5 things to do today by Actor and Theatre Maker Emma Spearing

Emma Spearing is an Actor and Theatre Maker based in Cambridge. Seven years ago, her identical twin sister Charlie, died, aged 38. The immense grief of losing her twin was also combined with a new questioning, of who she was without her twin, and she has spent the past 4 years creating a solo theatre show exploring this. Supported by Arts Council England and winner of the Stobbs Troop New Ideas commission award, this show is called WHOLE, and will be performed at Arcola Outside: ‘Today I Am Wiser’ Festival and Cambridge Junction in November.

Emma’s 5 things.

  1. Spending time in nature – When my sister died, it was the natural world that seemed to find me. Listening to birdsong, digging my hands in the earth, standing with my back against trees, skimming stones on the sea. There is no fixing grief, it doesn’t work like that. We can’t be fixed, and that can be deeply uncomfortable for people to be around. Nature holds space for that. It doesn’t mind if you wail at it or shout to the wind. I started to feel an immense gratitude for nature and the cycle of things. I still have that gratitude. I sometimes wonder if I ever stood still for long enough to really hear the birds sing before Charlie died. 
  1. Walking – usually involving getting coffee. For me, walking allows me time to process life. I was on a writing residency last year and I was feeling so guilty about not sitting at my desk and writing, but walking a lot instead to buy coffee! I’m working with a wonderful artist well-being practitioner who is supporting the show-making process, and she suggested it was part of my creative process. It is almost like my brain is processing all the ideas as I walk and when I get back I can write everything out. Now, when I’m writing and I get stuck, I walk. Sometimes it’s when the best solutions arrive or an idea for a new bit of writing comes to me. 
  1. Aerial hoop – I go to bed with the idea that the next day I will wake up early and do an hour of exercise and mostly it never happens! I would love to say I do a bit of yoga or go for a run but I manage to get to the end of most days having done neither. However, in an impulsive moment during lockdown 3 I did buy myself an aerial rig. I’ve been practicing aerial hoop for the past 5 years, I’m not great at it but I always wanted to try it. I love the mindfulness that comes with trying not to fall off; it makes me feel really strong, and it requires a bit of courage at times. 
  1. Singing – I taught myself to play guitar about 20 years ago now. It was really hard for me to sing again after losing Charlie. She ran a choir in southern Spain where she lived, full of funky women, and we used to spend all our time together singing and finding harmonies. We had really similar voices, and singing with your twin, well, we just knew each other’s voices so well. It was utter joy. When Charlie died, I lost my voice. For about 2 years I couldn’t sing at all. The doctors diagnosed Hysterical Globus, which is essentially ‘emotional’ voice loss. My voice started to come back when I began writing. Maybe that’s a coincidence? Maybe not. Singing is coming back to me. It’s still painful sometimes to sing a song we used to sing together, and I find myself listening out for her harmony. Sometimes I realise that I am trying to hear her and it makes me break down mid-song, but I’m finding my way through.
  1. Fire – I would gather around a fire, preferably with music, every night if I could. There is something about watching the fire dance and hearing stories told or songs sung that feels so ancient. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been creating an outside version of WHOLE. We shared a work in progress around a fire in a wood in Somerset recently. It felt so precious and magical.