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?!
Tuesday 19th April, 7pm
@ Slung Low, Holbeck, Leeds
You are invited to our 5th Birthday Party!
I started to write this blog when it was still 2021 but I couldn’t find the words so I left it alone. I have now returned as it feels like this last year is far too important to go unmarked.
It’s hard to comprehend the difference between right now and a year ago. The studio was known as “the outbuilding”, it was derelict and surrounded by piles of mud and the rest was simply a concept - no website, no booking system, no logo. I couldn’t even begin to imagine that it would actually be something, let alone what it actually is. There are wonderful actors/humans in my life now who I hadn’t even met yet. I hadn’t been white water rafting or stand up paddleboarding or even wild swimming and I certainly hadn’t danced the five rhythms. Goodness, it had been over a year since I had even taught The Meisner Technique! Almost everything I was doing was online, including making a show and I had forgotten what it was like to be in a room with you, to hold you, welcome you with my arms open. And now I haven’t run an online class in months because I’ve been so busy being with you.
Every single day I’ve worked to recreate the balance of being a mum, teaching, coaching, running a business, building a new one and managing, creating and designing "the build" whilst somehow also (just about) being a wife and a friend. I’ve had to integrate self care into every element of my doings so I could be mentally, physically and emotionally well enough to keep up the juggling act. Sometimes I’ve felt like I was failing (which is totally ok) and other times like I could run the world (also totally ok!).
Covid scuppered many plans. Notably (but certainly not limited to…) pushing mine and Sam Brady’s Arts Council Funded project back (and back and back). It pushed the cost of building materials up (and up and up) to 80% which meant we found ourselves in mega financial trouble as we built the studio, taking out loans we didn’t know how we would pay back. It closed down classes we had booked in and filled up. It even shut down the first Both Feet Retreat in July which was utterly devastating after everything we did to get open in time. And it’s meant that Adam has had to be working many hours at Leeds Conservatoire designing options for every scenario so he’s not been able to work with us at all.
Covid has certainly kept us on our toes.
I now have Bodlondeb Studio & Retreat here at the top of our drive in North Wales which is home to all of Both Feet’s actor training retreats. I’ve had actors travel from all over the UK to stay with me here and deepen their understanding of their craft and strengthen their relationship with themselves. Together we’ve jumped off epic rocks into freezing cold water, rafted and SUPed the white waters, slept under the stars, made fire, foraged, done scene work in the river, created showreels and shared bread. We have all changed and there are no words available to express how much richer my world is for sharing these experiences with those who have come here.
I ran weekly classes in Manchester where actors were traveling from as far as Norwich and Newcastle each week to hone their craft with us - every class a surprise.
I’ve questioned everything about my practice, who I am as a human and a coach. I am changing and so is my work and those who have been training with me have been journeying with me too - which takes real courage to move with the changing tide.
I’ve worked with James at Shift Focus to provide beautiful headshots and Fly Girl Films to create unscripted showreel scenes.
We have continued to develop my relationship with the very honest, knowledgeable and world renowned voice coach and director Barbara Houseman whom again, rocked my world and changed my work.
I taught acting to acting students in Manchester’s ICTheatre for a term.
I have teamed up with Dermot Daly of Arts Peers and offered full & half scholarships so there’s open access to our training - something we’re building into the fibre of Both Feet.
I’ve been taking 3 groups of stunning humans (and actors) through a programme I designed in 2020 using Free Writing as a tool for change. The process and people are deeply embedded in my heart and continue to change me.
I also retrained as a Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner and extended my multiple brain integration techniques by training as a Master Coach. I began my journey in the Enneagram with Hen of NLP in the North and completed the Loving Your Life in 30 Programme. Developing myself as a human has been vital to my ability to keep working honestly with you.
And on top of that Adam and I have received phone calls throughout the year from actors who have ended up in dream roles in TV and theatre and accepted places at drama schools they’ve been fighting for since they were old enough. Those are definitely the best kind of calls.
The Meisner Technique is at the core of what we do but our training is not about being “good at repetition”, repetition is simply the springboard in. Our training is about offering you a safe space to really, truly, deeply learn how you do you so you can serve yourself as a human and an actor and those calls tell us we’re doing ok.
It’s cold today but the sky is blue and I am ready for you 2022.
I promise I will keep on learning and developing, questioning and challenging.
I will turn work off at the end of each work day and I will have time out each month, so I can serve myself and those around me better.
The more present mum I am, the more present coach and teacher I will be.
Thank you to every soul who has joined us, shared a part of themselves with us and helped us in any way. You are deeply appreciated.
I’m also sorry to anyone who hasn’t heard back from me about various things - I hope you can understand why. Please give me a nudge if you feel you can forgive me.
