Trinbago take 2 – Break Down to Break Through.

What if you fight against the odds, defy ‘normality’ and redefine ‘success’ – the dyslexic becomes a poet/ the girl from Ilford an academic/ the prolific bashment raver an Artistic Director. Then, you realise everything you have worked 18 hour days for, for 10 years (since you were 15) sacrificed your teenage years for – isn’t where you need to be anymore.

18 months ago, I gave up every component of my life because I realised I needed to go home. To Ilford, to my family, to my friends, to grime, to rage, to fear, to trauma, to the boxes I had locked into the loft for so long. I left a city that had been home for 8 years (my whole adult life) a company I started and established for 6, a relationship I had been in for 5 and a physical home I had built for 3 – all to live in my old tiny bedroom with my parents, in Ilford, at 26.

It doesn’t seem like the obvious road to success. But I had realised I had lost part of who I was and I needed to reclaim it. 

I also had realised that, though I was doing so many things I was proud of and loved, I had stopped being happy. Although I did things that made me happy retrospectively, though I could talk to you about joy and pride – on a daily basis I was too exhausted to remember what the experience of joy was.

But something happened in Trinidad – something about the cocoa, pepper and hips, the undercurrent of pain and the way their voices sing over and through it. The theme somehow – take disruption as opportunity, serendipity. Yes, Debris, you always have a plan, but if there is traffic down the planned road and a hot air balloon presents itself on the hard shoulder – why refuse yourself the view?  

This trip was a hot air balloon ride – at times slow and blown in directions that could make me anxious but the views of the people, the places, the music were so beautiful and right I had to just stop and breathe and stretch in the sunlight of it all.

I wanted to share this because I can be obsess over productivity – and compare ‘success’ and ‘accomplishment’ and ‘drive’ to the social media timelines of others. It doesn’t always look like we expect it to. This is my call to keep space in yourself for diversion and reflection. And a call to myself to stop waiting till I am sick to do so (ironically ill as I type this but hey, one step at a time).

The bridge between breakdown and breakthrough:

  • Yoga with Adrienne 3 times a week (as little as 10mins as much as 90min).dirty medics 1
  • Swimming for an hour a week under the stars.
  • Dancing every day (5min like a loon in the living room or 10 hours in the streets of Trinidad – ideally a range).
  • Letting my house mates distract me with Dobble, Jenga and gold fish funerals.
  • Letting the beautiful friends I make distract me; missions for coconut water, trips to the beach, conversations in the doorway, searching for something on Netflix to watch for an hour then watching nothing, rewatching Black Mirror and cycling down the motorway.
  • If a poem starts happening – from you or someone else, no matter how random or exhausted, let it.
  • Lying on the floor after yoga, and just being with myself (I can only actually do this whilst listening to James Blake).
  • Make Pie Charts for; what makes you happy, what you spend time on, what you want to spend time on, what stresses you out. E.g.:

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  • Message your mum back on facebook.

Give some a go?

Lastly, I want to say thank you for the poets that let me into their work, the humans that let me into their lives and the families that let me into their homes. In terms of that time pie chart – I have learned the importance of keeping 5-10% of myself free to show the same generosity to others that has been shown to me by the beautiful people of Trinidad. I had a little cry on the plane for how overwhelmed by love, care and appreciation I feel.

Thank you. Let the hard work continue.


“Deborah Stevenson’s the Peng Girl at School!”

Up till now, I have had Social Media constipation because sitting on my computer or looking at my phone feels like a ridiculous thing to spend time on when there are real life people out there that I could be working with, talking to and teaching how to use poetry to improve their quality of life!

But yesterday, a Skype mentoring session (courtesy of Apples & Snakes)  with DJ, producer, poet and all round G, Charlie Dark, served as the prune juice to my Social Media issues (sorry I took that metaphor a bit too far).

Top 10 Quotes and lessons from The School of Dark mentoring session:

  1. “The Deborah I know, she’s Mouthy because she wants things to change.” Social media can connect me with thousands more people to make that change happen.
  2. I learn lessons from the 50 amazing young people in Mouthy and the poets and people I meet around the world every day – why am I not sharing these lessons with the world outside of Nottingham through social media? (Because electricity scares me! A laptop battery once exploded and set fire to my thermal sock whilst on my foot…But this is me working on it! Please hug me in moral support!)
  3. “The first thing I do, the first thing anyone does is check your social media presence. YOU HAVE NO SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE!”
  4. “Social media is about being yourself. Replicate this online; say the things I usually say, link to the music you listen to, pictures of the food you eat and the bargains you buy…Just be you, but do it more frequently.”
  5. “Who is Deborah Stevenson? Deborah Stevenson’s the Peng Girl at School! Who got on stage like ‘DO NOT judge me on my looks, judge me on what comes out my mouth.” (Not sure this is relevant but I thought it was hilarious).
  6. Through social media you can “Transcend the arts world.”
  7. “For some reason, Deborah Stevenson wants to reach young people, she has the power to make people who don’t like poetry love it – people who need poetry but don’t realise it. You need social media optimise your reach to these young people!”
  8. “Make sure your followers know you are dyslexic and share useful information around it with them. You are not the only one, look at Jamie Oliver!”
  9. In the London Riots – who spoke?” None of the music artists who were asking the same young people to buy their album, none of the people who have power online. “People like us, who are willing to speak, to be there for those young people, WE NEED TO REACH FURTHER. That is the reason why I say you’re important. Because the people we expect to speak aren’t speaking on our behalf. 50 years later, we need to get our Martin Luther King on!”
  10. “I would rather my daughter have a picture of you on her wall right now instead of Beyonce!”


Hopefully this was either amusing, insightful or educational in some way. It definitely was for me!

You can see Charlie’s magical social media powers at work @daddydark

Debris x