I hope you are all managing in these strange and frightening times? You may well be sick of all the emails/WhatsApps/messages pinging into your inboxes every two seconds, or you may be finding them a lifeline to a social life otherwise denied. Whichever is the case, I hope you will forgive/enjoy me adding to the traffic.
I’ve decided that in lieu of being able to have my intended launch parties and other in-person events to celebrate this week’s publication of Languages of Loss, I am sending a happy-ish and (hopefully) distracting-in-a-good-way newsletter instead!
If this arrives at a time when you are particularly worried, or worse, by Covid-19 and can focus on nothing else, then please accept my apologies and put it straight in the bin. I am not underestimating or taking lightly the seriousness of all we are experiencing, but I also think we need, if possible, to step away from it occasionally for a few minutes too. We need to think of how the news deluge affects our mental health as well as taking care of our physical health, and an unremittingly bleak input of stuff can only lead to an unremittingly bleak output of mood. But if you are not in a place where you want to hear that right now, again – please bin this immediately.
Some of you know me from my annual Bill Cashmore Anniversary newsletter, some of you know me as the author of Languages of Loss, and some of you are just waifs and strays unfortunate enough to have given me your email addresses along the way, for whatever random reason. To simplify my own life, I have amalgamated you all into one supersized, catch-all mailing list. This may however have the opposite effect of complicating your own lives. If so, please feel free to unsubscribe down below if you do not wish to be on it. In the past I’ve only sent out one email a year to coincide with the anniversary of Bill’s death, but I may increase that to a couple more now I have more to talk about. Not sure yet. Whatever the (in)frequency turns out to be, you can unsubscribe at any time.
That was an awfully long preamble to say that this newsletter will first say a little bit about where we are with The Bill Cashmore Award, which sadly got a bit overlooked due to the arrival of you know what, and then a little bit about where I am with the Languages of Loss publication. Skip to whichever bit most interests you. (Or perhaps I should say bores you least).
Follow the link to learn more about how this commemorative Award came about and what it entails. For those of you already up to speed, here is the latest news:
Last year’s inaugural Award winners – Eve Cowley and Elin Schofield, and their play Screwdriver – played to packed houses at the Lyric Hammersmith in February. Three of their four performances were sold out and they received 4 star reviews from both The Stage and A Younger Theatre websites. Plans for a national tour and a run at the Edinburgh Fringe ensued but are sadly now on hold for the obvious reason. This was an extraordinary play by two extraordinary women and completely superseded all my hopes and expectations for what The Bill Cashmore Award could achieve. I am so proud of them and all the amazing people who helped make it happen and I know that in happier times this play, and Eve and Elin, will go on to greater things.
Meanwhile, February also saw us busy auditioning for this year’s winner in a long but exciting process. Twenty of our forty-five applicants got the chance to showcase a ten-minute idea in front of an audience as part of the Lyric’s Evolution Festival. From this varied and fascinating selection, we shortlisted five. These five talented acts then benefited from a week-long residency at The Lyric Hammersmith, during which they had the chance to further develop their idea with the help of Lyric creative staff, and the talented and generous Simon Snashall, who honoured his friendship with Bill by providing a morning’s masterclass to the writers, directors and actors of our shortlisted acts. The end of that week brought another opportunity for them to try out their nascent material in front of an audience, and the Lyric judging panel.
At the end of all that preparation, I’m delighted to announce that the winner of this year’s Bill Cashmore Award, is Alfiah Brown with her play Pick N’ Mix, in which she explores what it is like to grow up identity mixed-raced in a black and white world. As soon as Covid-19 allows, we will start work with Alfiah in order to help her turn this exciting idea into an hour-long play which, as Screwdriver did this year, will headline next year’s Lyric Evolution Festival.
Thank you so, so much to all of you who supported the first year of The Bill Cashmore Award – either by donating funds, by offering your time and expertise in the form of masterclasses and workshops, or by attending the performances of Screwdriver and/or the Scratch audition shows. Once Covid-19 allows we will start fundraising again. Just as last year, I again pledge to match all your donations, and to donate all my royalties from Languages of Loss. Which brings me neatly on to the second part of my newsletter……
So, finally we reach publication week. Thursday April 2nd approaches! It is obviously a long way from being the publication week I had hoped for but in the overall scheme of things, me missing out on a couple of parties and the chance to show off on some TV shows and at some literary festivals is far from being the worst disaster of the moment, so I do very much try to keep my own minor disappointments in perspective.
