Being me: a couple of guest blogs.

This month I’ve had the pleasure of writing a couple of guest blog posts, first for WeTheHumanities, then for SGSAH.

In Identity Crisis I explore how people negotiate and internally and externally validate their identities as academics and artists.

My subsequent guest post, On being the only one, goes further to address my own identity journey as a woman of colour in the arts and academia.


Tug of war… in my mouth

Here’s a wee orthodontic update…

War GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Think of the person on the left as my jaw/gums. Think of the person on the right as the gold chain that was surgically attached to me a couple of weeks ago.  The wee dude in the middle?  That’s my tooth.

And so begins a slow process of pulling my tooth up, one link of the chain at a time.  There’s no telling how long that could take, so here I find myself in February 2017, preparing for #braceface to enter 2018.  Someone tell me what life was like before this? I can’t remember.

62 weeks, still craving apples…


Shh… don’t tell the flutes…

So, you might have read in my last post that I have been unfaithful to my flute. Yes, I recently fulfilled my lifelong dream of being a string player. There. I said it. Don’t get me wrong, I do love being a flute player, but had I had the chance, it wouldn’t have been my instrument of choice.

Dealing with braces as a flautist has been tricky – more so this time around as an adult trying to work as a musician, than the first time as a 12 year old who’d just started learning. I’ve had to re-learn a lot, constantly using new muscles every time my teeth have moved. Then there was the surgery I had last week – hello, beginner’s tone. So, knowing that this year was going to be tough on my fluting, I decided now was the time to chase that dream of playing the fiddle…

At this point, I’ll give a special shout out to Deirdre & Tim for lending me the fiddle (in the most amazing green mock-croc case) and Siobhan for the loan of a shoulder rest 🙂 thank you for helping me on this adventure!

Now, I do have another motive for going down this road…

Zoolander GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Ok, so it’s not quite as bad as Derek Zoolander’s predicament, but after years of playing flute and using the right side of my body, I have noticed that I’m really lacking flexibility on my left side, particularly when I try to turn (or rather, twist) left. I have also had some minor issues with my left shoulder, arm and hand, so what better way to try and remedy it than pick up an instrument that has the opposite posture to the flute?!

I’m already feeling the difference in how much more comfortable it is to hold the fiddle, and I’m pleased to say my coordination is getting better!  It’s quite a different type of coordination to flute-playing, where my hands have to be in complete synchronisation – it’s taken a bit of thinking to get use to anticipating the latency between my left hand fingers shifting position, and the immediacy of my bowing hand/arm, but I’m getting there.

So, now that I’ve started to see an improvement, I’ll leave you with some light entertainment – the first of probably many nursery rhyme videos, here is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…


A #BraceFace turning point.

Today was a big day in my #adultswithbraces journey.  Right now I’m blissfully unaware of the pain that awaits me tomorrow, or when the anaesthetic wears off in a few hours, so I thought I’d share my update before that happens…

I had surgery this morning to uncover the submerged molar, so that the orthodontist can now pull it up out of my gum and complete treatment.  It wasn’t without its stress – no flautist likes the words “dental surgery”, but after my consultation with the dentist who would be working on me, I quickly gained a sense of trust (also helped by the fact that she is an adult with braces too).

I wasn’t worried about the pain of the surgery, it was more the implications for being a flautist, and the possible risks.  The reality is that I’ve had to turn down work at various points in the past couple of years because I had no idea what stage my orthodontic treatment would be at, or how it would affect playing, and this month is no different.  I also had to consider what I might do if it did all go wrong, because there is always a risk that something becomes more complicated. Thankfully the surgery at this stage was low risk, thanks to my unerupted tooth not being close to any nerves, and hopefully the tooth will get its act together and do the rest of the work without me needing more surgery.  It’ll be at least a few days before I can start playing flute again, so in the meantime I’ll be practicing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the fiddle (explanatory blog post to follow) and eating lots of jelly and ice cream.

