Hello. I’m Shakera. I’m a working-class queer woman of colour from Yorkshire.
I am a puppeteer and theatre maker and actor. I am, for the most part, untrained and have been pursuing training for three years - saving bits, then paying bits, for short term training; but for many years my quiet little dream has been to train for a year at a drama school.
I got close last year but then broke my ankle and this triggered a year of severe mental illness. I have a condition called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is surprisingly common and anyone can develop this mental illness. I have the complex version because I have an above average number of childhood and adulthood traumas. But keep reading cos it all gets better!
I had some great opportunities in and amongst all this, especially in my local Youth Theatre group in Keighley, Bradford, and at my various schools. These teachers never knew but they gave me safe spaces in and amongst a lot of difficulty.
Of course I wanted to audition for drama school but had to leave home at 18, and couldn’t pay for auditions. £55-85 per audition is unreasonable, and closes the door to so many working-class actors. This is something I hope to change by campaigning for fairer access to arts education. But I need to get there first.
At 21 I moved to London and tried to work in theatre in any role I could get. Within four months, I was working at the Old Vic education department. I then won a prestigious Jerwood Creative Bursary (funded by the Department for Culture Media and Sport & Arts Council England) to work in Cornwall with Kneehigh Theatre. I wrote this article for the Guardian all about my background, my experience there, and the importance of bursaries. I was asked to give the speech at the closing ceremony (a short clip of my speech is at 2min 31secs).
I still wanted to train, but I took family advice, ‘people like us don't get to do jobs like that.’ I went into various theatre admin jobs whilst also doing some directing, but all the time the idea of going to drama school wouldn’t leave me.
And then I had a car crash. Literally.
Eight months later, in 2013, I was diagnosed with PTSD and was unwell for a year. In a way this trauma was my biggest saviour as PTSD can lead to Post Traumatic Growth - discussed in a very interesting way in this Ted Talk. A phenomenon whereby you rebuild your world outlook with a different appreciation. Thanks to some incredible friends who took me in, changed my world view, and introduced me to new ways of thinking, being, loving, and believing. They saved my life.
I went travelling, learned how to make good choices, and finally admitted that my gifts are best suited to taking an audience on an authentic journey and leaving them thinking and feeling.
I worked with what I had: strategic thinking within the Arts, travel and connections across the globe and - though little training - lots of experience creating performance. From 2015-18, whilst saving for an MA, I also applied for project funding - and got it. I developed an idea that turned into a concept, and in 2020 I will launch an international performance company with my collaborator and with support from the Arts Council of England and Slate : Eclipse. Our inaugural creation will be launched as part of my MA Course, and early explorations can be seen on my Artist’s Facebook Page.
People ask me if my passion is acting - in fact it's not. My interest and talent is acting. My passion is using my voice, offering my unique perspective as a woman in between worlds. I am both brown and white, working and middle class, small town and world-travelled, damaged and healed. I have so much to say and a real voice with which to say it. A voice that needs training, honing, and cultivating. And one of the top five institutions in the world specialising in all these things - the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - is offering me this.
If I am ever to change an industry that is still dominated by one type of person, I need to be part of it. An industry in which classism, racism, misogyny and homophobia are sadly still issues needs voices like mine.
Telling you that I have a mental illness, past traumas, and that I need financial support from outside my family is difficult and exposing. But that's what actors do, I think. Bare their softest parts for an audience.
I hope you will pledge. But even more than that, I hope my words will stay with you and bring you some comfort, or fire.
I welcome you to contact me at email@example.com, and I wish you well.
A bit of transparency: The course cost for this MA is £13,000. My scholarship makes that £10,000, and I have saved £1000. My first instalment of fees is £2335. This is what I need to get through the door. Throughout the year I will continue fundraising for the remaining £6,665, and anything I raise over my target now, will go towards those remaining tuition fees.
A practical note: I am on Facebook, but not currently able to do Twitter, Instagram, or any of the others. If you can share this link on your own social media and forward to friends, it would really help to get my message out there. #ShakMA
We have until 10th October. Let’s do this!