I’ve always been a doodler – school books would always be covered with crazy patterns and cute drawings – and making/building things gives me great satisfaction (I’m a dab hand at DIY too!). As a child I was always asking my mum for materials to build castles, or making endless drawings of houses I wanted to create some day.
As a teenager I was lucky enough to be able to combine these 2 loves by becoming part of the backstage team for a local youth theatre group (YTW forever in my heart) which gave me the opportunity to learn so much about art and life. The team was run by the most remarkable woman I have ever known – Joy. (Things may get a little emotional here, so be warned.)
When I first met Joy she was already in her 60s; a tiny, white-haired, powerhouse of a woman who took no shit but was the person you knew you could count on in a crisis. A photographer by trade, she ran a successful photography studio in London for many years with her business partner; the theatre stuff she did for fun. Joy lived alone but her home was far from empty! It was where we built and painted scenery, created props, designed the lighting and anything else required for the 3 shows we produced each year, often sleeping there over the show weekends – so many of us crammed into her lounge, fighting for the coveted spot on the sofa. But not only during show-time; her home was open to us all and once you were part of the House of Joy you were always welcome and would always be greeted with a booming “Hello darling!”. In fact, I almost named my business Hello Darling Designs in Joy’s honour.
Joy provided so many local teenagers with a safe space, a purpose and the best example of how to be unapologetically oneself without dulling anybody else’s sparkle. In her house we were taught responsibility, humility, creativity, the value of team work and so much more. She also threw the most epic of parties but they are a story for another day.
Joy passed away in 2016 after a short battle with cancer, but she carried on; never letting it get in her way until the end, just like everything else in her life. And she passed that attitude on to us – in her own words “I rather hoped I raised kids to rule the world or at least the bit of it they are inhabiting!”
I am honoured to have known her, to have listened to her stories and watched her command a small but mighty teenage army into producing so many magical theatre productions that easily rivalled those made by more experienced adults. Her legacy spreads far and wide and if I can carry it on, even in some small way, then it would be my privilege to do so.
So here’s to you Joy.
Strong women –may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.