As a working-class woman and carer, I want to help others by being visible

24 June 2022

As a working-class woman and carer, I want to help others by being visible

Fellow alum Louise Powell describes herself as a working-class writer, filmmaker and director from Middlesbrough and much of her work is based on experiences of growing up below the poverty line in the North East. She has fond memories of evenings spent with family and friends at Wheatley Hill Greyhound Stadium, and was recently commissioned to write and direct The Pitmen Flappers, a 13 minute audio drama set at the track. The Pitmen Flappers was broadcast earlier this month on BBC Radio 4 Extra and is now available on BBC Sounds.

We recently caught up with Louise to hear more about her experience of studying at Sheffield Hallam and her success since completing a PhD in English in 2019. As a young unpaid carer for both of her parents, Louise’s time at University was made possible with a studentship which covered the cost of tuition and materials as well as providing a maintenance allowance. Her decision to come to Hallam was initially led by the offer of funding, but it turned out to be one of her best decisions.

Louise said, ‘I loved it! Hallam offers a warm and inclusive environment and I had a great sense of belonging. The funding I received made it possible for me to do a PhD and made me feel like I deserved to be there. My lecturers were great and I’m still in touch with them today.’

Louise talked passionately about the perception of student life and the pressure of what a university experience should be like, but for many of our students like Louise, this is not the reality. As the UK’s most inclusive university, many of our students balance additional responsibilities with their studies. Later this year, she hopes to return to the University to deliver a guest lecture and share her experience with current students.

Louise said, ‘as a working-class woman and a carer, I want to help others by being visible, but I also want current students to know that everyone’s path is different, and they shouldn’t compare themselves to others.’

Louise is currently preparing her Arts Council funded novel for submission to agents and publishers, and has a short narrative film under option with a production company, who aim to make it as proof-of-concept for a feature film. She is writing her second play following the success of her debut play ‘Fit for Work’, which was staged at London and North East theatres. She is also developing an oral history project with an audio production company and North East organisations – we’re excited to see what the future holds for Louise.

Louise’s top tip for students and new graduates is:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – it’s surprising how many people and organisations are willing to help you to develop your skills if you ask. For young creatives, she recommends New Writing North and the BFI Academy.

If you’re interested in finding out how you can get involved by helping current students at Sheffield Hallam, please view our upcoming volunteering opportunities.