Maria De Francesca - Director of the McGowan School of Dance

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What do you consider your greatest achievement? 

My 3 children, a long-lasting relationship, gaining my Degree in Dance and becoming a registered ballet teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance.

What motivates you to do what you do? 

I studied ballet, tap, modern dance as a child and contemporary dance as a teenager so dance has always been part of my life. As an older dancer and teacher I really appreciate good, safe well-taught technique and my training in London with the Royal Academy has been invaluable as a highly regarded global teaching qualification. I believe everyone has a dancer in them and I love the challenge of taking children and adults through an exam, performance or their first class in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. I particularly enjoying teaching adult ballet classes across west Cornwall and I’m a qualified Silver Swan (RAD Ballet for mature dancers). We have a good laugh, destress, and get to workout to fabulous music.

What do you owe your mother? 

A bottle of gin, Yorkshire grit, determination, ‘kill them with kindness’, and laughter.

Which women inspire you and why?

My mum for having four children, running pubs and restaurants, and for moving to Italy with my dad before he died. Rosa Parks for defying racism and injustice. Pina Bausch for dance & choreography. Arundhati Roy for literature. Rosalind Franklin for discovering DNA, and Ella Fitzgerald for her voice.

 What are you reading? 

 ‘The School Days of Jesus’ by J. M. Coetzee.

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?

All the usual ones, sadly. Having a sit-in at school to protest against girls not being allowed to wear trousers? 

How can the world be made a better place for women?

We need more women in positions of power and influence.

Describe your perfect day?

Coffee, a deserted beach or pool, a book, snacks, iced cocktails, and an Italian 5 course dinner with family and friends.

We've noticed there really aren't many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?

Diana Mc Gowan for services to ballet in Cornwall.

Give us a tip?

Dancing improves brain function! 

 

About Maria: I was born in Southampton to Anglo/Italian parents. I Lived in Bristol for many years and had two children before travelling through Central America and the Caribbean. I moved to Cornwall in 1995 and had another child, and with my partner we renovated a barn near Madron. I became a yoga teacher and then studied for a Degree in Dance and became a ballet assistant to Penzance’s infamous ‘Miss’ Diana McGowan. I have taught GCSE, BTEC Dance for many years - in secondary schools in Penzance and St Ives, and I’m currently teaching Classical Ballet at Truro College. I inherited the McGowan School of Dance in 2016 and undertook my Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) Ballet Teaching qualification. The school is thriving and I love teaching a range of students from baby ballet all the way up to older students - having just qualified as a Silver Swans RAD Teacher (gentler ballet for the mature dancer).

https://www.mcgowandance.com/

Alex Coppock-Bunce - Artist & Therapist

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What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I guess there are two which happened at the same time. The first was starting up a successful business as a hypnotherapist, counsellor and psychotherapist 12 years ago after 30 + years in corporate life.

The second was exploring my creativity in visual arts in more depth. I'd painted and drawn every year around West Penwith for many years when taking business trips and holidays here. I joined several groups of artists in Swindon, taking classes and exhibiting regularly and recently opening up the house to the Swindon Open Studios where people could see my working environment ( and eat cake). Last year I ran a print workshop in a local community centre which was a lovely experience, helping people realise how creative they were too.


What motivates you to do what you do?

As an idealist I try to change the World in my work as a therapist, an artist and an environmentalist. I can see how good we can be as individuals and organisations and how great some institutions have the capacity to be. But I am often astonished by selfish motivation, narrow thinking and lack of altruism.

I want to save the planet environmentalist and have been trying in one way of another for over 35 years since working with renewable energy and energy efficiency back in the 80s. I've been an activist ever since, chairman of a local coppice group, protester about over development of green areas, asking difficult questions of politicians, for instance why public buildings don't have solar panels on them ( I'm still waiting for answers on that one).

The beauty of the land and sea motives me to try to capture it in paint or anything I have to hand.

I believe it is important to walk the talk and so I have invested what small amount I can in solar, wind, ethical banking, and we have an allotment! Incidentally, on a recent trip to Cornwall we found it hard to charge our electric car (EV) west of Truro. That makes it harder to for those with EVs to contribute towards the local economy.