And finally... Both Feet has just turned five years old and what a way to mark how far we’ve come. Who wants to help me organise something to celebrate?!
I’d come across Barbara Houseman’s work before in my acting training, so when a dear friend and voice teacher nudged me about a scholarship for Steph’s vocal retreat with Barbara, of course I applied - but didn’t actually think I had a chance of getting it. That was probably one of the signs that a post-pandemic reset was just what I needed.
On the train down to Wales, I wondered if I’d made the right decision - could I take a break that long from work, blah blah blah. But it ended up being one of the best things I’ve done all year.
We spent seven days working in Steph’s beautiful studio, surrounded by stone walls, wooden panelling, and floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights which filled the space with sunlight, and a view of the Autumn trees on the opposite hillside, which I watched change colour throughout the week.
I loved Barbara’s holistic approach to voice work, which saw us working on just about everything, starting with movement, then voice and finally, text.
We talk a lot about creating safe spaces in acting, but this truly felt like the safest learning environment I’d ever been in. That’s probably down to the thought and skill Steph put in to organising the course - from building the most beautiful studio I’ve ever worked in, to designing an environment for some pretty luxurious communal living, giving us spaces to gather in the evenings, as well as privacy, in rooms with curtained-off bunk-beds.
Most important of all was the wonderful and supportive group of people Steph had gathered and who I felt very lucky to get to know - Steph herself, Barbara of course, and six other actors with their different backgrounds, and training, and skills.
It took only a short time of working and living together for us to bond to the point where we felt comfortable being open and trying things out in front of each other, without any fear of judgement, or pressure to perform.
In the evenings we cooked together and discussed the day. Or went for a hike as the sun set, or built a bonfire and toasted marshmallows. One morning we went wild swimming. We laughed a lot together, and we cried. We also sang a lot of show tunes.
Part of what I love about acting is that you’re always learning. I didn’t go to a full-time drama school, so over the years I’ve sought training in different places. In my experience, the best learning I’ve had isn’t the kind that feels neatly tied up at the end, where you’ve ticked a box on a skill or a module, but rather the kind that opens new doors, and makes you aware of new paths you’d like to explore.
‘Retreat’, to me, suggests some kind of emotional or physical withdrawal, except that this felt like a week of exactly the opposite. Bonding and connecting so quickly with new people requires a kind of emotional energy, openness, and presentness I feel hadn’t been asked of me since pre-pandemic. And physically, we were moving constantly, which was exactly what I need as a reset from the last year.
I don’t know that ‘retreat’ encapsulates everything that the week was: too active to feel like a rest, too much work to feel like a holiday, too much fun to feel like work, too much learning to just be hanging out with friends.
On the last day we talked about what we’d learned. Everyone had some combination of things that are easy to measure - new voice exercises, tools for tackling text, a deeper understanding of your own voice. And then there were less tangible things - confidence, freedom, ease, peace. In short, it was a lot more than what you might expect to get from just 7 days.
A part of me worried that it was the environment Steph had created which supported those less tangible things. So I was happy to find that when I got home, that enthusiasm, energy, and sense of peace I’d found, had come home with me.
Thank you so much to Barbara and Steph for the scholarship and a week of training that has opened so many doors. I can’t wait to come back.
By Alexandra Boulton
See her Spotlight
End this year with self care, love & connection
Hi, I’m Steph. I’ve recently opened Bodlondeb Studio & Retreat in north Wales which sleeps up to 12 people. I’ve been struck over and over recently about people who may spend Christmas on their own or are seriously in need of something different to give their hearts a chance to heal and it just occurred to me that instead of opening the retreat to Airbners this Christmas, that it could be put to better use closer to my heart and values.
So if you know a theatre/film maker or creative who's in need of connection this Christmas, please, please share far and wide.
I’ll keep it simple for now...
Come to North Wales for some self care over Christmas.
You’d spend a few days in the rolling hills of North Wales, going on adventures, resting, playing, sharing food and most importantly, connecting. I’ll spend some time with you exploring you, self care, mindful practice and we’ll go for a beautiful walk.
You'll need to send in a video introducing yourself so I can make sure the people who come here are well suited - it’s an integral part to of how this space runs beautifully and easily.
Simply fill in this form to register your interest.
In 2019, a year after taking the plunge into the world of professional acting, I had the pleasure of doing Both Feet's 4-day voice course with Barbara Houseman in Leeds. Having never been to drama school, I was totally new to the world of ‘voicework’. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I already talk – a lot. Why would I need to pay someone to teach me to use my voice?
