Tag Archives: Interview

An interview with ‘Big Girl’ star and creator Emily Jane Rooney

“Me and my friends still have arguments about Niall and Harry now.”

By Annabel Jeffery

It’s a dull and rainy afternoon in Plymouth when I speak to Emily Jane Rooney, 23, about her hilarious one-woman show ‘Big Girl’. But Emily’s warm hello is quite the antithesis to the weather. “I’m so sorry, I’ve just realised that I’m on the way to Tesco to get some buns!” she says from outside her home in London, and I immediately know that this interview is going to be far from dull.

‘Big Girl’ is Rooney’s debut solo show, which is hard to believe. Her tremendous confidence and ability to captivate an audience is that of a long-standing and established performer. ‘Big Girl’ was originally due to tour around the UK, but due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Emily has recorded an exciting digital version of the show.

Watching the hour-long “Sofa Edition” from my own home, I feel as though I’m having a catch-up or gossip with a friend. I find myself giggling at regular intervals at Emily’s references and impersonations and pulled into thought by her three poems that evoke more emotion and deeper meaning.

All of this combined creates an hour of complete escapism at a time where we are still slightly limited in social interaction.

When asked to explain the show in her own words, Emily says: “Big Girl came at a time in my life when I was like, ‘What am I doing ?’” Written in 2018, while she was still at the University Of Plymouth studying acting, she goes on to tell me that with ‘Big Girl’ she’s “reflecting upon everything”. This includes growing up as a fat, queer and working-class woman in Essex, and things that she was “quite oblivious to” when she was younger: “I was aware that I was big but I didn’t realise the connotations that came with being a fat person and I think that came with age.”

These taboos are addressed in the four poems performed throughout the show: ‘Big Girl’, ’I Like Myself Bare’, ‘Let’s Talk About Women’ and ‘Untitled’. Each deal with topics of body positivity, identifying as queer, feminism and not knowing what your future holds. These come from Emily’s own emotional experiences with these topics. She explains, “I’ll cry, I’ll be really upset about it, I’ll talk to a friend, I’ll sit down and listen to some sad music and make myself cry more, and then I’ll write about it afterwards, after I have a different perspective on it.”

Whether you’ve experienced them or not, Rooney helps her audience to understand these issues, whether that be through poetry or by being so completely easy to relate to: “I like talking about things that others don’t talk about because I think they are things that are relatable.”

This is also seen through the more easy-going references she makes as we chat: “Everyone you talk to who is 23 will be like: ‘I know my favourite One Direction singer’. My friends and I still have arguments about Niall and Harry now, and we’re adults.”

As I ask Emily about her experience filming ‘Big Girl: The Sofa Edition’ during lockdown, she shares that it was much harder , adding that one of her favourite parts of the live show is “knowing who’s in the room”. 

During the live stage performance, she explains, “People come in and I’m there, giving out biscuits and having a cup of tea, and I just like connecting with people in general… I’m like an old woman that just wants to know about everyone’s life.” She hopes that there will be a chance for one last live performance of ‘Big Girl’ in London in September, dependent on the restrictions on live performances by then.

What’s next for Emily then? As she says at the end of ‘Big Girl’, she doesn’t know, but she “just wants to be happy”. She shares that she is no stranger to the pressure that young people face about being expected to know what you want to do, reiterating “It’s okay to not know what you want to do ever. There’s a song by Baz Lurhmann called ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’ – listen to it, it’s really good. In it he says that the most interesting people he knows are 40 years old and don’t know what to do with their life, and I’ve always remembered that.”

She jokes “I really like plants, so maybe I’ll be a florist one day.”, before sharing this refreshing advice for people of her generation and younger: ”Try everything, I say this, just try everything.”

‘Big Girl: The Sofa Edition’ will be available to watch at Reading Fringe Digital until the end of August: https://readingfringefestival.co.uk/whats-on/big-girl/

You can also listen to Emily’s recommended song, ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJ7AzBIJoI

General Election 2019: In Conversation with: Rebecca Smith

By Tobias Chalcraft

The Prime Minister has finally achieved his desired General Election, in an attempt to break this Brexit deadlock. Thursday 12th December will be our third national election in four years and political commenters will be glancing at Plymouth, a marginal city which has elected both Conservative and Labour MPs in the last two public ballots, as a potential indication of who will lead our next government. On the night of the dissolution of the 2017-2019 parliament, Generation Plymouth interviewed Rebecca Smith – the Conserative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport.

As bonfire night fireworks went off in the sky, we picked up some festive-themed coffees and started to ask Rebecca some pressing questions.

“If you were elected as MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, what would be your top three priorities?”

Rebecca highlights the NHS, Schools and Business as the backbone of her election campaign. She says that through canvassing she has found the NHS to be the issue most discussed amongst voters in Plymouth. Meanwhile, she would like to see further funding for Plymouth’s secondary schools – especially SEN and for students with Pupil Premium. Although proud of her Conservative values, Smith says that she would not seek to be a ‘Conservative mouthpiece’ because she hopes to press on issues that may not always grab the headlines in order to be a “voice for the voiceless”, on behalf of an often “forgotten city”.