What do you owe your mother?

A lot. Mother is 95 and was the youngest of 9, born in Cornwall of Victorian parents.

Strongly religious and a great believer in duty and that feelings are irrelevant, she still has firm Victorian values. Growing up in the 60s and 70s was somewhat interesting as a result. I owe my love of Cornwall, independence and my manners to her but my lifelong sense of wanting equality for all and rebellion against mindless entitlement I think probably go back to our conflicts earlier in life.

Which women inspire you and why?

Emily Bronte due to her untamed imagination and Maya Angelou because of her dignity, self belief and ability to overcome abuse.

What are you reading?

I tend to dip into several at once. “Where on Earth is Heaven” by Johnathan Stedall. Now I want uplifting and lighthearted reading as I am recovering from surgery and chemo for Ovarian Cancer. I finally finished the required reading for surviving OC and one about starving cancer which were hard going. I've just bought “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris, and “The Alchemist” by Paul Coelho, I trust they will do the trick.

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?

More than I thought on reflection. I won't list the major ones otherwise it'll sound like as though I'm still attached to them and I'm not as furious about them now. But there was general sexual discrimination and intimidation fairly commonly in offices during my time in the civil service and in corporate life.

I was even sent on a course for Women's development in the 70s and when I returned was informed by my boss that he would not be interested in implementing anything that I had learned. In the 80s and 90s I was told by a succession of male managers in annual appraisals that I “couldn't boil the ocean” when I my job was to review procurement processes and I listed the failing ones and what needed to be put in place to improve the future of the business.

I did get an award for raising awareness of bullying in the workplace ( by then it was a female Director) which involved a zero tolerance approach being implemented which was good. I left due to burnout in 2004. I married, retrained as a counsellor and psychotherapist and became self employed in 2007. All the gender barriers disappeared!

How can the world be made a better place for women?

Education of women to believe at an early age they have a right to equality and respect. It is important to help women to build their self esteem to improve equality so they realise authority figures need to earn respect just like anyone else.

Educate all people to understand that it is a privilege to help others and that paying tax is a Good Thing! The majority of women would benefit. So many caring and capable women keep the NHS, schools, residential homes and other institutions going on goodwill alone. If they expected more and felt more entitled they may obtain it.

I'd like to see women informed about what comprises healthy relationships.

Again all women would benefit. It isn't well known that they need to sharpen their bullshit radar and have good boundaries and self esteem to let other people know what is and is not acceptable behaviour. I 'd like to change the media culture which has been to make money by making women feel inadequate so that they continually buy beauty products, cosmetic surgery and fashion to feel better about themselves momentarily.

The Mindful Employer Network which I have been part of for 10 years has made great strides in improving work life balance and work related stress with many employers in our area, encouraging questions to be asked compassionately and how to recognise certain behaviours. Some men have found it totally counter cultural to their experience of work but now understand the need for change.

Describe your perfect day?

Wake up in Cornwall, breakfast overlooking the sea. Being in the landscape and drawing one of the sacred sites or fantastic coastal scenes in West Penwith with a view to creating an image in different media. The perfect evening would mean no cooking, maybe a concert or just more gazing at the sea.

We've noticed there really aren't many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?

Rowena Cade as she had such a vision and did most of the work of creating the Minack Theatre on her own.

I also particularly like Marion Hocken, a local artist born in North Cornwall. She was searching for something spiritually and personally which resonates with me. A traditional flower artist originally, she was influenced by Lanyon and I see a lot of Christopher Wood's palette and sense of composition in her later works. She was a founder member of the Penwith Society and painted a very controversial picture called “The Hollow Men” which I love. She remains largely unrecognised but I feel an affinity with her.


Give us a tip?

Know what to look for with Ovarian Cancer which is often ignored or misdiagnosed leading to late detection and far less positive outcomes.

The 4 symptoms (only one of which may present) are:

1) needing to pee more frequently

2) abdominal bloating or swelling

3) back or pelvic ache or pain

4) eating less and feeling fuller

Pester your doctor if you have any of these, ensure you ask for a CA125 blood test and a scan which can rule it out. Please don't ignore it like I did, thinking I was wasting the doctor's time.

