Fiona Harper - I feel very productive in my writing presently

The Globe’s Former Artistic Coordinator Fiona Harper, has written a full play in poetic verse that’s been longlisted for the Theatre 503 playwriting Prize 2014. This feminist has published poetry as a part of anthology “The Dance Is New” and is currently running her blog “Lady We Salute You” as a celebration of powerful and creative women.

I meet Fiona at the Jamaican Moloko Café in Brixton, she is  5 months pregnant, and her Irish accent feels like a warm wind in rainy London that morning;

NJ - How did you move from commissioning plays to writing them?

FH - I have both been writing art projects and working a lot on the administration part as a coordinator. I have five years experience at Shakespeare’s Globe as the Artistic Coordinator. However during the recent years I’ve written short stories, plays and for novel projects. It’s been hard to combine my writing with the administration part, so I decided to go freelance a couple of years ago and concentrate on my writing, as I felt I needed to feed my artistic side first.

NJ - Why do you write from first person?

fiona harperFH - When I meet others in my writing group. They always tell me I have a strong narrative voice, you can put it on stage with hardly any adjustments they say. I always write in the first person, imagining myself through the characters. It must be because of my theatrical background. So writing plays falls quite naturally. I wanted to raise awareness around OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), so I wrote a long play called “Eggshells”. It’s about a couple, in particular a man that becomes traumatised after a terrorist attack in London. He wasn’t there when it happens yet he can’t stop thinking about it, because of how the media portrays the incident. It’s the one that got long listed for Theatre 503 Playwriting Prize.

NJ - What inspires you to write?

FH - Everything can be inspiring to me. I pick up stories randomly from people on the streets. If I see someone on the street that has a special character or tells me something interesting, they often end up on my paper.


NJ - Did you think of continuing working when you got pregnant?

FH - There have been a lot of positive reactions. But also questions around whether or not I will continue working. The anxiety has been more from the outside, people seem to stress about you more, and like to remind you how difficult things will become. For example, I went for a job interview that I was really qualified for. The whole interview felt good; it was a temporary project ongoing util March, and my baby is due in mid April. The interviewer asked me at the end, if I had any more projects coming up and I replied that I was going to have a baby in April. Her facial expression changed a bit and she said that she would be in touch, we shook hands and I didn’t get the job. The reason for it? I don’t know, it could have been that I wasn’t suitable, but pregnant women do get outcompeted easily.

NJ - How has your pregnancy affected you as a writer?

FH - The whole thing feels like a recognition of a massive change. The force is higher on an internal level, the external part has slowed down. I am discovering a lot of new ideas for my writing and I’m looking forward the free time I will gain to spend on it. The anxiety you feel is more financial, but being an artist is not a new feeling. Regardless I am more happy now. It is interesting  to discover new sides of myself which I’ve never seen before, I am very organised now, something that was very strange to me. I am also going back to old habits such as working with paper, and doing montage which I believe is linked to my A-level in art.

NJ - What are you working on now?

FH - In terms of projects that I would like to explore while pregnant, I have been thinking about putting together a piece of theatre that would run as a series of monologues with different female characters telling their stories.  I would like the characters to span the ages and be interwoven by their pregnancies, A sort of Vagina Monologues for pregnancy. I also hope to begin to work on a piece of fiction about a female spy and do some work on the blog that integrates my writing into it more. I feel very productive in my writing presently.