Writer, Niamh Calderwood

It was a Thursday, the sixth day of August in the year nineteen hundred and ninety-two. Rhythm is a Dancer by Snap! was in the top 5… My father was an engineer in the Royal Navy, and my mother was still learning how to live with the injuries she’d sustained after she was launched into the air outside Newcastle Central Station when a hit and run driver ploughed into her as she was using the zebra crossing.

I knew I was different from as early as the age of three, and everyone else knew it too but they all buried their heads and tried to believe I was a normal kid. One of my most notable memories from my childhood is the time I got up early before my parents and drew chickenpox all over my body with a red felt tip pen in the hopes that I could be excused from going to school… I didn’t enjoy Primary School. We moved when I was six and I switched to a First School on the other side of the river, and then went on to join the Middle School, but after the headmaster there threatened me because I had the audacity to fight back against a bully who’s father had a vested interest in the school’s finances, it was time to change schools again, and that’s when I ended up at John Spence Community High School in North Shields.

High School was a bit better than my previous experiences of compulsory education. I fell in with a group of loveable misfits, cultivated a love for drama and the expressive arts, and only got punched in the face three and a half times in as many years. When we reached the end of high school, most of my fellow pupils went on to study A Levels at Sixth Form, but I went to Newcastle College and earned a diploma in Performing Arts (Acting). I didn’t want to move to London, as is often the norm for aspiring creative folk, so it made sense for me to stay put for my undergraduate degree, and in 2013 I graduated with a BA Hons in Contemporary Directing from Leeds Metropolitan University (now renamed Leeds Beckett University) in association with the Newcastle College Group.

After graduation, I focussed on working as a freelance creative, and earned most of my money from dressing up as a giant gnome and dancing in a shopping centre. Mental health issues got on top of me and I wanted to get away from the industry for a while, so I took a break and briefly became a cinema manager down in Teesside. When that no longer suited me, I switched to a day job in a prominent pharmacy led retail chain (it’s while I was working there that I wrote my first novel, Stranger Town). I sold aspirin and sanitary towels for a year before returning to the impoverished artist life of dressing up and doing silly voices for money, having dealt with some of my demons, changing my name, and making some major alterations to my appearance.

Thankfully, The Open University didn’t hold it against me that neither my undergraduate degree nor the institution I received it from existed anymore, and they let me begin my MA in Creative Writing back in 2016. These days I don’t act or dance, but instead spend most of my energy on writing stories, poetry and long, rambling essays about why I’m not very happy. I’ve recently tried to start my own country on an Island in the North Sea, and I’m currently writing a surreal comic fantasy novel containing lots of swear words. I live on the coast with my wonderful fiancée, and I’m a level 50 Jedi Master.