Sadly there is no funding going to research my particular (rarer, Low Grade Serous Carcinoma ) type of OC. It can hit any woman at any age and my type is often found in younger women. We are trying to raise awareness and to fund some research by Prof Gourley in Edinburgh who has agreed to help.

If you'd like to know more there is a lot of information ( and the chance to contribute to research funding- every penny counts) at www.Cureourovariancancer.org . My story is on there along side others' which will help women to understand what signs to be aware of, what to expect and if any of this resonates, maybe help us to mobilise to get the research we need to have better outcomes and better hope for the future.

A direct link to the Professor Gourley's research “Just Giving “ page is here.

About Alex Alex was raised in Oxfordshire and has always been interested in art, nature and healing in all its forms. She worked as a civil servant for 15 years ( latterly as a buyer in alternative energy and computers) at a large research laboratory and then was headhunted in the 80s to work in London for a large blue chip telecomms company. She travelled to many countries training buyers in EU law,, ethical trading, and process reengineering. She has been painting and drawing for many years and travelling to Cornwall, particularly West Penwith, to investigate her family history which has inspired her work recently. She exhibited her work as part of Swindon Open Studios since its inception in 2004 and held solo exhibitions locally. She also runs her own successful hypnotherapy and counselling business after leaving the corporate world where she uses art as a therapeutic tool where verbal skills are insufficient to express emotions. Recently diagnosed with a rare type of Ovarian Cancer she is recovering from surgery and chemo and deciding on the direction of the next chapter of her life. 


Sylvia Chatfield-Johnson - Pianist & Singer

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What do you consider your greatest achievement? 

Hmm that's difficult...oh dear! I suppose it's playing at Wigmore Hall when I was about 10 years old. I came top of London in a piano exam and as a sort of reward I was allowed to perform there. My teacher came with me, and my mother, and I was sat in the audience with them, and when it was my turn they called my name I walked up onto the stage terrified. I had to play it without music of course! It was a Largo...I played it and I said to my mother 'I don't remember anything about it', and my teacher said 'that was very good, Sylvia' and gave me sixpence.

I started playing the piano when I was four. My mother didn't play but she loved music and was very keen for me to. I remember saying, 'I'll only play if you come and sit with me' (because I like an audience!) so she did.

 What's been your motivation?

I was a singer as well, and the joy that I got in singing to give other people pleasure that's all I wanted to do. (And I did, apparently).

 Now I am nearly 94 and my beloved Peter has gone, I live for my wacky, intelligent, adorable little shih-tzu Buzzy. He keeps me going. I am very young at heart, and slightly eccentric I think.

What do you owe your mother?

Everything. She was on her own, because she'd left my father when I was a baby. His family had wanted to take me over. She went to live with her mother, my grandma, and she had to fend for me and her. She started me on piano lessons when I was four years old which I thought was pretty marvellous. And she was a joy - we used to go shopping together, she was more like a sister. Lovely lady, we were very close. She died a week before my wedding.

Which women inspire you and why?

Well that’s difficult…in the music world it was the Joan Sutherland, the Australian soprano. I adored ballet, although I wasn’t able to do a huge amount of it because I was so busy with music, and I loved the dancer Beryl Grey – she used to alternate roles with Margot Fonteyn. I still know her, and she writes to me every Christmas.

What are you reading?

I used to love reading biographies about all sorts of famous people. Now I just read fiction. I do have a book on the go, but I can’t remember what it’s called! I’ve actually just read Freddy Mercury’s book, called Bohemian Rhapsody of course. I haven’t seen the film and I so wanted to.

 What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?

No hurdles at all. Not having a father, I suppose as I grew up I was a little bit frightened of men. I never wanted to have a boyfriend and I never wanted to get married until I met Peter. I loved my art, and I thought it was so stupid to just get married and have babies – I wanted more from the world.

How can the world be made a better place for women?

I don’t really know…I’ve never thought of it like that. Especially as I’m 93 years old, I’ve lived a long time, and that sort of idea just wasn’t talked about. We didn’t think about it on those terms. I can’t say I have a modern perspective on it.

Describe your perfect day?

