2013 in Retrospect (PART 1)

What a year it has been. Looking back, it is absolutely astounding just how much has happened in twelve months. So much I can not fit it into just one blog! Between broken limbs, relocating across the globe and a lot, and I mean A LOT of puppetry, 2013 will certainly be a year to remember. In these posts I will rehash some of the highlights of my year, some of which will have been written about in more detail in previous posts, others may not have been touched on at all. Though there will be a strong emphasis on puppetry, I will also delve in to other aspects of my life throughout the year that was 2013. 

In late 2012, I was accepted by the London School of Puppetry to attend their Diploma of Professional Puppetry. This news was huge, it gave me hope and something incredible to look forward to.

"When your dream job starts to look like a plausible reality. Happy days." - Facebook status Jan 8, 2013.

Though I would not begin the course till June, a lot of my energy and focus in early 2013 went into saving money for the big move. I decided to open a store on Etsy.com, an online community for buying and selling unique, hand made items. My store was titled "Scrim's Puppets" (a nod to my alter ego) and offered unique, made to order lip sync puppets. Some interesting commission work came from this, including schools, churches, comedy troupes and private sales. The most memorable of which however was a request from well known Australian charity "SIDS and Kids".

I was sent a brief in the form of a cartoon;  pre-existing characters for their in-schools recycling program "Red Nose Goes Green". Jai and Belle were two Super heroes who had dedicated their lives to the cause. Once the puppets were made and after talks with the wonderful team at SIDS and Kids, I was asked to come on board as a facilitator of the program. This included, developing the script, rehearsing the show and performing in the first round of schools before I left for the UK, at which point I would find a replacement for myself. Working with friend and colleague Drew Belsten of Wizard Sandwiches, we developed the show and the characters, even introducing a new one... every story needs a villain! Originally ours was called "Dr. Muck", however after some concerns were voiced that it may be too close to a another word, it was changed to "Dr. Grime". I was very disappointed as my favorite line in the show had been "Dr. Muck!? YUCK!". Somehow it just didn't have the same ring to it without the rhyme. A great learning experience for me, this project gave me the opportunity to work with a charity organisation for the first time, plus work collaboratively with a client.

Unfortunately, I never had the chance to perform the show in schools as I had a very unfortunate accident, which I will touch on later. My replacement came in the form of talented actor and puppeteer Claire Frost, a close friend and colleague of mine. Claire slipped into my shoes easily and I took a back seat as an outside eye for the production. I attended the first few schools and enjoyed seeing our hard work come together. The "Red Nose Goes Green" program ran for almost the whole of 2013 and is now taking a break and well needed rest before starting up again later this year.


This brings me to my beloved sport of Roller Derby. In late 2012 I passed my minimum skills, allowing me to skate competitively in bouts. My debut would take place April sixth and it could not come soon enough! The few months training with the Purple Stars (bouting level) of East Vic Roller Derby prepared me well and when the date came I was nervous but very excited. After one year of training, I would finally get to compete. My whole family came to the event, something that meant a lot to me as not only do they live a four hour drive away, but this sport is one of my greatest passions and I desperately wanted to share it with them. The night went incredibly well, and though we lost to the talented skaters of West Side Derby Dolls, I felt I had triumphed! Elated and proud, this event left me feeling fantastic; definitely one of the best days of 2013. 

This was to be my only bout before relocating to the UK, where I had organised to transfer to a league close to school, the Leeds Roller Dolls. This however was not to be. On April 15, one of the most impactful events of the year took place. East Vic Roller Derby's Monday night training: While taking part in a drill, I was knocked to the floor and experienced potentially the worst physical pain of my life. Falls happen all the time in Roller Derby and we undergo thorough training to fall safely, however accidents do happen and this was mine. My close friend and fellow skater, Dire Skates experienced I think almost more panic than I. Though I can not remember it, apparently around four of us fell and she feared instantly that the screams of pain might be mine. A true friend, not only did she drive me to the hospital, but stayed by my side for the twelve hours that they kept me in A&E, trying to keep me cheerful as the hours went by with funny cat videos on you tube. The result was a severely broken ankle and a deep gash above my left brow. 

You can imagine my stress just five weeks prior to the date I was supposed to be flying to the UK to start my course at the London School of Puppetry. With two rounds of surgery and a lot of physio on the horizon, the difficult choice was made... to postpone my trip. Originally I thought I would have to postpone my course till 2014, however the head of the school Caroline Astell-Burt was incredibly accommodating and offered me a compromise: I could come to the school late and complete one month of training, what was to be my final module becoming my first, and complete the course the following year. This option seemed much more appealing to me than waiting a whole year, and thus my plan came to be. In the months between I moved back to my home town, moving back into my old room at my Mum's house.

Now this is an interesting chapter in my year; Two months in Portland. Though not under the best of circumstances, the time spent in my beautiful, quiet home town, were absolutely a highlight. Quality time with my family that had been well overdue, plus some time to relax and gain some much needed perspective on life. Many an evening spent at home with Mum and Daryl, many an hour spent chatting with my big sister and many a day spent with my Dad and my beloved dog Fido, strolling along the beach... Well, hobbling might be more accurate (it is amazing how well crutches manage on sand). Reconnecting with family and friends in my home town as well as the town itself was an absolute gift and I look back on those months with fond memories. 


The time I spent alone was also incredibly valuable. It is rare that I allow myself to slow down, and I think this was life's way of reminding me to relax and enjoy the little things. And oh, how I did. These months gave me the opportunity to really get to know myself again, something I think I needed in hindsight. I did manage to get some work done in this time however, working on a couple of commission pieces and getting a head start on some of my school work for LSP.

Though I was determined to stay positive and grow from the experience, this journey was a trying one. Being a very active person, it was incredibly challenging to be housebound and unable to walk (let alone skate!), not to mention the mental anguish associated with the injury. Through days, weeks and countless physio sessions, my recovery moved quickly and soon enough it was time to make my journey across the globe. I can not thank my friends and family enough for their support through this challenging time, I am very lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life who are willing to rally around me in times of need offering their love and care. 


August first I flew to the UK and truly the time have spent here feels like a year in itself. I don't know where to start...


To be continued in Part 2... Coming Soon!