Jacquie Edwards is PA to the Director of Sport, but better known to many as performer Ginger Bennett. During Black History Month, she tells us how stories of being and growing up in the UK during lockdown helped create this alter ego.
‘I joined the University in 2001 as a temp in the Estates Department. Jill Andrew’s Friday afternoon tray bakes were amazing and I think I knew from the first bite I would be working here until they shoehorned me out!
‘I’ve always had an affliction or a gift, whichever way you look at it. If I say I’m going to do something out loud, I will generally do it. Sometimes I will fail spectacularly but I will always see it through.
‘In the past, this has led to some marvellous opportunities: I was a canoeing Instructor (who couldn’t swim that well); a karaoke hostess (with chronic nerves); PA to the Head of Exhibitions and Displays at the National Maritime Museum (with no keyboard skills whatsoever); and managed to hoist the Women’s Rugby World Cup (even though I really don’t like mud and dirt).
‘I think a lot of working mothers know how that adventurous, pioneering spirit can so easily be diluted once you have children. It happened to me and, three children later, I was more prone to muttering under my breath than boldly proclaiming my next bonkers venture.
Becoming, Being and Belonging
‘Enter global pandemic and the lockdown. I’d always thought I came from a very close family but those Zoom calls take to you to another level! Those talking heads revealed family stories I’d never heard – stories about my parents’ arrival to the UK and their feelings of being and belonging. When I shared these stories with friends, I found the stories of their parents’ arrivals meshed with their own feelings and stories. Unconsciously, I had started to build an account of Becoming, Being and Belonging for 1st Generation Immigrants to the UK and their 2nd Generation children.
‘Somewhere around month six or seven, I became very low – Long Covid, lockdown, three children, home-schooling and menopause all played a part. I have a lovely friend who saw through my thin smiling veneer – we talked, sometimes daily, and I read her the stories and poems I had written around the theme. She told me they were funny and important and, before long, I said out loud “I think I can write a play about this” so I did. It may have helped that friend is an award-winning jazz pianist but, regardless, I’ve done it. It’s out there.
Songs from My Soul
‘Songs from My Soul is an amalgamation of tales told to me by friends and family about being and growing up in the UK. I think it cuts across race too as I hope it tells the age-old story of mothers fighting for their children the best they know how and then letting them go.
‘The stories are distilled into the life of Aretha a mother who, now retired, sees the path travelled very differently from her daughter, Bernadette.
‘Those Zoom calls were a real awakening and I now have a few more job titles to add to my dodgy CV: Playwright, Producer, Actress.’
Listen and find out more
Songs from My Soul is a year-long Arts Council funded project and will examine, Becoming, Belonging and Being as part of a performance of new works next year. The Songs from My Soul team would love to hear your stories and write your song. Get in touch via this Songs from my Soul link.
You can also listen to original songs for the Songs from my Soul project on YouTube.