That’s difficult. Well, I don’t think this is going to interest you, but my perfect day would be with my husband Peter. We were so close, we were one. He died four years ago and I miss him every day – and I’m sad all the time really, because he’s gone. My perfect day would be with him, just talking. He was so clever, he was a brilliant man – he had a lampshade shop in Chapel Street. After we married, we came down to Cornwall in a van with a cat and a dog, all our furniture, the grand piano and £400 to start a shop in St Ives. Mad thing to do, it was such an adventure.

Which women would you see remembered as statues around Cornwall?

I admire Barbara Hepworth, but then she’s got statues everywhere…

Give us a tip?

I would say to everybody, don’t take all the time, give. Give what you can – love, attention, interest, to other people, and treat them kindly. I like to see that.

About Sylvia Sylvia was born in London and pursued music, winning a scholarship to Trinity College to study piano and singing. In her twenties she met Alice and Eileen and together they formed musical trio, performing all over London. After marrying Peter, they relocated to St Ives and opened a business making lampshades, while Silvia continued to perform locally. After a brief spell living in Kent, they moved back permanently to Penzance in 1981 and opened their Chapel Street lampshade shop, which also sold antiques, taking on commissions for the National Trust and for customers in France and America. Silvia continued to be creative, working with sculpture and writing poetry, alongside her performing. After losing Peter four years ago, Silvia continues to live in Penzance with her dog Buzzy.

Lucy Cokes - Book Conservator

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What is your greatest achievement?

I am very aware that a lot of young people often feel lost, especially in a world where it feels like anything we do won’t make an impact on the world. I am very proud and lucky to have found a profession I love and also a passion for sharing those skills – I have found my own way to change the world, by preserving one book at a time.

What motivates you to do what you do?

I have always loved telling stories. As a book conservator, I can help to uncover stories, whether it’s finding an unusual annotation in a 16th-Century book or a ticket stub used as a bookmark. Books can tell stories beyond the words that are written in them, and I find that really exciting – it is my job to preserve books for people in the future to use and read, and that is a huge motivating factor. As I enable people to interact with heritage, I let them interact with their own histories and culture, from which they can be inspired.

 What do you owe your mother? 

I used to get embarrassed if someone told me ‘you’re just like your mum’ but now I can see it’s the highest compliment: she taught me compassion and kindness, and she encouraged my passion for working with my hands and telling stories. I also owe her all the people I’ve won over with her amazing shortbread recipe!

Which women inspire you and why?

I recently have found a great friend in Sineke, who turned 81 this year. She came over from Europe to work here as a nurse. She fell in love with bookbinding and her late husband, Peter, and although circumstances meant she couldn’t follow her dreams, I am in awe of her tenacity and enquiring mind, humbled by her generosity and so happy to share her excitement for her new dreams.

I also dance with an amazing group of women, some who have fought hardships, at Penzance Ballet School at the Thursday Adult ballet class. I am dancing with about 20 years of experience, but watching these women develop and improve in the 18 months I have lived here has truly been inspiring. 81-year-old ex-dancer Olga is a remarkable dancer, comfortable and quietly confident in her abilities, and the smile she wears for her love of dance is completely infectious.

What are you reading?

As well as old books, one of my other passions is fantasy – I adore books about dragons and magic, and one of my dreams is to be a fantasy author. Fantasy offers an escape from the real world and highlights its beauty while providing a strong sense of hope, even when everything seems dark. I am currently finding a kindred spirit in Seraphina by Rachel Hartmann, as she navigates her world of discrimination and mystery, and her own guilt and fear of being half-dragon, half-human.  

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?

I am extremely privileged to not have faced gender-based barriers in my life, and I am forever grateful for that. Conservation is a female-dominated profession, and I am lucky to work with and be inspired by the women I work with every day.

How can the world be a better place for women?

I think acceptance and kindness is the key for equality, and we can only achieve that through communication. Those of us in positions where we can use our voice to speak up absolutely should – and other people need to encourage and lift up the quieter voices.

Describe your perfect day

A rainy day in a cosy house, with hours of uninterrupted reading or writing, and a cat to sit on my lap.

We've noticed there really aren't many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall – who would you see remembered?

