Hosting and organising the Brighter Days Tour has been one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had. Sharing my poems in three cities which have all played host to some significant moments in my life (and in the creation of Dark Nights into Brighter Days) alongside some truly amazing guest performers has been so special.
The Brighter Days Tour has also taught me a great deal about myself and the journey I've been on to create Dark Nights into Brighter Days. Let me explain...
The subtitle of Dark Nights into Brighter Days is 'A journey through mental health'. That journey is my own. I'd say it began in 2012 though I suspect the foundations had been laid down long before then. Writing novels and poetry was essential for helping me along that journey and the poems which feature in Dark Nights into Brighter Days aim to show what happened to me at different stages.
Though I've loved every moment of the Brighter Days Tour, it was also hard to revisit certain points on that journey. But I was determined to face them and show other people going through a similar experience that they weren't alone.
As well as sharing my poems (oh, and short stories. Can't leave those out!), I also talked openly about times where things got too much. One January night in 2014, I was admitted to hospital in Coventry where I was studying at the time as a result of self-harming. That experience was the single most frightening experience of my life, but one that looking back, kick-started a fightback. I was determined to not have a repeat of that night. That's where poetry comes in.
I turned to poetry as a way of just getting out all of the negative thoughts and feelings I was having about myself. And it helped, it really did. At the time, I didn't think the poems I wrote would be turned into a collection. That changed when I moved to Worcester in 2017. I discovered poetry again and I've not looked back!
It was for that reason that I chose Worcester to hold the first, official, launch of Dark Nights into Brighter Days. The city has already given me so much in a fairly short period of time, not least the confidence to share some pretty personal experiences through my poetry.
What a night! The venue was packed and the audience really made it a special atmosphere. And of course, the guest performers (from left to right; Fay Whitfield, Mel Woodend, Lucy Graham, and Charley Barnes) were just awesome! It was on that night that I realised I was part of a supportive and wonderful circle!
From Worcester, I took the Brighter Days Tour to my home county of Leicestershire, the place that had raised me and where I have made some special friendships. These friends have been there for me through some of the hardest moments in my life, especially the one I mentioned earlier. They helped to pull me back up and find the strength to keep on going.
Naturally, I had to bring Dark Nights into Brighter Days back! And the venue where Charlie Staunton, Fay Whitfield, and Leanne Moden, shared their own sets was just incredible! Thanks for having me back Leicestershire.
Then came Coventry's turn - the city where the journey started. Once again, the atmosphere and experience itself was something I'll never forget! Taking place in a theatre which used to be a chip shop, the Brighter Days Tour came to an end in style!
Being back in my university city with my poetry and a new sense of confidence that I'd built from my previous performances showed me just how much I'd changed since 2014. As I had in Worcester and Leicestershire, I dedicated part of the evening to talk about my journey and given that I was just a short distance away from where such a significant part of that journey took place, there was an added level of emotion to the night.
But it was another wonderful night. The audience was treated to three outstanding performances from Fay Whitfield, Helen McCarthy, and Seline Cornfield. Even my own mum was there to see the conclusion of the Brighter Days Tour and I confess, one of my poems miiigght have brought a tear to her eyes. Well it was called For You, Mum after all!
And that's it! The Brighter Days Tour has come to an end! But the memories I've taken from such a wonderful experience will stay with me for the rest of my life. In my eyes, the tour is the result of years of hard work and recovery and has shown me just how far I've come since 2014.
I cannot say thank you enough to everyone who performed on the Brighter Days Tour and everyone who came to listen to the launch events. Each and every one of you is amazing and you helped to make this experience such a brilliant one. And there's more to come in the future so keep watching this space!