Our final day with Barbara Houseman is here.
A few reflections from the group of our day canyoning with Bearded Men Adventures, a wrap up in the studio in the afternoon and an evening up on the moors making fire and dinner, singing our hearts out and filling ourselves with scrummy s'mores!
Today we went canyoning. It challenged me in a way I don’t think I would have been able to face at the beginning of the week. I felt taken care of by Steph and the Bearded Men - they checked in on how I was going and let me decide whether to go on with an activity or not.
The campfire in the evening was communal and a wonderful soul experience. Looking out over the hills of Wales with the purple, yellow and green foliage and the sun setting over one hill while the moon was rising over the other is an experience I will remember for a long time.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Allowing yourself a moment to breathe and soak it all in.
Acknowledging the amazing achievements I’ve had while here no matter how big or small they are.
Learning to keep going through the challenges, breathing and releasing.
The difference between jus keeping going in a song or the text, and stopping at every crack, analysing and beating myself up is transformative.
I think of myself as a ‘calm’ person, yet I knot my hair and have to cut bits out, check my phone constantly, bite my nails, and panic work/plan. This week I haven’t felt any of those impulses as I have found such better ways to ground myself.
I learnt lots from Canyoning in terms of just going for something and also even if something upsets you being able to continue try again. And in my case I found the outcome was that I could come away from an activity with a positive experience and association because id taken the time to try again with a sense of ease and understanding.
Now I've learnt so much about the part of me that judges myself. Particularly the part that doesn't feel safe to express intense emotions around new people. It is definitely a process but I am welcoming my fears and trying to focus on what feels good.
Yesterday was a real test, a chance to put into practice what we have been learning all while in the studio.
What a relief it is to know wholly and completely that we are in charge. We are the directors and our bodies will do as they are asked if we do so in loving kindness. The limiting mindset we use to curtail our own greatness can also be sweet talked into surrender. Great news!
I don't have to hide.
We're creeping to the end of this magnificent week with Barbara Houseman - one of the worlds best voice coaches and humans.
Day 5 reflections from some of the group here at Bodlondeb Studio & Retreat.
Yesterday was a thorough look into ways to combat so many different vocal and physical blocks an actor may encounter. I could see how all these exercises be utilized in my own practice. This meant I made so many notes while watching Barbara work with others! I never got bored watching everyone work thats for sure. I am so thankful for this experience.
We have created such a genuinely non-judgmental space and everyone gives there 100% will and focus to progressing and being open. This gave me the confidence to do this also when it was my time to work on my blocks around a particularly difficult piece of text.
Something I enjoyed was that we never clapped for each other. There was never a pressure to applaude a peice of work. We, where appropriate, just expressed our genuine feeling and observations and I felt that then created a very calm and honest atmosphere.
And swimming, even when I really hate every moment of the water, it makes me look for that human connection and that little patch of sun on the water that makes it bearable.
I chose a speech and a song that I idolised from seeing another amazing actress perform. That idolatry had shut them off to me completely as out of my league yet I know a younger me has the opposite response and wants to get in and play with them without comparison.
Over the years I have lost the ability to be able to sing fully in front of others. Even singing in the shower or house has stopped after my neighbour commented.
But I trusted myself and this group so much that I gave it a go and with much encouragement from Barbara I sang with my full voice, shakes, pitching problems and all, without stopping and I bloody loved it.
Putting into practice all the breath work we’ve done to apply it to text and actually feeling the words come from my abdomen rather than my throat. Oh what a feeling!!
Today I surprised myself over and over - I stayed connected through my whole monologue (Lady Macbeth) without pulling myself out of it or cringing at myself. It’s a very challenging piece for me and I fear people seeing through me or thinking it’s too stage-y or untruthful. Today I just didn’t take that fear onstage with me, focused on staying connected and grounded, and produced work I was actually really proud of.
Not only that, but, as a wild swimming newbie and lifelong avoider of public nakedness, I had my first ever nudey swim. And it just felt right. That’s how much trust there is in this group 🥰
Day 4 reflections from the group here at Bodlondeb Studio & Retreat on Barbara Houseman's Voice Retreat.