Women who have made a legacy – we owe them our remembrance, and they deserve to have their stories told. 

Give us a tip?

Never, ever use sticky-tape when repairing important paper objects – if you have to, use a paper patch with a washable glue stick. Future conservators will thank you!

About Lucy Lucy Cokes is a book conservator and native of the Isle of Wight. She began making and writing books when she was seven years old with her mum, and followed her love of books to Bath Spa University to study English Literature with Creative Writing, with a significant interest in book history. In Bath, she fell in love with a city, a profession and a boy, and wrote her dissertation on the books at the Holburne Museum. After being a secondary school librarian for a couple of years, Lucy studied Book Conservation at West Dean College, where she developed a passion for telling other people about conservation. West Dean has led her to experiences at the Museum of the Order of St. John and the Bodleian Library, and, since graduating, she has worked at Canterbury Cathedral, repairing books from as early as 1250. Lucy moved to Penzance in 2017 and is currently working alongside Lizzie Neville at P.Z. Conservation, and her favourite objects to conserve are 20th Century ephemeral materials. Lucy is proud to work with local communities, teaching Cornwall how to look after their most precious objects.

Jessica Cooper - Artist

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What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Learning to find a sense of self. Juggling a career and daily life and motherhood. Giving up smoking.

What motivates you to do what you do?

A thirst for knowledge and understanding. A love of art and life. Since being a child, I’ve always had the feeling that ‘there’s something out there that I haven’t found yet ‘and that life is about the need to ‘keep on searching‘ .

What do you owe your mother?

I owe my mother a lifetime of emotional support and quite a lot of money. My mother is one of the most compassionate, humanitarian, generous, intelligent, beautiful, annoying, stubborn and funny people that I know.

Which women inspire you and why?

At this moment in time these women inspire me: my daughter for her courage and her kindness ; my women friends for their unconditional love - each one is mad, bad and beautiful; artist Annie Albers for her innovation and commitment to her art; and Director Nadine Labaki for highlighting personal and world issues through her art of film.

What are you reading?

I have three books on the go that I’ve been trying to finish for the last year: ‘Less Than Zero’ by Bret Easton Ellis , ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara and ‘Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’ by Haruki Murakami.

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?

Not many to date, I have been lucky. However, I think I am quite good at standing my ground when situations do arise whether gender based or not, and i also walk away from things and let them go, so that the other party involved has to think about things.

How can the world be made a better place for women?

I think if women and men could accept both their places and roles in society on an equal footing and work together, the world would be a better place for everyone, regardless of specific gender .

Describe your perfect day?

A friend once told me to find one thing in each day that you love. Maybe that way each day can be a perfect day. Perfect days would need to include, amongst other things: the sea, the sun, art, a city, people, space to breathe, chocolate and the man that I love …. but maybe not all at once!

We've noticed there really aren't many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?

This is a really hard one. I think it would be great if each district in Cornwall could vote for a woman that they felt should be remembered, then there could be six statues! Whether it’s the lady who works in the fish and chip shop or the next potential female noble peace prize winner .

Give us a tip?

Ok, here’s a quid. Be kind but take no shit. Listen more. See both sides of an argument. Remember that a smile can work miracles .

That’s five tips .

About Jessica Artist Jessica Cooper lives in Newlyn and has lived and worked in West Penwith’s weather worn landscape for most of her life. She studied at Falmouth College and Goldsmith’s College, London and is a member of the NSA, PSA and an RWA. She exhibits regularly on a national and international basis, including exhibitions at The Exchange and Newlyn Art Gallery, the RWA, Tate St. Ives, Kestle Barton, Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens and the New York and International Art Fairs with Edgar Modern Fine Art. Cooper’s work is permanently on show at The Belgrave, St. Ives and Beyond The Sea, Padstow . She has received awards for drawing from the University of the West of England and has been shortlisted for the NOAC and Art Rooms exhibitions. Cooper has worked on design projects and product ranges, in collaboration with Arbor ( USA ), Nathan Outlaw ( St. Enodoc Hotel ), Tate Enterprises and Tate St. Ives, Simon Marsh ( Paupers Press ), Art Press, King + McGraw ( John Lewis ), Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Seasalt ( Cornwall ).

