Monday’s are usually the most dreaded day of the week with the obvious cloud of the mundane blues, the manic-panic of work and the ‘Tell Me Why I Don’t Like Mondays’ refrain. And I have always agreed. On a weekly basis and weakly biased. But Monday 26 March changed all that. It was an ‘Indian Summer’ of a day and a day some of us will never forget, a day when some of us got to meet the wonderful author of the debut novel “India’s Summer” – Thérèse aka Terry aka Lady Robinson, also wife of Sir Ken Robinson. It was a day of sunshine.
While Terry’s husband, Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned creativity and education expert, was the keynote speaker at the recent Entitlement and Creativity Matters Conference at Lisneal College, Terry spent the day taking in the splendours and delights of the Playhouse Theatre, Little Acorns Bookstore, Bedlam and the City Walls, with lunch in Café Del Mondo - and all in the company of a fine bunch of local creative folk.
With family in Newry and herself raised in Liverpool, Terry now resides in Los Angeles, where her first novel “India’s Summer” (The Fiction Studio, USA) is based and already receiving great acclaim since it was launched earlier this year.
Fresh from her writing trip to Paris, (research for her next novel), Terry was invited as special guest to an unique creative arts workshop, facilitated by Ursula McHugh, resident Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, yoga teacher, singer and Director of the Creative Path Programme based at The Playhouse Theatre, Derry.
Ursula said; “It was a great honour and pleasure to have had Lady Terry Robinson join us in the Creative Path workshop. The core group have been together for over a year now, closely studying the principles of Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’, and have taken, and are still taking, amazing steps to honour themselves as individual artists. This has evolved into so much fun, lots of chocolate and many wonderful friendships. Terry’s visit was serendipitous at a time when the Creative Path Programme is beginning to gain momentum and where the participants are really coming out of themselves.
“Terry, as a committed advocate of creativity in education and learning herself, shared generously her insights as both writer and artist. It was refreshing to hear her say that creativity isn’t always about producing something i.e. the book or a play or a song – it’s more about living life day-to-day more creatively. For example: trying out a new recipe, putting on a piece of music, dancing or singing around the house, or learning how to play the guitar for your own enjoyment’s sake. It is, above all, about finding out what makes us feel good and doing more of it!” Ursula continued.
Terry explained, “In the process of my writing, I didn’t need to hear a grand voice. My biggest breakthrough was in finding my ‘own’ voice. When I realised that what I wrote came out as funny, I wanted to share my stuff. It’s about giving someone else the pleasure… It’s about staying upwardly mobile when you are spinning out of control. The penny dropped, when I was swimming, that it was a novel I needed to write… I just get in to the zone and write and write. You can only really understand your life by looking back at it and you putting your own spin on it. There is a pressure to produce with people not knowing what to do with what’s in the heart… but you have to train yourself to look at things differently. You might be looking in the wrong place. Go back to basics; it’s all part of the process.”
Deirdre Donnelly, one of the workshop participants, added:
“I joined the Creative Path Programme in February 2011 while recovering from illness because I recognised, as a creative, I was stuck. People may have thought with working in broadcast media that I was privileged and blessed but I needed to learn more and push my own boundaries creatively. On joining the course, I was stunned by other people’s talent and was assured in my own creative gifts. It has been a year of joy and sorrow, yet most inspiring.
“When Terry Robinson joined our intimate group she was a stranger in our midst, but, as a collective, and personally, Terry brought about a candour and joy that allowed us all to speak openly about our fears and ambitions, disillusionment and joys. Terry came as a woman with nothing to hide and one who respected each of us as we spoke of our creative advances and setbacks. With every experience revealed, Terry revealed of herself truly and completely. She talked the talk of creativity bringing healing and self-discovery and she has walked the walk.