Fingers crossed I’m now on my way to the end of being #BraceFace, and by the end of it I’ll have an almost full set* of healthy teeth and still be able to play all of the flutes!  422 days of life with braces (again) down, hopefully only around 200 more to go… hopefully less?!

Being the workaholic I am, I opted for local anaesthetic only, so that I only had to take the morning off, so I leave you now to go and do some qualitative interview analysis, because #PhDlife.

In the words of DC, I will survive, keep on surviving…

Music Video GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


*minus the molars I had taken out before braces the first time.


2017: Things I’m looking forward to.

Rather than making resolutions that are rarely resolved, I thought I’d make a list of things I’m looking forward to doing this year that will actually happen.

  • Enacting Operation Finish Line to get to the end of this PhD journey, with the Rory to my Paris, MC.
  • Wearing all of the shoes I forgot I had, and walking a few inches taller more often.
  • The next chapter of Snapcat adventures of Sheepus, Joyous, Tomkipomki and Pina Poppy Colada Louise, Queen of Snapcats.
  • Planning the Big BAAM Reunion.
  • Bringing more noise and havoc to Alison House with my Fofficemates.
  • Eating normal food once the braces come off. Which will be this year.
  • Being a #GlamAcademic & taking the conference circuit by storm with Kate and our travelling nail art.
  • Continuing to embarrass myself at conferences with my less-than-academic tweeting.
  • Embarking on literary and musical writing adventures with kindred spirits.
  • Brunchy time and rating the cheese toasties of Glasgow with my favourite Fox.

There are several other fun things in the works, except they’re TOP SECRET so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to find out what they are…

Why I am an activist.

People often ask me why, when I’ve got so much already on my plate, I continue to take on new things, especially those that might seem unimportant, like being on a trade union committee or contributing to work that challenges inequality at my university.

Having recently written a post for Young Workers’ Month for the Musicians’ Union, I’ve been reflecting further on why activism is important to me, and why it still gets prioritised in my increasingly busy life.

If not me, then who?

If I don’t stand up to represent young women of colour, in education, academia or music, then who will?  If I’m not speaking up in committees, is there a voice there to represent who I am and the issues I face?

Of course there are women on committees with me, but so often I’m one of the youngest voices in the room, and almost always the only person of colour, especially within music. Yes, we are all nuanced individuals and no-one can truly be represented by another, but there is a degree to which certain groups and identities can be represented, and particularly where committees are not diverse, there is a need for broader identities and experiences to be represented. I can’t represent every person who experiences inequality, because the issues we face and how we experience them will be different, but because I have a better understanding of how privilege operates, there’s a good chance that I can relate to them enough to use my voice to help. Maybe there will be a day when I can hand the reigns over to someone else to sit on these committees, but for now I feel responsible to make sure I have a seat at the table, and a voice in the conversation, because if I don’t, no-one else is going to speak for me.

Growing my voice

As I said in my piece for the Musicians’ Union, I didn’t think I was ready for being on a trade union committee — what did I know about trade unions?  What could I possibly have to offer?  But that’s not what it’s about.  I might still be finding my feet, and growing my voice, but I have every right to have that seat on committee.  For a start, if I hadn’t joined the committee, I wouldn’t know much more about trade unions today, and I doubt there would be people on these committees who could understand the issues I face as a young, BAME woman.

Last week I stuck my nose into a Facebook debate on diversity in the classical music industry, and found myself arguing with white men about whether race was an still issue in the industry… realising that there is still an attitudinal issue needing addressed around lack of awareness of privilege and barriers, it’s things like this that remind me that if I don’t speak up, I’m complicit in allowing discrimination and ignorance to barriers to continue.

Getting active

As I continue to find my feet, I’ve realised that most people my age aren’t really involved in trade union activism, and a lot of people around me aren’t members of a union, so I’ve decided something I can do is encourage people to explore what a trade union could do for them.  From what I’ve experienced so far in the trade union movement, particularly in the creative industries, there’s a need for new, young activists to step up and represent the next generation of workers, and there’s a real need for this new generation of activists to be more reflective of society so that we can continue to break down barriers.

So, expect more from me along this theme…