“How would you, and potential Conservative government, champion Plymouth’s young people?”

The main theme in her response is the benefit of Plymouth having a young MP in parliament. After showing some respect to the statesmanship and parliamentary experience of Sir Gary Streeter ( MP for South West Devon), Rebecca argues that she could communicate with Plymouth’s youth at a more suitable level through creative events. For example, her Pizza and Policy nights have been invaluable for offering a space for young Plymothians, who aren’t necessarily politically active, to express their opinions on current affairs. It is these sorts of creative events that she would hope to host in future to gain a good understanding of what young people wish to see.

“My big thing is that I hate talking at people, I think politicians do that really quickly, they’ll go in and tell you what they think you want to hear”. Rebecca separates herself from our current political class by arguing that she would spend more time listening than telling constituents what they may want to hear in order to gain support.

There was also some rare frankness in her answer: “I’m not going to be a people pleaser”, she says, as she argues that its unrealistic for MPs to represent every single voice within their constituencies, but Rebecca goes on to say, “I will definitely make sure that I listen, engage and seek out opinions and views”.

As an MP, Rebecca hopes to prove that the Conservatives are better than they are portrayed to be on social media, arguing that today’s world sees people following too many like-minded politicians in order to create echo chambers and that she would seek to combat this by reaching out to people from across the political spectrum to display some of the positives of Conservative policies.

“Today [5th November] Parliament is dissolving, and it looks as though 1 in 10 MPs won’t be seeking re-election, with a substantial portion of those departing only having less than 10 years’ experience, like Heidi Allen, Justine Greening and Secretary of State Nicky Morgan. What is your reaction to this outcome of the 2017-2019 parliament?”

Rebecca starts with, “I think it’s really sad because they have all been excellent public servants and they’ve brought a real breadth of knowledge, interest and expertise”, however she goes on to dismiss the generalisation of these MPs’ motivations such as social media abuse or gender – arguing that there are a multitude of reasons for why MPs have chosen to stand down. Rebecca says she was unsurprised that MPs that sought to make a real change, but had become hindered by Brexit, had become disillusioned. Although, she hopes the 2019 election may allow for a clean slate of fresh MPs, like herself, to improve parliament’s public image at a time of significant dissatisfaction in our democratic institutions.

When asked how these resignations have affected her decision to run in this election, Rebecca responds with “I’m going in with my eyes open”, as she outlines her previous experiences in politics as providing some expectations as to what being an MP may entail. Rebecca adds, “Politics isn’t perfect, but it’s what I think my vocation is”, before she lists the different measures she has put into place to help guarantee her safety throughout this election campaign such as sharing her schedule with a strong support network and having colleagues attend events alongside her.

“With Plymouth University declaring a Climate Emergency and Plymouth’s Youth going on strike, do you think the Government has done enough to combat Climate Change?”

Rebecca spent longer answering this question than any other, reflecting on her envioronmentally focused work such as her environment-based speech at the Conservative Party Conference this year, or working as a Councillor on Plymouth City Council, in which she has frequently promoted the government’s work when speaking in climate debates and played a significant role in the Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency earlier this year. She then goes on to offer some praise for climate campaigners, arguing that they have a “brilliant part to play”.

Rebecca points out the government’s recent decision to pause fracking as a key example of the government’s environmental credentials and offers the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) credit with their successful lobbying efforts. She is hopeful that this ban will be long term, saying that the government wouldn’t resume an activity that brings negative outcomes to their country. If elected, Rebecca hopes to be a mediator between Plymouth’s environmentally engaged young people and the government, whilst also being held to account on any eco-friendly legislation she votes on.

She then displays frustration at negative responses by media outlets: “one of the most frustrating things as a politician is where you take action and the first reaction is ‘it’s not good enough’”. She believes that change can’t be taken overnight and that the realistic steps that are required to make a positive change for our planet should be acknowledged. On the other hand, Rebecca contends the Extinction Rebellion protests in London as potentially diluting the green message, as they frustrate London commuters which may then lower public perception as a result. Plus, further resentment is displayed for the resources used to keep the London demonstrations organised, such as the use of Devon & Cornwall police in the capital instead of the counties they are designated for.

“Do you support Boris Johnson’s revised Brexit deal? How would it deliver for our City?”

Rebecca supports this deal as a way of delivering on Plymouth’s vote to leave in 2016, saying that MPs should be in-touch with their constituency’s views and that, with a Conservative majority in Parliament, this deal would be easily passed before January 2020, followed by a transition period for an undefined period of time.

She argues that Brexit will reduce the impact of some failing European economies on Plymouth and that she would rather “weather the storm of Brexit than face the climate change of a Corbyn economy”. Though, she compares those with a primary preference of a ‘clean break’ Brexit to somebody getting a divorce and expecting their former spouse to walk away with none of their property or belongings.

