Helen Brooks

May 04, 07:23 AM

My guest this week is Helen Brooks from the School of Arts at the University of Kent. Helen is Reader in Drama and a specialist on theatre in the First World War and she tells us how it was the case that her students precipitated this research area and we learn why she prefers to watch rather than read plays.

Helen grew up in Kingston, Surrey, and we discover that one of her earliest memories is cycling along the towpath near her home. She tells us that she has quite a visual memory and how, as a child, time seemed to move more slowly.

When growing up Helen was exposed to an eclectic range of music at home – everything from Motown to Handel’s Messiah, and she tells us why she felt especially nostalgic when recently listening to music during an episode of 'Derry Girls'. We also discover that Helen was really into 'Doctor Who' in the early 1990s at a time when it wasn’t cool and that Peter Davison, who played the fifth incarnation of 'Doctor Who', sent her a handwritten birthday card on her 13th birthday. The conversation then turns to what can happen if one is perceived as different to other children when at school. 

Helen tells us about why she enjoyed revision as a child and was discouraged by her school from studying Drama at ‘A’ level, wanting her to do English and History instead. We talk about the ‘value’ of a degree, and Helen tells us about the time she worked for an HR Consultancy before going to university. She also reveals why she has considered contacting her former teachers from school.

The conversation then moves on to her time at the University of Exeter where, as a Drama student, she wasn’t allowed to join any student societies. She talks about her apprehension of studying Samuel Beckett and how it can take a while to realize the importance of a module that was taken - decades later, sometimes. We also talk about diaries and Helen explains how and why she returned to writing a diary five years ago, and who it is being written for. We talk about the disconnect that can arise via a diary between the grand political events swirling around us and the way everyday life carries on. 

In the final part of the interview we learn that Helen’s memories are predominantly positive despite being quite a worrier from a young age, and Helen reflects on how she and her university friends have followed totally different life and career paths yet how there is something that holds them all together. As a child her dream was to be a serious actor and we learn why she feels that there are comparisons between performing on stage and being a teacher. Finally, we find out whether Helen is a looking back or a looking forward type of person and why she tries to live in the present.

Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Helen Brooks and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.