and it’s also lovely to be just a playwright on this occasion, and to be able to take off my producer hat and just think about the words.

Harry Stokes image

In addition to that, I’m busy with lots of lovely First Draft stuff for 2016. Our next event, After Dark, sees performers of all kinds responding to our first ever audio prompt from my friend and brilliant musician Jez Hewes. If you’re Manchester-based, join us for free at the Castle Hotel on Monday 15 February. It’s a really diverse and exciting line up, and it promises to be a lovely event to kick us off for the year ahead. As well as our regular nights, we’ve got plans for some lovely one-off events too that we’re looking forward to announcing soon.

And, writing wise, I really want to get cracking this year. I’ve got several short stories on the go that I want to start flinging out for consideration, and the faintest glimmer of a bigger project that I’m too scared to tell anyone about yet in case it crumbles under scrutiny.

This is my cat.

But that’s not interesting to anyone but me. You’ve all got your own Big Plans for 2016 that you really should be getting on with. If you find yourself in need of a distraction at any time, get yourself a cup of tea and have a little look at some of my Stuff That’s Now Online…

Read my stories

Watch and listen to various things I’ve recorded

Follow my ramblings on Twitter