Having voted to Remain three years ago, if another referendum was to be called, Rebecca would now vote to Leave – claiming that if Remain had won in 2016, remainers would not have been treated in the contempt endured by those who supported leaving the trading bloc three years ago.

She concludes her response with “the bottom line is that we have to leave”.

We concluded this interview by asking a similar question to one we asked Johnny Mercer (Candidate for Plymouth Moor View) way before this election campaign:

“If you were elected, would you see yourself more as a Conservative MP or the MP for Plymouth, Sutton & Devonport?”

Initially, Rebecca outlines her pride in Plymouth, “Plymouth has always been my home. I was inspired by Nancy Astor – the first female MP – when I was a student, and the dream would be to serve in my home seat.”. She then returns to the reality of Westminster politics, “I would also be elected as the Conservative candidate and so there’s a balance to be made”.

She concludes by saying “my passion for politics and my passion for Plymouth connect. I would be the Conservative MP for Plymouth”. Her aim is to be driven by “tackling social issues and caring for the most vulnerable, whilst also promoting the economy, seeing business thrive and seeing people living fulfilled lives”, adding “It’s all about the people of Plymouth in the end”.

Breaking Creatives: A New South West Series

By Katie Stote

Would you consider yourself a Creative? Do you produce creativity in your day to day life or career? Are you interested in the local creative economy in your area? If you answered YES to any of those questions, Breaking Creatives is the series for you. If, by some small chance, you didn’t answer YES, Zoe Bloss’ new YouTube series Breaking Creatives will inevitably change your mind.

On the 1st of November a new interview series, Breaking Creatives, will be gracing the world of YouTube. As its title suggests, the series is a celebration of creativity which is hidden in some of the most unlikely places. We sat down with Devon based actor, youtuber and, most importantly, creator of the Breaking Creatives series, Zoe Bloss, to find out more about the series and what inspired her to begin her challenging and innovative project.

Each episode of the Breaking Creatives series features one self-starting creative who is, as Zoe passionately describes, “making waves in their industry”. Each interviewee either works in a creative industry or uses creativity in their career. When asked what inspired her to begin the series, Zoe explained,

“I started the series to try and begin a discussion about the creative economy and the value of having a strong creative economy; I really don’t think we value creativity in the right way. I see creativity in every industry, not just in creative jobs.”

Through interviewing people from a broad range of careers ranging from poets and photographers to STEM and music industries, Zoe aims to demonstrate that creativity is a versatile and useful skill to have, develop and nurture.

However, the Breaking Creatives creator isn’t only highlighting how creativity is imperative for a variety of industries; she is also hoping to inspire the next generation of creatives. After reading an abundance of articles about the lack of access for creative subjects in schools, Zoe decided to try and help creative students who may be feeling anxious about their future prospects.

“I worry about the lack of access to a wide range of subjects in schools. It’s not necessarily their fault, it’s just the situation we are in right now. Sometimes, if you see someone who has similarities to you, doing something that you are interested in doing, that can be a really big motivator. If I could just show people that these really cool people exist, then that’s amazing. The normal jobbing creatives are out there, making it happen for themselves, they’re everywhere and we just don’t necessarily know about them. So, we just need to show young people there are these really cool people, who aren’t necessarily in the well-known creative hubs and cities, doing these really cool things for themselves, by themselves; then maybe their goals will feel that much more attainable.”

Zoe Bloss, creator of Breaking Creatives

For Zoe, it was imperative to shine a light on creatives from as wide a variety of locations as possible. Her passion to inspire people from all locations and backgrounds is so strong that, during the interview process, she has travelled by car and train over 600 miles without any financial funding or support. She explained:

“It was so important to me to not just have people in London. I’m so glad I’ve got Hadeel Ayoub who is in episode two, she is incredible, but she is the only one based in London. I wanted to get as much variety as possible. I don’t know if I’ve fully achieved that yet, but that was really important to me.”

Hadeel Ayoub, who features in episode 2 of Breaking Creatives

Breaking Creatives also highlights an incredible sense of community which can be found within the creative economy. At a time when it is easy to feel more disconnected and fearful of each other than ever, Breaking Creatives reminds us of the beauty of mutual trust and support. The project wouldn’t have been possible without trust; the interviewees had to place trust in Zoe that their work would be handled with respect and sensitivity, whereas, Zoe, travelling to their towns and cities, was trusting that each creative would be as kind and generous with their time as she hoped.

Breaking Creatives is more than a YouTube series. It’s an inspiring celebration of creativity in its most incredibly varied forms, of working hard for more than monetary gain and supporting strangers without seeking anything in return. Zoe is hoping to continue her inspiring work on Breaking Creatives; creating more content for you to enjoy and giving creatives across the country some much deserved recognition.

To find out more about the series, head to Zoe Bloss’ YouTube Channel, ‘Blossom Bite‘. The first episode of Breaking Creatives will be uploaded on the 1st of November 2019.