I’m not one to easily admit that I’m wrong, but I hold my hands up to this one. I came away from that week with a wealth of knowledge about my voice – not just the way I speak, but the way I speak to myself. Barbara’s holistic approach to voice work struck a chord with me instantly, and I found myself tapping into parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed. More importantly, I began to listen to them with kindness. It never even occurred to me that my inner voice would have an impact on my outer voice – but of course it would. It’s all connected.
Of course, then 2 years pass and things get busy and the Tories get in again and we have an international pandemic and the world grinds to a halt and all of that wonderful insight, growth and knowledge fades through despondence and lack of use.
So, when I saw that Steph was collaborating with Bodlondeb Studio and Retreat on a training retreat with Barbara this year, I was one of the first people to book on. I’d already been to Bodlondeb Studio and Retreat for the brilliant Acting and Action Adventure actor training course in August – in an attempt to hit the reset button after ‘the year that never was’ – and I couldn’t think of anything better than spending some more time in the wonderful Welsh countryside with these wonderful women. My only slight concern was that I might end up repeating material from the 2019 course – was there a possibility that I could feel short changed?
Firstly, returning to Bodlondeb was always going to be special in itself. I may have only been there twice but it already holds a very special place in my heart and gut. The space is warm, welcoming and full of light – it pours into the studio whatever the weather. The sight of the rolling Welsh hills during the daytime is as beautiful as the stars that literally cover the sky during the night.
The curtains round the individual beds in the bedrooms provide a level of privacy and space – which several people made use of as they needed it – while the sitting room provides a gorgeously snug space to get to know each other. I really enjoy communal living, and one of my favourite things about staying at the retreat is the chance to eat round a table with a group of adults every night (a treat I’m sure any parent will identify with…).
Then, as the training started, any doubts that I might have had about repeating material were put to bed straight away.
Over the week, the 7 of us (plus Barbara and Steph, who was student-ing this week along with us) lived together, worked together, played together.
Inside the studio, we did tai chi, danced 5 rhythms, breathed, praised each other’s backs (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it), acknowledged our inner critics, explored our vagal responses, played with resonance and range, brrr-ed and walked our way through texts and watched each other work.
Outside the studio, we toasted marshmallows, ate chocolate and drank wine with one of the world’s leading voice coaches. We listened to her incredible, hilarious stories about her experience in this crazy industry that we all love so much, and we laughed along with her. We built fire on a hillside and sang together in harmony, swam in a lake and warmed each other up, climbed a literal mountain together and watched the sun go down, rafted down white water rapids and worked as a team.
We laughed until we couldn’t stand up straight, cried until the floodgates opened, danced into our rage, our joy, our compassion. We sang Queen and Hamilton round the piano, skipped over a skipping rope, bathed in sound, released, opened, connected and held each other (literally and metaphorically).
Ultimately, we watched each other change.
Did we repeat some of the same exercises from the 2019 course? Yep.
Did I care? Nope. Not for one second.
While I’m sure that we have all come away with technical skills and a deeper knowledge of vocal technique, when Barbara asked us on the last day what our learnings were, we were all saying the same things: trust, acceptance, allowing, grounding. All of which seem like a pretty solid base upon which to build our craft.
My husband said to me last night, ‘you seem very alive since coming home’. He’s not wrong. And, most excitingly, I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. The phrase ‘life-changing’ gets bandied around a lot, but it doesn’t feel like an exaggeration in this case.
Huge, huge thanks to both Barbara and Steph for welcoming our whole selves into the space every day with such openness and compassion.
I already can’t wait to go back.
Nicki Davy is an actor, musician and writer. She attended the Voice Retreat with Barbara Houseman in November 2021.
Find Nicki on Spotlight
If you haven’t been able to join us at a Both Feet training retreat in Wales in 2021, keep your eyes peeled for updates on our calendar and sign up to our mailing list to be the first to know about our upcoming actor training!
There’s nothing quite like stepping into the training room with Both Feet for the very first time, completely unaware of what’s to come and a little bit terrified at the same time. Ironically, that’s just life, isn’t it? After years of hard-work, a lot of tears and discovering who I actually am, I received the email that I’ve wanted for so long offering me a place at drama school. I’d wanted it since being that little eight-teen year old that jumped on a train to Sheffield after a google search of ‘Meisner, Manchester’ in the hopes of keeping up acting classes after leaving sixth form. Out of the sea of links and websites, I was drawn to Both Feet. Either good marketing or just trusting my gut, whatever it was, it was the best decision I could’ve made. I laugh now because I just had no idea of the journey that was in front of me and the friendships and connections that I would form throughout the next few years. And if I could sum it up, I would. But there’s actually not a way to do that. All I know right now, is that Both Feet has made me a better human before anything else. The acting is just a bonus.
