Stories can change lives. Finding and telling inspiring stories – from every corner of life – is central to Damn Cheek’s work, says Artistic Director Karen Spicer.

I’m reading Viv Albertine’s autobiography.

It’s about a girl who had to fight to be seen, to find her voice, to channel her rage.

A rage against poverty, violence,  sexism, the status quo.

A girl who got a guitar when she “shouldn’t … couldn’t … play”. Who found her voice, her chords, her passion, her gang – and became a songwriter and musician. Became the guitarist in the female Punk band The Slits.

Viv’s story is not my story, but I see myself somewhere reflected in that.

I’m not in a punk band.

But I kind of am.

I’m part of Damn Cheek.

I’m part of a kind of gang.

I look at our tag line: Theatre to Provoke, Entertain and Inspire. 

And I think of stories, people’s stories. Who tells them? Owns them? Shares them? Receives them? All our stories, stories that allow us to see, hear, question, celebrate, rage, imagine, connect.

I think of a Damn Cheek project.

A child writes, draws, sends a message to an older person.

The older person responds.

An exchange happens. The child and the older person are seen, are heard, have names, have dreams, have things to say to each other.

They share stories, their stories.

Stories let you know you belong.

Stories can change and save lives.

Stories are told in so many ways.

Story tellers are everywhere. 

Someone in Brighton posts up images on bins. 

Someone in Gedling knits scenes and pops them on top of pillar boxes.

Someone in Felling hangs a small, hand-made wooden heart on a tree. To be found, to be “had as long as you need it and then left somewhere else for another to find”.

Stories inspire. They come from all of us.

But often many stories remain untold. There is still an ownership, a privilege that excludes.

When I started out trying to find my way, my voice, my gang, I was drawn to the alternative, to the community theatres, the young people’s theatres, the children’s theatres, the theatres above and at the back of pubs, the theatres that are full of different, diverse voices, languages, cultures.

These theatres were then – and still often are now – dismissed, looked down upon by ‘the mainstream’.

But now – as then – I’m passionate about different streams. Streams that weave, streams that take you somewhere else, streams that immerse you in waters which you have not yet swum in.

We will all have tough days, days of rage, dread, grief.

We will have days when we just laugh out loud and know love.

We will have days when we are lost.

But through stories we will find a map. We will remember that we are connected, we are human.

We are so many stories.

Viv Albertine picks up a guitar.

Ian Dury sings I’m Spasticus.

Maya Angelou writes Now Sheba Sings the Song. Inside the book, she dedicates her writing to “all my black, brown, beige, yellow, red and white sisters”.

Kate Tempest becomes Kae Tempest, becomes themselves, writes plays and songs and poetry.

These are not my stories. But they are our stories, they are universal stories, stories to be shared, stories to speak with, to and from ourselves and our different communities.

There are so many Vivs, Ians, Mayas and Kaes ready to tell stories.

I try still to pursue my passion with my gang.

I try still to be Damn Cheeky enough to keep asking, to keep searching, to find and tell stories – stories that Provoke… Entertain… Inspire…