“For me, the Creative Path has been both a personal and creative journey that has certainly led me toward my own true north. Terry helped to consolidate the work that Ursula McHugh has done with such a guiding hand and loving touch for the past year. We can all fall into the pain of the past or we can choose to remember what joy felt like and make a date with it everyday. This is what both Ursula and Terry bring to the ordinary person who gets lost in the minutiae of everyday life; wondrous people who have walked hard roads to know how to rise to higher places.”
In the afternoon, Terry visited Little Acorns Bookstore and Bedlam for her first European book signing and public reading of “India’s Summer”. In the company of other local writers, who also read from their own work, Terry regaled her captive audience with stories about her writing career, the creative process and life in the Golden State, where, incidentally, Terry has received glowing reviews of her novel from such luminaries as Hollywood thespians Orlando Bloom and Goldie Hawn and New York Times bestselling author Jane Green – never mind promising to introduce one of our Derry singleton lasses to Richard Gere, should the opportunity ever arise!
That aside, and not far removed from the heroine of the novel, the inspiring and affable India Butler, Terry emphasised the importance of remaining true to yourself and not to sacrifice your creative talents or to be led astray but to follow your aspirations and make your own dreams happen. As, in the novel, India travels to LA from London in an attempt to reinvent her life, to a world illuminated by the flashbulbs of the paparazzi, and discovers the true meaning of ‘having it all’.
Local writer Grainne McCool said; “It was a wonderfully creative and inspiring afternoon. Terry was a most down-to-earth, genuine person who made everyone very relaxed in her company. ‘India’s Summer’ is a definite winner and a journey many of us women would like to make – an escape from reality and a real holiday read. It was a pleasure and a lovely experience to have been a part of such a wonderful day.”
To Felicity McCall, fellow-author, the afternoon was “an energising affirmation of the creative and artistic vision of a group of inspirational women writers, in a perfect environment to stimulate honest, lively and warm discussions, develop links and forge friendship.”
Indeed ‘India’s Summer’ is a lively and warm book, offering a timeless tale of women supporting one another – delivered in a way that makes it feel fresh, alive, and utterly of the moment. And yes, Terry certainly brought all that and much more to the entire day.
As the evening drew to a happy close, with copious amounts of coffee sipped, gifts exchanged, tales of resident ghosts and Elvis connections, among many other uncanny coincidences and creative bursts, there was a little air of excitement in the anticipation of some very special visitors on their way. Blessed with the esteemed arrival of Sir Ken Robinson, the Duchess of Abercorn Sacha Hamilton (founder of the Pushkin Trust) accompanied by Aideen McGinley and Noelle McAlindon (Ilex), the magic continued.
Workshop participants, local writers Susan McGaghran and Joanne Doherty, got to read their work, (and for the first time ever in public). And Joanne later penned this little tribute to the day: “Indeed, Terry was an inspiration to us all: a lady, a total joy; funny, smart, entertaining and talented – it was wonderful to meet someone radiate such genuine warmth, good spirit and positivity. Further honour was meeting Sir Ken and especially given that he had had his own hectic schedule of events that day. For him to share time to chat with everyone individually and shake hands was very much appreciated.
“Sir Ken was most sincere and did not allow his wife to be overshadowed by his presence. It is also inspirational to see a ‘celebrity’ couple so very much in love!” commented Grainne McCool.
And that it was, of a Monday, an Indian summer of a day, where the author of “India’s Summer”, Lady Robinson aka Terry aka Thérèse, transformed a possible Blue Monday into one of the most inspiring days of art from the heart into a day of creativity, fun and newfound friendships.
Monday will no longer be that dreaded day of decline but rather a flowering bud of a promising week awaiting, so here’s to you, Mrs Robinson, Derry loves you more than you will know (wo, wo, wo!)
n Limited copies of the book available from Little Acorns Bookstore, Bedlam, Pump Street, Derry. Published by The Fiction Studio (USA), paperback, £12.00.
For more details on the Creative Path Programme, please contact Ursula McHugh at the Playhouse Theatre, Artillery Street, Derry.