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1.Roots/Routes by Associate Artist Laura Turner

23 April 2024

In a new series of blog posts over the next year, Associate Artist Laura Turner shares her journey as an artist, past and present. Focusing on a different area of the industry each month, these blogs will shine a light on the artistic process and what life is like as a creative freelancer and an associate of a regional theatre. Laura is a playwright, screenwriter, actor and dramaturg from the East Midlands, passionate about exploring stories through a regional female lens to interrogate what it means to be empowered and independent in the world today.

First Steps

When I was growing up, being a writer felt like a completely unattainable dream. So much so that I didn’t really give it much credence as an idea, let alone a career path that I could viably follow. I grew up in the middle of rural Lincolnshire, on the edges of the marshes, in an environment that was isolated, kind of magical to me growing up (there was always a sense of possibility in the acres of empty land given over to nature) but felt like a million miles away from places “where stuff happened” – especially creative stuff. I didn’t know anyone who earned money from theatre, film or television, so really, when I was young, there was no reason for me to think of my love of drama as anything other than a hobby. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years escaping through stories, whilst thinking I’d probably pursue an academic path as a way to another world.

So what brings me here, in 2024, writing this first blog in a series of 10 over the next year charting what I get up to as Associate Artist at Nottingham Playhouse? A big part of why I wanted this role was to communicate more clearly what it’s like to be a freelance writer, self-producer and jobbing actor in the current artistic climate. I think there’s still so much that needs to be demystified about this – conversations around money, workload, lifestyle – that I was never exposed to when I was trying to figure out how to do this. I can’t promise that these blogs will have all the answers, but I hope they might be the start of a conversation around the preservation and encouragement of artists in the East Midlands at a time when it feels harder than ever to embark on a career like this. I’ll also just ramble about what I did and how I did it, in the hope that it might be useful to hear someone’s story – I know this was something I craved when I was starting out.

It was only when I went to university and started writing for the stage that I began to really contemplate the creative industries as an actual career path. I was studying English Literature but realised that I was way more interested in imagining how all these classic novels I was reading might play out on stage or in a film. I worked with a touring theatre company at the time – Chapterhouse Theatre Company, based in Lincoln – and my first experiences of writing were doing exactly that, adapting classic novels for the open-air stage for their tours of the UK and Ireland. I’m going to talk more about adaptation and working with source material in a later blog but in short, I always say I learned how to write my own stories by studying and pulling apart other people’s to understand how and why they worked

It gave me a taste for storytelling and I soon wanted to start telling my own stories, from scratch. I did the Hull Truck Playwrite programme and the Royal Court Young Writers’ Scheme, both of which taught me so much about structuring your own stories and finding out what you want to say as a writer. I was then lucky enough to go and write for the third series of EastEnders: E20 (the BBC Three spin off of the main soap) which led to me getting my first agent with a TV commission under my belt.

Getting Lost…

But, in my mid 20s, I started to completely lose who I was as a writer. I knew I wanted to write, but I fell into the trap of trying to emulate other people’s writing. The Royal Court young playwrights I saw getting their premieres in London – I wanted to be them and I started to think those were the stories I needed to tell. That I should set my stories in London, with characters experiencing city life. Obviously, as a young woman from Lincolnshire with limited experience of living in the city, this didn’t work out great for me. I’d spent most of my teenage years longing to get away from Lincolnshire, but suddenly I missed it. I moved back, properly, and started writing about places I knew, experiences I’d had, and things I’d actually felt and thought, then and now. And I started, at last, to feel properly connected to writing. I ended up writing my first feature film, Lapwing (if you feel like diving into a dark psychological horror set on the isolated coast of Lincolnshire in 1555, you can find it on Amazon Prime), which reflected a huge amount of emotions, experiences and settings I’d previously avoided in my writing – stuff that made me feel vulnerable and exposed. As I now believe, good writing has to do.


…And Found

Now, my writing centres almost exclusively on regional settings and the female experience of them. I can’t say that will always be what my writing is about, and I haven’t set any hard and fast rules around the kind of stories or characters I explore. I’m open to it evolving as I change, but right now that’s what feels important to me and if I’ve learnt one thing in the last ten years, it’s to focus on what feels most real to you.

Right now I’m working on a collection of projects across film and theatre (I’ll talk more about this in a future blog too) including an adaptation of Peter Pan for Durham Gala Theatre, reset on a rundown North East abandoned quarry and focusing on Wendy’s desire to escape; a new play called Body or Soul exploring the experiences of, and attitudes towards, women working in the cam girl industry; a feminist folk horror feature film; a gender-flipped reworking of 1984 to reflect on women’s body rights in the world today. A bit eclectic, and covering everything from family theatre to adult drama, but they all feel connected and part of a repertoire that has organically emerged from me figuring out what I care about. Which is all that really matters.

See you next month!


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