It’s taken me ages to think of a way to reflect on my journey to this point now, how can I summarise almost four years with Both Feet without turning it into a novel? Something that changed for me, and is a huge reason why I feel like I got into drama school this year, is that I took ownership of my journey and who I was. That included those years of rejection that I’d put so much shame on. Fuck that. So, let me talk you through all those years of ‘rejections’.
2018. I’d left college with my A-Levels and I’d began working a full time job to appease my parents and I honestly had no idea what I was doing. After searching on google for ‘acting classes in Manchester’ ‘Meisner Manchester’, Both Feet appeared and I signed myself up. I walked into the room at 18, no idea what Meisner actually was, and was met by Steph. A smiley, bold and lovely woman who told me all about her morning poo within five minutes of meeting her. Sitting around with a handful of other actors of all ages and personalities, I felt like such an imposter. I’d been rejected from drama school and I had no professional credits to my name. When I was told to sit opposite another actor, my mind went into overdrive telling me how to get it right, how to beat the game, how to be the best. And Steph soon stopped me and told me not to bullshit and fuck being polite. At 18, I can’t tell you how terrifying that was. I turned up everyday scared shitless, but each time I got up, sometimes I’d have a breakthrough and sometimes I wanted to throw a chair through the window. I kept wanting to get to ‘the acting’ because I now realise I just wanted to hide. But slowly, and I mean slowly, I let my guard down. After the intensive week, I was hooked on Steph’s nurturing style and began to work with more ease rather than fighting it.
2019. I attended almost every both feet class and course I could. From tech gyms to audition workshops to movement and voice training, I really threw myself in. I completely and utterly trusted Steph. Because I saw how other actors in the room connected to others, how easily they found truth by just being themselves and cutting the bullshit. I discovered new techniques like Laban and had the most transformative week with Barbara Houseman in Leeds where I found my love for mindfulness. I was even writing my own work and being supported by actors from Both Feet in producing this and developing it further. All the while, I was working a full-time job that I hated whilst being involved with youth theatre productions so that I was fully immersed in acting and performance. The only thing I wasn’t working hard on, was my own well-being and making space for me. But we’ll come to that in a bit. With only two full days off a week and filling my days to the brim, it doesn’t come to much surprise that I was rejected from drama school auditions again.
2020. The year my life changed. We all know what happened this year. And in a way I’m grateful for it. Because I was forced to stop, and as you could read from 2019, I was not giving myself any space to breathe at all. Steph started creating classes and courses that we could do on Zoom so I got involved with as much as I could at the time. If you haven’t noticed already, Steph will go above and beyond to innovate and make valuable courses for the community of Both Feet. I was involved in a digital scene study where she invited a casting agent to give feedback and aid our professional development as well as free-writing sessions and more. But I owe such a big BIG thank you and it changed my life to Steph’s New Pathways course. I was at a low point, a really low point. I was depressed, I didn’t know who I was or what I enjoyed anymore, but the one good thing about hitting rock bottom, the only way to go was forward. With a group of beautifully open and down-right amazing humans, I embarked on changing my thoughts and inturn, changing my life. I owe so much to those 12 weeks and more, because for the first time ever, I wasn’t just thinking about how to get into drama school, I was truly focused on myself. I got far with auditions but not quite close enough, so I took Steph’s recommendation to check out a course called Year Out Drama which I successfully got into. My new found freedom and confidence, combined with moving to a new city for the first time ever was a successful ending. I went into the course with courage and being open to whatever was thrown my way, working 10-5 and sometimes 10-9 five to six days a week. I absolutely loved it. For the first time in a very long time, I was solely focused on performing and myself, and not on drama school auditions.
2021. Although this isn’t a year of rejection, it’s brings us to now. It’s the first year that I haven’t been directly involved with Both Feet for a very long time. And now that I think of it, it’s almost like the Nanny McPhee effect. When you don’t want it, it’s there for you but when you think you need it, it isn’t. And when it isn’t directly there, you naturally put into practice everything it ever taught you. I went into those drama school auditions cutting every bit of bullshit I could and I was the most prepared I have ever been. And I had the most success, final recalls almost everywhere I applied and an offer. I hope you can see that from 2018 to now, those rejections that I got were not failures. Because I was not ready, I wouldn’t have been able to fully take what I need from a three year course because other shit needed to happen first. And it made me who I am right now, warts and all.
So, in a couple months time, I start my three year training and I am so unbelievably excited for it, but terrified. But I know deep down that no matter what, I am ready, because of my training and my experiences with Both Feet as well as a hell of a lot of life experience. And just like Steph always says, we are all a work in progress. So, to every single person who’s supported me a long the way, the Both Feet community, my wonderful 8 humans, Steph - thank you for believing in me every step of the way. And for sharing this beautiful journey with me. I know I’ll always have a home to come back to.