How to survive the summer


I’m going to be honest. I’m knackered. It’s that time of year when the countdown is on to the end of term. If I get another reminder in someone’s lunch box for something not handed in or paid for, I think I might scream. Only 5 more mornings hustling three children out the door. Only 5 more afternoons begging them to remember to bring their own stuff in from the car, to put their lunch boxes in the kitchen, to do their homework before they numb out on screens. I CANNOT WAIT.

Always at this point, I rub my hands with glee thinking of lazy mornings drinking coffee in my garden while the children play. I imagine picnics on the beach. I plan crafting games and projects. I essentially create an avatar of the perfect homey mum in my head and determine that this year I’m going to give them a summer to remember.

We’ve never gone in for putting the children in camps or activities for the summer months. For a start it’s expensive trying to pay for three children. The deal has always been that me being at home would mean we’d save money on childcare costs. Also, my three are at the age now where they can play together and generally (generally) they are good pals and enjoy each other’s company.

We’re not getting a holiday away this year. (Again, 3 children = wildly expensive holidays!) Last summer was completely taken over with moving house/country and setting up our new home. Now that we’re more settled, we’re going to stay put and explore our local area because honestly, when the sun’s out, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than on the North Down coast. Give it its due, Northern Ireland has a ton of stuff to enjoy for families in the summer, most of it either free or relatively inexpensive.

But there will come a point (probably about a few days in, if I’m honest) when I will suddenly remember that I really, really love my work and need to work and the eight weeks of uninterrupted child full holidays will look pretty scary!

So here are some tips that I’m going to try to keep myself sane and keep the work ticking over while I have my three maniacs around and no money to pay for child care.

  1. Lower expectations – Look, I know I’ve not ever seen you and WonderWoman in the same room but I’m pretty sure you’re not actually her. There is only so much one woman can do with there are small humans in the mix so expecting to keep the same level of productivity is just not a good idea. So don’t beat yourself up!
  2. Get efficient –  Make lists but be really strict about what is completely neccessary to complete and do those things first. Stream line and weed out of your ‘to do’ list everything that is not a priority because if you leave it in there, believe me, you’ll do it and avoid the stuff that is truly imperative.
  3. Create ‘quiet time’ – no, really, stop laughing. This is where screens can be a godsend. Let there be no judging but my kids are allocated an hour of screen time a day (and usually that bleeds over into more time) but it’s amazing what you can get done in an hour if you’re focussed. Set a timer and together as a family agree that when it goes off, all screens get put away.
  4. Include your children – I know, I was just a little bit sick in my mouth too, but if your work is in any way creative, little people love to ‘help’. Get the pens, paper, crayons, paint, and do your thing while they do their thing. (But yes, that might not be practical at all. I mean, can you really imagine me doing a self-tape audition with my 10 year old reading in for me? Nope, neither can I. She’d freaking photo bomb, upstage and get the gig herself! In which case…)
  5. Rope in help in the shape of family and friends – I am the luckiest woman in the world with my father in law, affectionately known to my kids as Bapoo. He loves nothing more than to hang out with my children and I’m planning on working out a morning or two a week maybe when he gets time with them all by himself. But if you haven’t got family close by, perhaps you could do playdate swaps with another parent. Choose carefully, mind. You don’t want the parent with the kid who loves to burn stuff but I know two mums locally whose children I adore and who get on well with mine and if they’re happy to have my terrors then I’ll mind theirs for a couple of hours once a week, no bother.
  6. Get up super early – with these bright nights we’re getting in the Northern Hemisphere, getting the children to bed has been a real chore. My four year old routinely insists ‘But mumma, is still MORRRRnin!’ and he’s horrified that he’s going to bed before the birds roost in the trees opposite our house. (That was our winter thing, ‘Look sweetheart, all the birds are going to bed now at 4:30 in the afternoon, you’re getting to stay up waaaaay later than them!’) But the plus side is that they tend to stay in bed a bit later. Soooo, if you go to bed when it’s still light too, then you could get up before them and get some stuff done. I know, I know that sounds barbaric of me. What about Netflix and wine and winding down adult time? On that note….
  7. Avoid alcohol – No, wait, don’t scroll on. Keep reading. I know, I know what I’m suggesting is downright MEAN and you can roll your eyes like your own pre-teen at me all you like BUT if you want really good, really deep sleep so that you can handle a summer of creativity and parenting closing the wine fridge door is seriously a good idea. I’m fessing up here; I love a glass of chilled white wine on a summer’s evening or a G & T or a cold beer or a vodka martini with a twist of lemon… Where was I? Oh yes, it doesn’t feel like summer without an alcoholic beverage of some sort or other BUT I know I sleep better, have more energy, wake up more alert and have the COOLEST dreams (hello Chris Hemsworth dear!) when I lose the booze. Even one drink can wreck my sleep which is seriously annoying. I feel amazing when I go tee total. So I’ve got to find other ways of dealing with the inevitable crazy making of small humans than cracking open a bottle of Sauv Blanc.
  8. Create – When I create I feel good. When I feel good I can manage just about anything. I have taken it upon myself to take up knitting, crochet, painting stones, sewing, anything that involves making something from nothing and it’s given me something to keep the creative spark alive even in the driest times professionally. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be shown to anyone but my children who all thing everything I make is amazing anyway. It keeps me going and keeps me sane. Having a sane mother is every child’s dream – so win, win.

