This is my story

Stories can conquer fear you know.  They make the heart bigger

– Ben Okri

This is my story. The story of Caroline and the Hua Dan team. 

This is the story of a small band of women who got together with an idea bigger than themselves.  This is the story of Dong Fen, Zhong Na, Xiao Qiang, Fu Ping, Lynne, Li Peng, Jessica, of Peta and Leigh, of Helen and Wen Jun, Linda and Leah – the women, and men, of the characters and stories who made Hua Dan what it is. 

This is the story of Chinese lunches cooked and eaten over dreams and strategizing for the future; of trips to Yunnan, Sichuan, Hebei, Shanghai to share our passion for theatre; of funding lost and funding gained; of triumphs, and victories, of failures and successes.

This is the story of a Beijing knee-deep in the dust and discarded paper of an explosion of fireworks; this is the story of sesame-filled dumplings on a cold winter’s night; of summer bike rides through hutongs; late-night rehearsals and performances in tents; of adventures into an earthquake zone and run-ins with Chinese officials; of coal-dust settling on the mid-autumn air.

This is a story of empowerment, as much of my own as it is of others, of laughter, of tears, of learning and growing together; of navigating the choppy world of personal and social change in a country that stretches you beyond the limits of your own endurance, then brings you bouncing back, begging for more.

This is my story of Beijing and China, about what it’s like to walk into a rural village, request that that all the desks and chairs be cleared away so that you can run a theatre workshop instead of the military training they were scheduled to have.  This is my story of being the Pied Piper of Hamlyn, followed by a sea of children in a small village in Yunnan, all eager to learn from this mysterious foreigner, landed on their doorstep.

This is my story of what it’s like when a vision of possibility seizes you. When you desire with every fibre in your being to write a different story to the one written for you.  To weave your own narrative in a sea of voices that will try to tell you it simply can’t be done.  When you see the future clearly before you, a vision of hope, of the triumph of good over evil, of love over fear.  

I want to find a way to tell you the truth.  To tell you my truth.  And I’m scared that my writing won’t be good enough….but I’m going to tell you anyway…..

I want to tell you how the people react when you do this, of the transformation it’s possible to see when you do this. I want to tell you of my own journey in living this dream, a dream not so unlike many others, yet nonetheless unique in the characters, stories and the love that it unfolds.

Stories are what make us what we are.  We tell stories all the time.  Perhaps in the evening when we come home to our loved ones, sharing the activities of the day.  Or maybe it’s the stories we tell ourselves, to help us grow, inspire us….or even convince us of action we need to take. I believe we always have the power within us to write our own story.  To create our own narratives, rather than inherit the narratives of others that have gone before us.  Or those that we have been given that no longer serve.

This is the story of what it means to follow your heart, to listen to what the universe is telling you and to go forward when everyone doubts you.  This is what it means to triumph.  Because that’s the only choice you have.

Photo by Juhasz Imre on

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