I’m focusing on the fact there is plenty that can still go ahead and is doing so – I am just moving my shouting and showing off about it all online, so apologies for all the bombarding those of you who follow me on the social media channels are about to be deluged with.
If any of you feel able to share and repost and tell others about the book, I would be massively grateful because I do need to spread the word somehow and can no longer do it in person.
Follow this link to find out more about the book and please do buy it if you can. It is sadly more relevant than ever before as we all face huge losses big and small thanks to this hideous virus. The book is not only a memoir, it is also a guidebook to grief and, I hope, offers suggestions on how to cope. Even though our bookshops have now shut, there are still plenty of opportunities to get it: hive.co.uk is a wonderful online book delivery service which buys from local bookshops thus keeping our high streets alive – now more necessary than ever of course. And they’ve doubled the commission they are paying bookshops while the lockdown persists, so they really are the good guys. If you want to stick to what you know, however, then it can also be found at both Waterstones and Amazon. There is also a Kindle edition and an audio book. The audio book was recorded by my adored friend, the amazing Tamsin Greig. Tam is one of the many delightful legacies that Bill has bequeathed me – she and Billy were the closest of friends for 25 years and Tam has honoured him by recording the audio book (she does a phenomenal job), by writing the most beautiful foreword to the book itself, and by adopting me as her friend in his absence. Incidentally I also need to give her a shout out and big thank you for running a masterclass with last year’s Bill Cashmore Award winners, Eve and Elin, and helping them take Screwdriver to another level of professionalism with sky high standards and production values.
On the subject of gratitude, there are so, so many people who have made the writing of, and the publication of Languages of Loss possible. I had a whole speech planned for the now non-existent launch parties but I don’t want to test your patience further by replicating it here, so I will do it as a blog on my website, alongside all the many other thanks yous that I owe to so many.
I’m going to end now with two things : a plea to follow me on social media (Instagram @sashbates, Facebook @sashbates, Twitter @sashbates) and to please repost any of my missives that you feel appropriate; and secondly rather grandly and self-aggrandisingly to tell you of some of the media stuff that is still going ahead. Here goes for some things to read, watch and listen out for in the next weeks:
Tomorrow – Sunday March 29th – there will be some extracts of Languages of Loss in the Mail on Sunday’s You Magazine. This is also available on their website if you can’t get to the shop.
This Thursday, April 2nd, I will (Covid-19 permitting) be on the Chris Evans breakfast show on Virgin Radio (not sure of the time) and on BBC London’s Jo Good show at about 3.30. But of course, things are changing rapidly so we’ll see if they really happen. Monday’s appearance on BBC Breakfast telly has apparently been postponed not cancelled so I may pop up there at some point the following week.
I also have some articles coming up in the press soon as well.
I can also be found on the Front Row podcast from March 5th, and on the Deliciously Ella podcast episode 3, series 5.
As well as self-promoting, I am also going to be using my social media to post some tips and suggestions of things I’ve learned from 2 years of grieving. The book itself is, in part, a sort of ‘manual’ to how to grieve, and how to support someone who is grieving, and sadly in the coming weeks there are going to be a lot more members of both those groups. And whether we lose someone or not, I believe we are all collectively grieving the loss of our way of life, our certainty, our supermarkets as we know them, our holidays, our hairdressers – everything we hold dear. So, I’m going to be posting some relevant ideas and thoughts and suggestions around that too – some from the book, and some extra things that didn’t make it into the book. I hope some of them might be helpful to some of you. Ignore if not!
Think that’s almost it for now, thank you so much for your patience, and please can I just end – as I must – with the biggest thank you of all – to Bill Cashmore himself who paved the way for all this and who I absolutely know is guiding me through all these things – helping me create the good things – the Award and the book – and who I can feel supporting me through the bad – Covid-19, and the ever-present grief of missing him daily, now more than ever.
Lots of love to all of you dear friends. Stay safe and please look after your mental health as much as your physical health at this trying time.