Further information and links: www.jessicacooper.co.uk

Lisa Di Tommaso - Morrab Library's Senior Librarian

Photo: florence browne

Photo: florence browne

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I made a decision rather late in my life to give up my job in Australia and move to the UK to live and work. I didn’t know anyone, and I was only planning to stay a year. Seventeen years later, I’m still here, and having made some career decisions which weren’t necessarily the safest, I haven't looked back, and have had some wonderful experiences.

What motivates you to do what you do?

I’ve been a librarian for 30 years now – my biggest motivation comes not only from being able to connect people with the information they need, but to share in their sheer enjoyment when they do find their answers. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with some of the UK’s most important collections, including Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, copies of the Magna Carta, scientific illustrations from Captain Cook’s voyages, and Charles Darwin’s papers. If that doesn’t get you out of bed in the morning, nothing will!

What do you owe your mother?

My mum was only 51 when she died. Due to family circumstances, she had to give up her dreams of going to university and travelling the world, to support her family. She and my father sacrificed an awful lot to to make sure my brothers and I would have those opportunities. I owe her everything.

Which women inspire you and why?

I looked after the manuscript collections of a number of paleontologists when I worked at the Natural History Museum. I was in awe of women such as Dorothea Bate. She talked her way into a job at the NHM in 1898 when only 19 years old - and long before women were officially employed as scientists there. She went on to explore Cyprus, Crete and other areas, discovering fossil specimens, many new to science and which significantly changed our understanding of evolution in isolated areas. She travelled alone, hiring local men as guides and interpreters. She did all of this, including abseiling down cliff faces and exploring caves, in Georgian dresses. I’m inspired by intrepid women who take charge of their own destiny when the odds look to be against them.

What are you reading?

I’ve just finished Willy Vlautin’s Don’t Skip Out on Me. It broke my heart.

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?

I’ve been very lucky not to have faced any. I’ve always worked in environments where my managers have supported and encouraged me. I have worked for some very strong and inspiring women and men, who have mentored me and helped me find the confidence to take the opportunities I’ve been given.

How can the world be made a better place for women?

We’ve come a long way with gender equality, but there’s more to do. Creating the environment for women around the world to have access to education and career opportunities is vital, alongside changing social norms and cultures around equality.

Describe your perfect day?

A sunny blue sky day, a bracing walk on the Cornish coast by the sea, a pub lunch next to a roaring fire, and a couple of hours of uninterrupted reading!

We've noticed there really aren't many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?

I would advocate a statue of Elizabeth Carne, a 19th century scientist who was born near Hayle. She was a geologist, conchologist, philosopher, philanthropist, and banker. Alongside her contributions to science, she funded new schools and other educational support for mining communities and purchased the land to enable the building of St John’s Hall in Penzance. And if that wasn't enough, she was an incredibly talented artist  - many of her drawings and papers are held in the archives of the Morrab Library.

Give us a tip?

Be kind to each other!

About Lisa Lisa Di Tommaso is the Librarian at the Morrab Library in Penzance, the sixth largest independent library in the UK, and now entering its 201st year. Originally from Brisbane, Australia, Lisa moved to London in 2002, working for the National Trust, before becoming a Special Collections Librarian at the Natural History Museum. Prior to moving to Penzance last year, she was the Head of Collections at Durham Cathedral, managing the library, object collections and its new Open Treasure museum.

Links:

www.morrablibrary.org.uk

Email: enquiries@morrablibrary.org.uk

Facebook: The Morrab Library

Twitter: @morrablibrary

Instagram: @morrablibrary


Jessica Layton - Theatre Director & Performer

Photo by Pete Knight

Photo by Pete Knight

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

When I was 20, I travelled to Australia by myself to meet my Dad for the first time. It took a lot of courage for many reasons and I found a strength in me that I didn't know existed.

What motivates you to do what you do?

George Bernard Shaw once said “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable”. I love making people laugh and taking away their problems. This is the main reason I wanted to perform. I love escaping reality and being a different character on stage and sharing that journey with the audience. I am also motivated by young people and believe that drama and performance is key in their development. In this ever growing world of technology, drama in schools is essential in helping to encourage and teach skills such as communication, listening, self awareness, confidence and emotional intelligence.