I am not the world’s most patient mother. I don’t naturally thrive in the home environment. I’m not a domestic goddess. Mary Poppins, how are ya!? I itch and scratch through every stage of my children’s childhood, dying for them to be bigger and more independent while simultaneously missing their chubby arms and gappy smiles. But here I am, with a 10 year old, a 7 year old and a 4 year old and the days are flying past. I can curse the lego littered living room all I like, but one day, I’ll crave the mad creations of my wee artists.

For me, the most important thing to do is to breathe and stay present and not to wish the time away.

Enjoy the summer! No, seriously, do… enjoy it!

For more creative inspiration, why not subscribe to the Strut and Bellow podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can always listen to an episode while you’re making the dinner or pretending to sleep through the sixth rerun of Wall-E with your earphones in. You can watch my Shout Out Fridays on the Strut and Bellow YouTube Channel. Or sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you my ebook Keeping Creative for free. If you’d like a hardcopy to take with you to the beach, it will soon be available to order from this website. Stay tuned for the latest on Instagram and Facebook.IMG_1026

Shout Out Friday – Tara Doolan



When Cerstin Mudiwa emailed to say she was working on a project with an up and coming female director I wanted to know more. Today I got to chat with Tara Doolan who, with her partner Pius McGrath has created Honest Arts, where together they create theatre (writing, directing, designing) that deals with the issues we’re all facing today.

Their latest collaboration is Punt, which runs at The New Theatre in Dublin from 2nd of July for two weeks.

Listen in to our chat and be sure to check out the show if you’re in Dublin over the summer. It’s gathering momentum and is sure to be a good night out.

Honest Arts and The New Theatre present


A story of gambling culture and the adventures involved with a life investing in chance

Written and Performed by Pius McGrath

Written and Directed by Tara Doolan

Composed by Aine Doolan

Video content creation by Mario Beck

The New Theatre

43 Essex Street

Temple Bar

Dublin 2

July 2nd – 14th @7.30pm

Opens July 3rd, Preview July 2nd

Tickets EUR 16/13 (conc.)

Booking  or 01-6703361

Please note this show is suitable for audiences 14+


Shout Out Friday – Go BIG

There was lots to talk about in today’s Shout Out Friday.

Angela Josephine’s new album Daylight went LIVE this morning. Check out her dawn chorus live on Facebook!

You can listen to Angela and I chat about the album on the Strut and Bellow podcast.

Karen Hickey’s solo exhibition Clothed launches tonight at the Signal Arts Centre in Bray, Co. Wicklow, my home town. Definitely worth checking out.

Isabelle Gaborit from Wildfire & Wax is exhibiting as part of As Na Studioeanna at Secret Garden Gallery in Kinvara, Galway.

Lorna Watkins’ exhibition heartfelt will be on later in June at the Hyde Bridge Gallery in Sligo. More details nearer the time but gosh, I love her paintings.

And Mel Wiggins is doing some mighty work with Assembly Gatherings – definitely worth checking her out if you love some soulful, soothing women centred creative community. I feel so excited to be part of her membership circle. We’re all going to do some exciting things together, I can just feel it.

Apologies to my newsletter subscribers, April’s newsletter and ebook are a bit delayed but both will be in your inboxes soon.

It’s a bank holiday weekend here in Northern Ireland so I’m looking forward to chilling with family. Hope you have a great one too.

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The why.


Never underestimate the power of women, friends.