We went for a naked swim this morning (it wasn't planned, it was just something we felt we could do), the bravery and beauty in stripping down and letting our bodies sing this is me holds so much power.
Learning to release the shoulders. Could really tell the difference when one had been done and it felt so much lighter.
Shouting without tension was a breakthrough for me- it came from the abdomen rather than the throat. This will definitely be something I take forward with me. Breath of love felt joyful and made me reflect on how far I’ve come and the choices that I can make ☺️
yesterday was another fantastic day of realisation and relaxation. I got a lot out of the body work, especially the shoulder releasing which was a big game changer for me and how I hold myself.
Yesterday’s learning was that sometimes even good changes can be uncomfortable, and that I already have everything I need - I just need to keep doing the work to set it free 😃🥰
The breath of love session was really interesting. In 48 hours everyone's intentions for the session had become much more positive focused. And at the end of the session so many people felt a sense of such deep joy and compassion for themselves and others. I related to this immensely.
The calling to shouting work was not only super beneficial as an actor but made me very aware of where my focus is can dictate where my energy goes. It became easier to shout with ease when my focus was on my support.
Today we explored physical release in the shoulders and pelvis. The focus was on ease; allowing the body to move in the mechanical way it is designed to. We also talked about "shouting", that 90% of shouting begins with calling - which also allows ease. In the evening Breath of Love session, we were encouraged to surrender to relaxation and listen to the wisdom of our bodies.
I know that love is the way to healing and growth but I don’t think I ever trusted it. I still believed and acted like discipline, work, fixing would always heal it. I’m really feeling and witnessing how softness is what you need, it is the ‘fix it’ I’m looking for, and I’m seeing it work. Barbara explaining how if chocolate is the thing that is going to give you what you need in that moment if you can’t get it anywhere else really made sense. Giving yourself what your body is looking for is taking that comfort not depriving it.
The universe is within is. Cliche but feeling it now.
Today I worked with a piece of text I have idolised from a performance I saw 20 years ago. I chose it to work on commanding a stage as I feel that I don’t.
We’ve found I have some well embedded postural and vocal habits around trying to take up less space that are stopping me being able to use my full voice. I feel like now we are getting to the nuts and bolts of what we do and the realisations are coming thick and fast.
I’m overwhelmed by the love I have for this group of people. The love Barbara and Steph have put into this course has been magnified by every person here and it’s utterly beautiful. I feel so thankful to have come.
Below are a handful of the group's reflections from day 3 of Barbara Houseman's Voice Retreat here at Bodlondeb Studio & Retreat. We went for a swim and walk, both in silence, played with our bodies and various exercises and then went headfirst into 1:1 time with Barbara.
Spending time in silence tunes you in to so many different things you might otherwise miss. I felt like my body was grateful as well as my mind. And it feels like a different way of connecting with those around you, which you might not expect.
In the workshop I was able to stay grounded and connected and notice my critic and carry on anyway! 🙌💪
yesterday for me was all about the closeness- especially loved the 11 second hug with each person, I think most of them lasted longer tho ☺️ and also the ladder laugh! The day felt playful but we were all grounded! ☺️
I’ve realised I cannot tell when my neck and voice is straining. I can’t feel myself doing it but I feel my support disappearing. Barbara moved my head to a different position that was aligned and supported and it felt very different from how I hold myself everyday. Often when I run I get a shooting cramp in my shoulder:neck and have to stop, and I’ve wondered why this tension is there and thought ‘I don’t do anything stressful or manual’
I loved watching people do individual text work and learn with them the habits we have and the techniques we can use to overcome them and better ground our voices.
Most impactful Housemanism of the day for actors: ‘the words you are saying are for the other person/audience, not for you’ - 🎤 mic drop.
I discovered where the tensions were in my neck and jaw that I had known were there and couldn’t find and this is a huge relief mentally and physically
I learned being in silence is a relief but also that I needed to still be able to connect with people physically or through eye contact or energetically like walking in the same rhythm. I felt immediately better once I had those things. When we were allowed to talk again, the words were less. I went to speak several times and realised I really didn't need to speak those words so I didn't.
