History / about the project
by Kerry Bradley
I first met Aoife through Apples & Snakes, a performance poetry company; designing her tour of her autobiographical show Growing up an Alien in 2007. We soon realised that we had had quite a lot in common; similar childhoods, and both our mothers died from cancer.
My mother got breast cancer when I was 7. She was a single parent, bringing up myself and my older brother. I will never forget the night I spent at a friend’s house, whilst my mother was in hospital having a mastectomy, in the dark, separated from my brother, crying all night, wondering if I would ever see her again…She survived this time but went on to have malignant cancer every 4 or 5 years; a pain, an ache, a disabling feeling of dread, another cancer found; her neck, her leg, her lung. She died 17 years later, aged 56. I was 24. Within a year I was pregnant with my first child, followed by my second less than 2 years later. They say we need to fill the chasm left by such a devastating loss.
I have had genetic testing since the age of 30, when I started to feel the need for self preservation- largely for my children’s sake. We become abruptly more aware of risk the moment our first child is born. I still have annual checks, exacerbated and increased in times of severe stress that most of us cannot avoid through life’s journey; abnormal results, lumps, cysts, scans, mammograms, ultrasounds, A&E. In these traumatic times I had endless recurring images in my head; my brain trying to make sense of the emotional grief of another loss.
I contacted Aoife and she managed to express and make sense of all of my muddled and extreme thoughts and words in the most extraordinary way- the result was two poems ‘Lost at Sea’ and ‘Best’. This is how Anorak Productions began. I made two short films in 2014 to express these poems. They were entered in to the Southbank’s Shot Through the Heart competition that summer and ‘Best’ which was about platonic love for my friends, was shortlisted. I figured I might do this again.
A year later, when Aoife was diagnosed with breast cancer, she started writing poems about her experience. I was also in a waiting room in my local breast care unit awaiting results. On the same day we rang each other and said it’s time… we should make some more films.
Cancer has been part of both of our lives for nearly 40 years, it’s time to express it, to visualise it, Aoife in words, myself in pictures, Sandy in sound. Time to use our talents to help others to get through this journey, to express the sometimes indescribable, inexplicable and more importantly to try and inspire people to express themselves. After nearly a year of research and development we have a live performance, a website and an incredible amount of poems, images, interviews, inspiring words from participants in our workshops and content from everyone whom we have discussed this project with. We have gathered an extraordinary creative team to make this possible.
I believe that this is just the starting point. We aim to keep going, keep adding content, keep writing, keep talking to people, keep taking photographs, making films, doing workshops. We are looking for more funding to take it forwards…we hope to be able to carry on sharing our work and that of other people affected by cancer, as we develop our website, make a longer performance, make a poetry film and perhaps even a documentary?