Cheryl Govan - Letter to my 18 year old self

Cheryl Govan, theatre director and practitioner in the UK

Cheryl Govan is Outreach Officer at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Her role involves bringing theatre and the arts to people of all ages and abilities and is central in the community as both a practitioner and facilitator.


Dear Cheryl (aged 16),

I was asked to write this letter to you yesterday and I wasn’t really sure what to say. To be honest, stuff has worked out pretty well for you with the decisions you made about Higher Education.

Let me tell you that there will be a few glitches. You will want to go to university/drama school right now because, thanks to the wonderful Scottish education system you are already qualified, but dun dun dun…. nowhere will take you because you’re too young.

Don’t worry too much because this "year out" will be full of extraordinary things. You’ll get a job as a singing telegram which will be enormous fun and you’ll make plenty of going out money from it, you’ll attend the ‘Red Star Brouhaha’ where you’ll meet loads of other young people who are interested in theatre and come from all over the UK and Eastern Europe (*Spoilers: the Berlin wall will come down by the way) and you’ll have many other experiences including a broken heart and lots of parties.

Stephen Joseph Youth Theatre performers in a play about the environment

“You’ll meet loads of other young people who are interested in theatre and come from all over the UK and Eastern Europe”

Yesterday, I actually worked with 40 young people who were on an access to University course; young people like you who come from a modest background, a council house, a regular school without a history of loads of family members going to university. They were struggling with pressure from parents and friends to stay at home and get a job. You were lucky that you never experienced this. What I said to them was that you are the person who decides your destiny and only you can make the decision about what you want to do. Whatever that is you will always regret not giving it a go if you bow down to what the others say.

I know you are currently debating which subject you want to follow: art, music, theatre? Definitely not maths. If you’ve got the guts, go and tell that Mr Boden to sod off. He’ll take it. The only reason he picks on you is cause he knows you’re good and he hates the fact that a pretty girl can do maths well!

You now work in a world famous Stephen Joseph Theatre, made famous by Alan Ayckbourn (you are about to turn down a part with the local amateur dramatics because it’s an Ayckbourn play and you think it isn’t the sort of theatre you’re interested in. How naïve?! He’s amazing! you’ll realise this quite soon cause you’ll end up in Scarborough and meet him and be blown away).

So yes, you choose theatre!

Stephen Joseph Youth Theatre performers in Alice by Heart

“The list of the things you’ve done is ever expanding and continuously mental!”

You got a Ba (Hons) in theatre from Leeds University and you’re also a qualified teacher. In your job you work with young people, adults, people with learning disabilities, young offenders, professional actors, in fact you work with everyone! You write and direct plays, run workshops, have made a funky choir (you’ll sing a solo in front of 6000 people and the Queen) and you’ve even made a beginners ballet class for teenage boys… the list of the things you’ve done is ever expanding and continuously mental!

There are loads of experiences I could tell you to avoid, but where would the fun in that be?

Carry on Cheryl!

With love and fond memories,
You (aged 39)

P.S.Don't be too sad when the Stone Roses split up, in 2012 they get back together and you and your husband (who incidentally is a composer and musician - you always said you'd marry a musician) go to see them on their reunion gig alongside 250,000 other people and it is a truly spiritual experience. You will never grow up!