Noticing how the fear floods my body and how to release it is so powerful.
It's ok to laugh.
Below is the groups reflections on day 2 of Barbara Houseman's Voice Retreat here at Bodlondeb Studio & Retreat. As you can see our work is deeper than technical voice work. The voice is affected by how we hold ourselves, hide ourselves, show up, our history, our stories. To release the voice is so important to go deeper. I (Steph) design the retreats and the outdoor time to help us go deeper, to help us take our learning into the world around us so it gets into our neurology rather than being "just a lovely time".
My morning swim. It was easier today, even though it was colder. I love that it's getting easier. I know I'm holding less.
I learnt that it’s so much less painful to just let go than it is to hold on, both emotionally and physically and to take your breath from your pelvis all the way up!
Yesterday was a very long day with lots of different discoveries for me. In the morning I set the intention of trusting myself and trusting that my experience of this session, this course will do what I need it to do.
Later we went paddle boarding, I’ve experienced wobbly legs and stood up once before so this time I was very excited to get in the water. I noticed how this quickly changed to impatience. I think this can be a pattern with me that having conquered something challenging once I then rush through the second time.
Noticing this meant I could then let it go and I fully fully relaxed in the session and loved it.
The Breathe of Love evening session brought up a lot of suppressed anger and frustration that I’ve been holding back for months. I still feel like I’m wading in it to some extent and have had a weird time since the session ended as we have been asked to stay silent. I often enjoy a comfortable silence and quiet with people and don’t feel lonely if it’s by choice but last night and today I just wanted to talk and find comfort in others so instead I’ve found myself annoyed and frustrated and wanting to pull away from everyone.
Pain is inevitable - you can fight it or breathe around it. You get to choose.
Asking Why? is essential to understanding, but sometimes going and finding out for yourself is where you get the actual answer. Ask all the questions and invite all the opinions, but find out you own why, and how.
The SUP was not only lots of fun trying something new but it was also a very good experience for noticing personal patterns. For me it was the wish to speed things up out of excitement which is okay as long as it's my choice and I feel comfortable with the option of slowing down also.
The breath of love work was very intense but Barbara made me feel so comfortable and safe. I feel as though I definitely moved towards feeling more comfortable with myself and this gives me hope for getting through both my personal blocks and the blocks affecting my acting.
Today was about expanding instead of contracting when faced with fear. In the morning I found new ways of approaching familiar exercises such as cat-cow and the spine roll. Slowing down the movements made them new again.
Stand up paddle boarding challenged me to approach something new without putting pressure on myself to be “good”.
The breath of love work in the evening allowed space for inner truths to rise to the surface and be somatically experienced. The space felt held for release in an environment of security.
Still in a very liminal space after day to paddleboarding taught me to relax and trust myself. Have confidence in myself when fears arise meet it with confidence. The centered breathing brought me to a place of self nurturing but also an earth somethings I have been numbing myself to. I am sure we will Delve deeper into this as the week goes on. This slow crawl towards the true self is an essential luxury that is beneficial for all aspects of life not just our work.
To feel the lightness in my body and mind when the heavy head was aligned and lifted was transformative! The effortless was delicious and something I've been seeking.
This week this gorgeous group of actors will be reflecting as each day passes through the Deep Dive into Your Inner & Outer Voice with Barbara Houseman at Bodlondeb Studio & Retreat here in North Wales.
Day one in Bodlondeb House…
We were invited to start day one with a 7am swim in the river. It was a great way to start the course, gently pushing us out of our comfort zones with kindness. It was also a great opportunity to enjoy the place we have come to start bonding as group.
Studio time started with Tai chi on the roof. I find warm ups are usually very functional and this was much more about finding your energy and being where you are. There isn’t a right way.
We’re being given a lot of permission – to accept where we are at and welcome it all in but then also to find something in that feels good to focus on.
You can choose where you put your focus. You can focus on what feels good.
Permission is a huge thing. Give yourself permission.