What do you owe your mother?

Hmmm about £100,000! My mum has taught me to never give up, to always assert myself and to never settle for second best. She is awesome.

Which women inspire you and why?

Michelle Obama - What a formidable, humble and important woman. I love what she is doing for women and girls around the world. Deborah Francis-White - She is a comedian and female activist. She has appeared on comedy panel shows as the only woman and doesn't let the men forget it! I love listening to her podcast 'The Guilty Feminist'. Each week different female comedians discuss what it's like to be a 21st Century feminist and the obstacles we have to face. As well as being brilliantly funny it also highlights serious issues that us women deal with every day. 

What are you reading?

I am a member of the Hypatia Trust’s Young Women’s Book Club and our current book is ‘Evening in Paradise’ by Lucia Berlin.

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?

There are many barriers in the theatre world and so much is male-dominated. However, I am lucky enough to work with great men who have been nothing but supportive and encouraging in my recent directing venture with Seven Stones Theatre Company.

How can the world be made a better place for women?

We need to make the world a safer place for women. To do this we need to educate children from an early age on what are acceptable and appropriate ways to treat each other. To make the world a safer and better place for women and for everyone, we only need to start small. We must end bullying in schools and we must use education to teach about empathy, love and respect. By doing this, all children will leave schools as equals and have mutual respect for everyone.

Describe your perfect day?

Waking up hangover free (!) on a sunny Sunday in Autumn in a clean and tidy home with Joni Mitchell on full blast. Quick morning yoga, eggs for breakfast, a mug of hot coffee and the crossword. I will gather my best friends for a beach walk and a pub lunch, then drinks and a game of scrabble in front of a cosy fire. I love living in Cornwall and I am so lucky that the sea is right on my doorstep!

We've noticed there really aren't many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?

Rowena Cade. She built The Minack Theatre into the side of a cliff hauling sand up from Porthcurno beach! I am surprised that so many people don’t know of her. She is a legend! 

Give us a tip?

Don’t hold grudges. Accepting and letting go of what has happened in the past will leave room for great things to happen in the present and future. 

About Jess Jessica Layton is a local performer, director and theatre practitioner based in Penzance. Since graduating from Bath Spa School of Music and Performing Arts in 2013 she has been working as an actor with various theatre companies across Cornwall. Her most recent roles include Lady Windermere in 'Lady Winderemere's Fan', Alice in 'The Vicar of Dibley' and Passepartout in 'Around the World in 80 Days'. She is currently directing and performing in 'A Vicar of Dibley Christmas' with Seven Stones Theatre Company at The Acorn Theatre from Wednesday 19th December - Friday 21st December. Tickets are available via this link:  http://www.crbo.co.uk/event/a-vicar-of-dibley-christmas/17149

Yvette Barnett - Travel Photographer & Tour Guide

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What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being in a position to live my life as I wish without having constraints. I think to achieve a life that you love is an achievement in itself. Also obtaining my pilot’s licence. It was one of the hardest things I have learned to do. Such a steep learning curve. I don’t think I was a natural aviator but I always loved the freedom of being in the air.

What motivates you to do what you do?
I’m lucky to travel the world for my job and even more fortunate to be able to take my camera with me. I love showing people these amazing places in the world and my motivation is to get them to experience the destination and understand the culture - not just visit the country as a voyeur. I’m a big advocate of responsible tourism; I believe it is very important to give something back to local communities that we visit. Although my love is of course to capture the essence of the places I visit with my camera, I think it’s important as travellers that we don’t ‘ruin’ the places we visit. If we can support a local community along the way then this is a real bonus.

I have initiated a few projects via the travel company I work for. They now pay for the electricity for a village in Myanmar and I have also been instrumental in supporting a remote school in the highlands of Peru. There are a couple of other projects I am in the process of getting involved with in Nepal.

What do you owe your mother?
My mother is my best friend. I will be forever thankful that she encouraged me from my early childhood to follow my dreams and live my life in a way that I am true to myself. She encouraged me to ‘do what I love’. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do just that. I love to travel and I love to take photographs, and my job enables me to do both. I am also indebted to her for the unwavering support she has always given me. She is kind, positive and has good sound values and as such has been a great role model throughout my life.

