Can you tell us a bit about your background and your artistic practice?
I was born in Darlington and after a circuitous journey, I live here once more. I’m a very proud north easterner.
All I’ve ever wanted to do was make up stories. I trained in devised performance at Bretton Hall, which is basically make-it-up-as-you-go-along acting. As part of the course we worked in schools, prisons and probation hostels. That’s when I realised there was a job called a creative practitioner, where you could work alongside other people doing creative things, and I decided I wanted to be one of those.
I say I do stuff with words. I work with them in all their forms, sometimes as a writer or performer, sometimes with collaborators or as a solo artist, and sometimes as a practitioner alongside brilliant people.
This might be writing a book, collaborating to make a live art performance in a gallery or theatre, creating work to hang in a railway waiting room, or many other equally ridiculously wonderful things.
My favourite bit is to get to know a group of people and then to design workshops for them where they can soar creatively, especially for people who maybe haven’t always had the best opportunities or experience with this.
The things I keep coming back to, no matter what project I’m working on, are kindness, play and access. I’m disabled and neurodivergent so that last one is really important to me, I’m always seeking new and creative ways to make sure everyone can be involved. I’m curious about how things work, how you can take them apart and put them back together again slightly differently, in a more kind way.
Can you tell us about a time when you’ve seen creativity help to improve the lives of care-experienced people?
Sometimes we have things we want to say, or need to say. Sometimes we have things we don’t know yet we need or want to say, but they’ve been bubbling inside us. Sometimes these are questions that feel tricky to ask. Sometimes these things are hard to say face to face, directly at someone, but maybe, just maybe, with some creative activities that have been beautifully designed with love and care in mind, with high quality materials, and time, with a lovely welcome and a space that is made to feel safe, these conversations, questions, wonders, they can begin to happen and unfold.
That’s what I’ve had the privilege to witness during Creative Life Story Work.
Young people who, in online sessions, at the beginning may not want cameras on, may be reluctant to speak or take part. And that is fine. We will meet you exactly where you are, we will say hello, we will play and make together. And then, by the end of the sessions they have talked and shared with their carers and with the group.
We have been silly and solemn, and danced and laughed and spoken and made amazing things together. We have talked about the things we have in common, the things we don’t, and the young people have been in charge of discovering things about themselves. And most importantly, have been told they are allowed to not share too, that these sessions are all about them, and that they can do as much or as little as they want.
Seeing the difference in confidence, the way they hold themselves and engage, the way they have power over what they make and what they choose to share about it, the questions they ask and the way they make sense of and navigate their life stories, is at times overwhelming to witness. I am in awe of these young people and the ability of creativity to be a language with which to make sense of their worlds.
What are you looking forward to in your role as an Associate Artist with Blue Cabin?
Being part of a team that values care and kindness. And fun! I have never worked so hard, nor laughed so much.
To continue learning; that is really encouraged and I adore that. I love too that people at Blue Cabin really get to know not just the work you do, the art you make, but you as a person and then tailor opportunities to suit these skill sets and allow us artists to flourish.
Freelance life can sometimes be lonely, here I have an amazing group of artists and practitioners that I can share knowledge with.
But the thing I’m looking forward to most? Meeting the new cohort of young people I’ll be working alongside, packing their boxes of creative materials with love and care, getting to know them, make things with them and knowing what an absolute privilege that is.
What else do you like to do with your time, outside your artistic practice?
I have a rescue dog called Harper Lee. She only has two teeth on the bottom so now looks like an upside down vampire dog. I love going for walks with her, especially near rivers, sea or lakes.
I also love kayaking, my legs are a bit wibbly, but my arms are strong. I have a bright pink kayak and love getting to go to the hidden places you can only reach by water. HL comes too and sits on the back of the kayak!
I love reading, I’ve nearly always got my nose stuck in a book. And if I’m not doing those things, I’ll be making teeny miniatures – books, rooms, furniture, I love doing that. Or napping, that’s definitely one of my most favourite things.
Lisette’s first book, The Secret of Haven Point, came out with Puffin in February 2022, with another to follow in 2023 called The Stickleback Catchers. Find out more on Lisette’s website, here. Find out who else is in Blue Cabin’s team of Associate Artists here.