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A Northern Girl is … not what the majority of people expect

Leading up to the Northern Girls performances, Aidan, from ARCADE, is sitting down with each of the writers to find out a bit more about them, their work and what they might do next. Shannon Barker is the first of the four writers from the Northern Girls project.

If you would prefer to listen to this interview, please click the video above.

Hi Shannon! Thank you for sitting down with me for a chat about everything ‘Northern Girls’.

Let’s start by talking a bit about you.

How would you describe yourself as an artist or how would you describe yourself and the sort of stuff that you do?

At the moment very new. So, I'm discovering it at the minute because this is the first kind of thing that I've done really, just to give myself a start, I guess. Because I've always been interested in writing but never sort of delved into it. It is something I was a bit scared of because I didn't have the experience if that makes sense. I suppose in terms of writing performance wise the only other writing I'm doing is music and that's it

You're a songwriter outside of this?


Are you more of a performer, would you say?

Yeah, I would say so yeah

So, this is a little bit of a change!

The piece that you've created for Northern Girls, is it autobiographical?

No, it's not autobiographical.

Actually, the first piece I'd written originally was, but then the second piece we went outside and had a look at the space that the performances are going to take place in. I ended up drawing inspiration from number one, the time of year that we're in, with like Halloween and Bonfire Night coming up. Number two, the setting just because it's going to be set in front of a tree, which I drew inspiration from. So, I guess it’s more seasonal.

And then, in terms of, Northern Girls as the overarching project, is the piece geared towards being a northern girl or is it more that you’ve written a piece as a northern woman, and then that's what you've created?

I feel like there could be some essences of it. I'm still gradually working on it.

I don't want to say anything without giving too much away the character and how she puts herself across in this situation that she's talking about, but it could potentially be perceived as slightly northern girl related. The way that I've written it in the sense of the phrasing and stuff I would say is very northern, there are some quite northern-like terminologies in there, I would say.

Moving a little bit away from your writing, specifically, what about the whole process have you enjoyed? What aspects have you liked about what you've been doing?

I think having the support from other people, and the mentorship from Hannah, and from Rachael as well, with everyone that I've worked with to be honest. It's been nice being in a safe environment where you can present things that you've written, especially for me who's never done it before it's been nice to have a group where I can put something forward and receive constructive criticism but in a place where I don't feel like my work is going to be judged.

Yeah, definitely. It's an open environment, where you respect the opinions of the people who are giving you feedback. This might be a little bit difficult I guess as this is the first sort of non-musical text, you've written. But how would you describe your creative process. How would you go about writing?

I think it would depend really because I think when I wrote the piece that was very much autobiographical I had a specific event in mind so for me that was kind of taking from that, or looking at it and thinking what is the point of writing this like ‘what is the main message that I would want to get across from this kind of thing’? Then I picked apart key moments in this event and made a timeline of how I wanted it to go and then brainstormed phrases and specifics. Whereas for the second one, because it was more based on the space, that was different because I had to come up with the whole thing. I had to come up with the whole concept and I was kind of like ‘that would be quite fun’ and, I don't even know where the idea came from. It just came out of nowhere. And then I just ran with it

I think it's always difficult to actually work out how you work, and it will change between every project you do but it’s nice just to get a little bit of an insight into how it's all come about.


Moving forward from what you've created now obviously this is your first piece of writing. Do you have any plans for what you want to do in the future, anything you want to develop?

I'd like to carry on writing. I work with the Beach Hut Theatre Company. And it was Ali, who directs and writes and everything for their shows. She was wanting to put me forward for this. And so at some point it might be quite nice to either take part in one of her workshops or get involved in writing some of my own work for her or maybe even the SJT writing workshops, they have. It’s been nice to do this as well to network with other people, to know what else is out there. I do definitely want to stick with doing it and just write as much as I can.

Is there an area, you want to go into?

I think playwriting might be quite a fun one to do because it's a bigger project than the monologues. So, it’d be quite interesting is to see how you can layer in different subtexts and whatnot. And look at overall character progression but I think actually I'd quite like to get into screenwriting

And finally, what would you say a northern girl is?

I would say, a Northern girl is not what the majority of people expect.

Yeah, I think people think we are a certain way but we're not. We’re not the stereotypes that people think we are. There's a lot more layers to us than people give us credit for.

Northern Girls, a collaboration between ARCADE and Pilot Theatre will take place at the YMCA Scarborough on the 27th and 28th October. Click here for tickets and more information.

Image credit: Matthew Cooper

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