At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t have imagined that in a mere 4 months I’d have a sell out show on my hands and a demand for it that right now feels daunting considering the size of the cast. But each of the women in the photo above, as well as our director Jo Egan, (not to mention our male assistant director Colm Gorman and two crew members David Willis and Stephen McVicker) have given their time and energy without compensation for this play. The box office receipts for Friday’s show have yet to come in and hopefully there’ll be a small amount for each of us but it’s nothing near what they all should be paid for the work they’ve done.

Friday night was very special. We arrived at the Black Box in the afternoon and walked through some of the play to get adjusted to the more limited performing area. There was no time for a full dress nor technical rehearsal. We hadn’t all been together in the same room since the show in February. We’d managed ad hoc rehearsals working around people’s full time work, child care and family commitments.

At one point, the twelve of us crammed in the tiny dressing room back stage, moments before we started the show, someone said what we were all thinking,

‘Why do we put ourselves through this?’

There was an outburst of nervous laughter, an admission of nausea, a crampy tummy, an irrepressible need to pee and at least one of us asked quietly ‘Do you actually think I can act?’ Someone’s babysitter was not following the plan at home, someone else’s elder child had been left in charge, someone had had to leave work early, someone else had exams looming. We all had other places we could have been that would not have needed us to go out in front of over 100 people and perform a show about vaginas, that would not have needed us to remember lines, overcome fear, expose ourselves to criticism, risk making a mistake and looking foolish.

But we lined up anyway, and on the word from the stage manager, we marched on stage and began;

TVM APRIL‘I bet you’re worried. 

We were worried.

We were worried about vaginas….’

It turned out to be a great show. The bar was raised high and every actress gave her all. There was laughter and tears and sounds of agreement and affirmation. It was with great relief that we bowed to a standing ovation from the audience who had been engaged and respectful throughout. It was good to leave the stage on a high.

At the interval, before we showed excerpts from Eve Ensler’s documentary film and hosted a post show discussion, a woman came up to me and introduced herself. Her name was Karin and she was my contact from Woman’s Aid, to whom we had donated the proceeds of the last show. This was her first time seeing the show and she loved it.

I want you to know,’ she said ‘that all of the money you raised from the show in February went towards creating Northern Ireland’s first rape crisis helpline.’

There it was. The why.

I was approached by a young guy in his twenties who seemed visibly moved. He talked about his mum and how she had instilled in him a respect for women that he was grateful for but that the show had really touched him and made him realise how important this conversation was for men as well as for women. He said he was going through a transition time in his life and had recently moved back to Belfast. He was questioning the model of masculinity he had grown up with and seeing some of its toxicity.

There it was again. The why.

In the post show discussion, a woman rose her hand to share that having been the victim of a violent attack in the past, she had ‘shut up shop’ but that the show had made her think that perhaps it was time for a ‘refurbishment’.

The why.

In the light of recent swinging cuts to arts organisations here in Northern Ireland, and a patronising attitude towards practitioners where we’re accused of being bad at business and incapable of managing our resources, Friday night proved to me how vital and valuable a show like ours can be.

Right in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, on a Friday night, we packed out a top venue and talked about issues central to women’s experiences; menstruation, birth, body shaming, the male gaze, sexuality, violence and rape. At one point two audience members left after collapsing in giggles during the monologue inspired by the rape of women as a weapon of war during the Balkan conflict in the 90s. We later discovered that each of them had been victims of rape and that the piece in question had triggered a nervous reaction that manifested as laughter, a very common reaction to trauma.

With the #metoo movement highlighting just how prevalent sexual assault is and with numerous women all over the world rising to say enough, there was never a more important time to talk about these things in the public arena. We are proud to be taking the conversation out of the kitchens and behind the closed doors and into the heart of public discourse. Come with us as we continue our journey.

The Vagina Monologues will be returning to the Lyric Theatre in Belfast for two nights on the 1st and 2nd of June. Tickets will soon be available from the Lyric box office. Spread the word and sign up for the email to keep updated on news about the show.






Shout Out Friday – Angela Josephine


I’m so thrilled to be able to share with you this wonderful recording artist who I had the pleasure of talking to back in October of last year. Her new album Daylight – Stone, Bright, Solid Vol 2 is out on May 4th and her latest single, Got to Believe, which she sings on the podcast, releases today. You can hear the single here. And pre-order the entire album here.