I felt empowered enough to walk outside and breathe for a minute because I needed to breathe for a minute.
You feel like Barbara actually cares for you and gets excited for you, but each of us specifically.
She’s really brought us back to listening to our bodies. We explored the resting breathe and a couple of us reflected afterwards that we had been surprised to discover that we didn’t need to breathe in immediately after breathing out. This was massive.
We gang up on the more vulnerable parts of our bodies/minds whereas we are the adult and we should nurture the vulnerable parts like a parent would.
We worked in pairs and used our body weight to help each other breathe deeply. We had to learn to trust ourselves and how instinctively we can respond to each others rhythm.
The morning was a lot about beginning to unpeel layers of how we breathe and uncovering our held patterns.
This afternoon was more about applying tools and techniques.
A word from Chloe Massey, a beautiful actor who I work with, about the upcoming Equity Elections. You may recognise her voice from National Geographic, Channel 4 and narrating over 40 audio books. I think she's great and respect her words enough to take action myself. Will you too? Steph x
Hello beautiful actors,
As you probably know, the Equity elections are coming up soon, and I want to really encourage you to vote. There's never been a more essential time to be part of a strong union, especially in the arts, with Tories cutting our funding, low pay, and the ongoing effects of the pandemic, amongst a million other things.
The more of us who vote, the stronger we are. When making demands of the government and negotiating with employers to improve working conditions and pay, Equity will be asked what percentage of their members voted in their latest elections. The lower that percentage, the less seriously the government or employers will take us.
In the last Equity elections, there was just 9% turnout.
And if you're wondering who to vote for, here's a list of incredible left-wing/progressive candidates:
You'll have received your ballot in the post. If not, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request a new one. Return your ballot using the freepost envelope you've been given by Thursday 5th July (as ballots must be received by 12pm on 8th July). You can't vote online as unfortunately this election has to be postal by law.
Any questions, feel free to drop me a line!
With love and solidarity,
Socialist, Actor, Voice Artist
We had a wonderful chat with Dr Henrie Lidiard answering people's questions about our Enneagram for Actors, Writers & Makers Retreat, 5-14th October.
Click on the videos to get a feel for us and the retreat and if you want to know more you can get in touch.
I am the founder and creator of Bodlondeb Studio & Retreat in North Wales. It's where we run our actor training retreats, it's also where I coach humans in their humaning but we also hire it out.
I've noticed that generally bookings are for the weekends which means this beautiful space is sat there unused many week days. So I thought, why not open it up to creatives wanting to get away, rehearse, create and be inspired on those quieter days at a discounted rate?
It sleeps up to 12 people and has a beautiful and adaptable studio space which overlooks the valley and rolling hills. It's hard not to be inspired here really. It has a piano and huge bifold doors to expand the space in the warmer months.
If you would like the gather the team and get away for some creative time, this is your place.
"Wonderful accommodation built to a high standard, with the user in mind. The studio provided an excellent communal space and there was also a roof terrace with breathtaking views. The lounge / kitchen was the perfect space for our group of nine to chat and prepare food." - Google review, May 2022
So long as it's out of school holidays you can book in advance to grab the dates you want.
A nonrefundable deposit of £200 will be required to secure your dates
A minimum of 3 nights during the week @£200/night (instead of £455/night)
Monday to Friday
This discounted rate is only available for theatre and film creatives and makers
(excludes classes or money generating bookings and/or corporate groups)
Your booking includes the entire building:
3 en-suite bedrooms, 12 beds, seriously comfy mattresses
Can you believe your luck that you've found a course that is immersive and life changing personal development and also directly linked to your craft too?!
Be filled up, fuelled, inspired, expanded, awakened, stretched, held, re/connected.
5th - 14th October in North Wales
The Enneagram is a powerful and profound model for understanding archetypal patterns in human nature. It is sometimes described as “A map of the human soul”.
The Enneagram itself is a synthesis of wisdom and insights from diverse spiritual traditions combined with the clarity and precision of modern psychology.
Gain a true understanding of yourself
all with the great outdoors of North Wales
What more could you want?!