Alice completed First Story Young Writers Programme at Hull College during the 2019–20 academic year having never written creatively for pleasure before. She won a place to attend the virtual summer residential course, alongside fifteen other talented students and is also one of four alums to be picked for the prestigious Rathbones Folio Mentorship. Since taking part in First Story Alice has performed her work at live gigs and has performed in bands. Below is an extract of an interview she had with Russ Litten for Yada Yada on West Hull FM.
Could you tell us how you first got involved with First Story?
Um, well, I was at my college, and this woman called Chrissie came in and decided to start up a group for girls for writing and boxing, and it kind of just started writing from there. And it led me on to applying for the First Story residential and yeah, so that was great.
What were you writing before you got involved with First Story? Were you a writer before that?
No, not really. I don’t think I’ve ever really been that academically smart. So, I was quite surprised to be asked to be in the First Story group. It was a completely new experience for me.
You did two poems for this book and spoken word album we put together. One of them, ‘I Like Myself’, could you tell us a little bit about that poem and how it came about?
It’s called, ‘I Love Myself’ and basically, it’s a spoken word poem. Because a lot of my friends they’re really hard on themselves and they don’t see them as I see them. So, I wanted to write a poem about how it’s really important to have self-love because a lot of people try and get into relationships and stuff before they actually like themselves. So, I wanted to put out there how important it is to appreciate yourself before you try and love someone else.
Yeah, you do that brilliantly in the poem. It works really well. Did you have to work at it to get it to the point where you were happy with it? Do you do a lot of rewriting and stuff?
Um, I think it took about an hour to write, like the whole base of it. And I did a little bit of editing after that, but that was about it really.
Was that the first time you’d spoken that poem out aloud when you did it for the residential?
Um, I practiced it once with my mum and she really liked it. And then I did it on the residential and it went down really well, I think.
Yeah, it was brilliant. It works really well. We’re going to play it on the show as well, we’re actually going to play the track. The other thing you wrote was called ‘Dead Name’. Can you tell us a little bit about that piece of writing?
Um, well, the meaning of the words, that name is basically when someone is transgender, and people still use their name for the wrong gender. I basically have this friend could Ellis who was originally called Ellie, who is transgender. And I kind of took inspiration from his story and how he feels and what kind of things he might have to go through, to bring awareness about the trans community and like that is a completely normal thing and people shouldn’t discriminate.
You use the word ‘awareness’ when talking about both of your poems, do you think that’s something poetry can do? Bring awareness to various sort of issues?
Definitely. Yeah, I think it’s probably one of the easiest ways, for me at least, to talk about issues and things that are really important that don’t get spoken about enough. So, it’s a really good way to bring people together.
You play music. You’re a musician as well aren’t you Alice?
Yeah. A little bit, yeah.
Do you find that the two things help you do each other, music and poetry?
Uh, yeah. Poetry really helps with writing songs. And performance wise as well, it’s really good, because you have to perform both spoken word poetry and singing and guitar. So, it helps with confidence as well. Like trying to get the words out in a way that is kind of hidden but it’s revealing at the same time.
‘Hidden and revealing at the same time’: I think that’s a brilliant definition of poetry. Are there any other spoken word artists or poets or musicians that you admire?
Um, I used to listen to a lot of Clayton Jennings when I was in a bit of a dark place. And I think that kind of started off my whole writing, my inspiration for writing because his, his poetry is really like inspirational and it can be really lifting, but it’s also, it allows you to be upset when you’re upset. So, I think it’s really good to let your emotions out to some Clayton Jennings.
Definitely, I agree with you on that one. I also wanted to ask you about lockdown, How did you feel about lockdown when that happened?
Right now, I feel like a bit of an outsider because I’m really enjoying lockdown. I think, for me personally, it has been really good because I’ve had a lot of time to work on the things that I love doing like to boost my career. Um, so it’s really good in that aspect. Like obviously, not seeing people like friends and family, that’s not great, but I know that I’ll be able to see them soon. So it’s been quite good for me.
So, how do you feel now that lockdown seems to be lifting and, you know, some of the things seem to be easing and then people are getting out and about and moving around together a bit more. How does that make you feel?
Um, I’m quite glad because I get to go back to college. So, I get to meet loads of new people, but I think I feel quite normal, which is weird. Because normal is not normal.
So, where do you want to go with your writing then, Alice? Where do you want to take it? Are there any other sort of areas that you want to talk about or write about?
Um, well, there’s so much to write about. There’s like endless topics that you can write about. So, I think it’s easy to find new topics every day. I think I want to be some kind of performer, so like a spoken word artist or a singer or both, um, and like just kind of really get messages out that are really important to society that aren’t heard enough.
So, to sum it all up then, what does writing mean to you personally?
Writing means quite a lot to me actually. I didn’t think it ever would because, like I said, I’m not really that academic. But being given so many opportunities to actually write and take in all these opportunities it’s really, it’s changed me because I feel like I have a new outlook on life and what I can do. So it’s really eye opening, I think.
You used the work ‘academic’ again. Do you think writing is something to do with being academic?
Uh, before I started writing, I did. I thought it was like, you had to be really book smart to be able to write good pieces of work. But now that I’m kind of writing a lot more, I know that it’s a lot more than that. You don’t have to be typically smart; you can be anything and just write anything. And it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks because it’s you. You’re writing how you feel, and that’s all that matters.
Yeah, you found your voice. You definitely found yours with the work that you did on that residential was superb. I thought it was great. And I think if you can combine them with the music, with the musicality of your words, I think you’ll have a great career as a performer, however you do it.
Listen to the entire Yada Yada First Story special on West Hull FM below. The interview with Alice begins at 18:43