Based in North Michigan, Angela is a folk musician and songwriting who began her career in 2002 and has since recorded three albums. She has been compared to “a modern, female Nick Drake” (David Faulkner, CRD), while Northern Express reviewer Kristi Kates cites “a more jaded Sarah McLachlan.” She’s going to be performing next month here in Belfast as part of Pete Rollins’ WAKE Festival so I’ll be sure to keep you informed of details nearer the time.

Angela’s album Daylight is at once a folk-rock opera and personal exploration. A project spanning seven years, from its demo inception in a pole barn in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2011) to a fully produced album recorded in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan (producer Chris Bathgate) (2018), Daylight delves into themes of darkness and light .  The cinematic prelude “This Light” invites one into an expansive landscape that unfold with unexpected beauty and lush discovery, culminating in the haunting finale “Face to the Wind”.

Check out the video for “This Light” here. For more information on Angela and her tour dates.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud and sign up for the newsletter to be the first to hear about new events and opportunities. 


Shout Out Friday – Vicky Blades

Here’s the video of my Shout Out Friday chat with Vicky Blades. Details of the event she mentions, Investing in me, in Belfast next month are below.


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Investing in Me – An insightful and inspiring day of mindfulness, coaching and learning to support good mental well-being for those involved in the Arts in NI.
We will be hosting a variety of workshops, classes and talks on the subject of Resilience and Self-Care. Come along and learn practical tips on how to build self care practices in to your life, including yoga, mindfulness, EFT and coaching. 

12 April at 10:00–16:00

Accidental Theatre   12-13 Shaftesbury Square, BT2 7DB Belfast

Other helpful links:

Aware NI

Inspire Well Being

Theatre NI

Lifeline  Dial 0808 808 8000 All of the people who take calls from this number are trained counsellors and there is free crisis counselling for anyone who has the need.

Samaritans – you can call 116123 from anywhere in the UK or Ireland for free and you’ll get an compassionate voice on the other end.

But don’t forget if you or anyone you know is in immediate danger from self harm, or in need of urgent medical attention, please call the emergency services on 999.


Shout Out Friday – Amy de Bhrún


I first came across Amy de Bhrún when I heard about her through her sister, actress and singer Fiona Browne. My sister and I went to see her one woman show The Female of the Species at the Mayfield Restaurant in Dublin a couple of years ago. She was funny, poignant and gorgeous, clearly a talented actress and a terrific writer to boot.

Hopping between London and Dublin, film work and a thriving career as a voice over artist, Amy has diligently set about creating a model of being an actor that has an autonomy and independence that is seldom achieved.

Now about to take her new show I See You, inspired by the life of trailblazer Lady Mary Heath to the Theatre Upstairs in Dublin this May, Amy has created a crowdfunding campaign so that she can properly finance the venture. People seldom think about the cost of doing a show and assume that we make theatre for the love of it, which we do, but we also have to eat and pay the rent.

Amy’s aim is to raise €4000 which will go towards paying her actors, director and crew. costume, set and promotional materials. This is not a huge amount of money and she’s almost there! Let’s get behind her and get her and Lady Mary Heath’s story heard.

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Happy International Women’s Day!


Photo on 05-02-2016 at 12.36 #2Two years ago today I launched the podcast and blog at the Waking the Feminist event in Dublin for International Women’s Day. I invited my friend Noni Stapleton to be my first interviewee and we mostly cackled through our chat. My vision for the podcast has grown and expanded and only now am I beginning to get the chance to create what I’ve always hoped for the site.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a series of posts on keeping creative. I went back to my conversation with Noni and took notes and came up with four things that I think were key to her creativity and mine. The best way to come along for the ride is to listen to our conversation and follow along as I unpack it. Then we’ll catch up with Noni again in a few weeks and find out what’s been happening with her and her play Charolais in the intervening couple of years (spoiler alert: a LOT has happened!).

I’ve lined up conversations with some other inspiring women who I know will have a lot to offer to us.

So stay tuned and if you’re interested in getting the whole series as an ebook at the end, sign up for my newsletter. Subscribers will also get to hear first about a couple of upcoming events I’m involved with. The newsletter goes out next week so be sure not to miss out.

There’s no Live Friday Shoutout tomorrow as I’m at a conference for a couple of days but check back in next week when I’ve got a great chat lined up with a wonderful artist who you’re going to want to get behind!

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, so you never miss an episode.

In the meantime, keep struttin’ and bellowin’!


Shout Out Friday – replay

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Here’s the low down on how our sell out show The Vagina Monologues that played at the Lyric theatre on the 25th of February came to be.

Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter to get the latest information on upcoming shows and events first.