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  • radhawilsonjeffries

What a performance! How the arts paved the way for me to midwifery and beyond...


People often ask me what I did before becoming a Midwife. I can honestly say that I think I've always been a midwife. I feel its the type of job that's coded into your DNA and it takes a certain event or a series of life events to 'activate' it. So much so that when I went for my interview at university I couldn't put into words why she should offer me a place on the course, I just trusted my instinct that this was my calling. Thankfully she must have seen it too!


But I did do other jobs before I was a midwife- office work, restaurant and bar work, customer service- anything which payed the bills. But if you'd have asked me when I was a little girl what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have probably said an actress or singer. I remember my early experiences of being on stage at age 6 or 7. I loved dressing up, acting out stories and singing. Drama (closely followed by music, english and foreign languages) was my favourite subject at school so it felt natural for me to take drama at GCSE at secondary school and then go on to study performing arts at college. I felt totally at ease in the spot light and continued to love the challenge of becoming different characters - putting myself in their shoes to try and give a realistic performance. I loved being part of the team and working together to put on the show -cast, costume, lighting. This was my happy place.


I used to say that preforming was my first love and midwifery was my second- but its likely that I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for those early experiences of being on the stage. Self confidence, discipline, team work and dedication have all served me well in my Midwifery career so far and I feel so lucky that I can combine my two passions through my involvement with Progress Theatre Midwives.


I've been part of Progress Theatre Midwives since I was a second year midwifery student. I luckily found myself being mentored by one of the founding members of the company, Adele Stanley, and after chatting about our shared passion for the arts was offered an audition to join them- I was over the moon!


So what is Progress Theatre? Our bio says...

"We are a group of (mostly) midwives who have had experience of working with drama and theatre.

We use performance and theatre workshops to explore realistic and familiar situations from the world of midwifery. Our workshops are interactive, illuminating and enjoyable. Participants come away with a feeling that they have learnt something new about themselves and the context within which we work – and enjoyed themselves.

We develop our material through devising from our own and others’ stories of the culture of maternity care. We perform a series of short scenes depicting every day dilemmas, and then invite the audience to debate and analyse what is going on. Observers also make suggestions about how things could be different – and participants are invited to demonstrate these by entering the ‘scene’ and acting them out. Using theatre in this way is based on the work of South American dramaturge Augusto Boal who wrote Theatre of the Oppressed.

We have been working together since 1999 following an idea which originated from Professor Mavis Kirkham.

“The culture of maternity care in the NHS serves to empower neither midwives nor their clients. To change this culture midwives need to explore how they can change both their behaviour and that of others”. Our theatre aims to do that."

I've been involved in many shows and performances with Progress Theatre over the last 7 years, travelling all over the country and meeting amazing and inspiring people. This phenomenal group of women are my tribe. Their friendship is such a blessing. They encourage me, positively challenge me and support me - to be the best midwife I can be and to help inspire change in others.


I think the little girl standing on the stage would be happy to know that I'm continuing to fan the flames of a fire which she started, which I hope will continue to burn bright enough to light the way for others.


Interested in commissioning Progress Theatre Midwives to perform at your conference or local trust? Contact us here https://www.facebook.com/progressmidwives/




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