Which women inspire you and why?
Amelia Earhart - for me the greatest female aviator. Shailee Basnet - Everest Summiteer - and climber of the 7 highest peaks in the world. She is a pioneer of empowering women from rural villages in Nepal who would otherwise be married off at the age of 14. She ‘recruits’ young ladies from the villages, trains them to climb. Contrary to popular opinion, not all people who are born in the Himalayas are climbers! They have to train like everybody else. She inspires them and teaches them that there is much more to life than being a wife and mother in the tiny rural communities where some of them would otherwise have become victims of child trafficking. Some of them have been empowered to set up their own trekking companies - in fact many have become trekking guides for female hiking groups in very much a man’s world.

What are you reading?
Because I travel so much, I tend to read books that I can pick up and put down very easily on long flights when I’m usually exhausted. Right now I’m reading ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini. It makes me want to go to Afghanistan and photograph the country and it’s people. At home by my bed, I’m reading the sonnets by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. I love the works of Neruda as I travel quite a lot in Chile and Patagonia.

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?
As a tour guide I travel the world and often in very male dominated cultures. As a female who is in charge of a tour group, I have to encounter male guides / hotel managers / local agents who are unused to and unwilling to take instruction from a woman. This really is the biggest hurdle and at times can be very challenging.

How can the world be made a better place for women?
By empowering them. Giving them a role other than simply becoming a wife. A cook. A Mother. Those are good things but women can do much more than that. Women are great multi-taskers. Great organisers. Educate women. Give them an equal chance to achieve their goals. We don’t have the physical strength of men, there are some jobs I think we just shouldn’t do - for example in a fire there is no way I would be able to carry a large man out of a burning building. And I think we should accept that. However, that is one of the real exceptions. There are not many roles we cannot do equal to that of a man.

Describe your perfect day?
That’s easy!! My perfect day is in Cornwall. I travel the world but home is home!! When I’m back I’m at my happiest when I am rambling across the cliffs with my camera and tripod. I never use a tripod when I travel but it makes me slow down and savour the beautiful rugged landscapes of the Cornish coast. A good walk by the beach. I love the stormy seas of winter and to finish with a simple pub lunch by a cosy log fire with friends. That’s my perfect day!

We've noticed there really aren’t many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?
Rowena Cade has to be top of the list. Her vision to create the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno was just amazing. She did most of the work herself and I think hers is a life to be celebrated. What better way than with a statue to commemorate her vision.

Give us a tip?
Have a dream and follow it. Everything is achievable if you want it badly enough. You just have to find the way and stay true to yourself. If you do a job that you love, you then have self fulfilment. And if you can do a little bit of good along the way, then it’s a win win.

Biography: 
These days I’m a Tour Guide and travel photographer but I started out as a Resort Manager for a large ski company and spent over 10 years working in the ski resorts of Europe and North America. I then studied law at university but in the meantime I did my private pilots licence which made me realise I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I loved my freedom too much. During my time at university, I travelled for a few months in East Africa and wrote about some of my adventures. Wanting to combine my love of travel with a career, I went on to do a Masters in Creative writing. After graduating, I did some freelance travel writing but realising my love was travel, I resumed my life as a Tour Guide and as time has gone on my love of photography has grown and my skill has developed. Nowadays I try to capture these wonderful places with my camera and It gives me huge pleasure to share my images which I hope inspire people to go out there and see the world for themselves and give a little back.


I’ve been very fortunate to visit a few destinations in the early stages of tourism where people have not had much interaction with the rest of the world. The people are so intrigued by us, having never seen people from such an exotic place as England before. I love to return to places and instead of just showing people the image of themselves on the back of my camera, I try to print off my images for them when I return. Recently I won the Picfair / Guardian - Women Behind The Lens 2018 Portrait Award. The award is particularly significant as it was introduced to promote female photographers - who are very under represented in a very male dominated world. My work will be on exhibition at Southwark Cathedral, London in the Refectory from 12th January - 22nd February 2019.

www.yvettebarnettphotography.com