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Interview with Dani Skillen

Dani Skillen 

‘Shouting for 20 Years’ Interview with Judy Caine – 2nd Feb 2021

 

Judy Caine [00:00:01] Yes, we’re recording. OK, this is Judy Caine, I’m one of the interviewers on this Shouting for 20 years project. And today I’ve got Danny Skillen? Yes, got it right, Danny Skillen with me, who’s going to introduce herself in a second, give me her date of birth and then I’ll ask you a few questions about Shout Danny. So, to kick off, can you give me your full name and your age?

 

Dani Skillen [00:00:28] My full name’s Danielle Elizabeth

Skillen and I’m 28.

 

Judy Caine [00:00:34] Thank you very much. OK, I hope

an easy starter question for one. When and why did you

first get involved and Shout Youth Theatre?

 

Dani Skillen [00:00:43] It was in 2005 and I only got involved because I was hanging out with my friend and she dragged me along.

 

Judy Caine [00:00:52] Which friend was that?

 

Dani Skillen [00:00:52] Her name was Cherise. Erm, she didn’t last as long as I did there, ironically, but, yeah, she dragged me to there because she thought it’d be good, because at the time I was very performing artsy, I did dance and I could play instruments. And it was just another thing to do.

 

Judy Caine [00:01:11] Was it what you expected?

 

Dani Skillen [00:01:12] Um, no, no. Because I had in my head of CATS [Corby Amateur Theatrical Society] and Eclipse because that’s originally what I was intended on doing in that year. And this was something completely different. It was just real things, although the first project I ever got involved with was ‘Women of Steel’, so that was about the history of Corby and the steelworks, which wasn’t too bad of an introduction into Shout, to be honest.

 

Judy Caine [00:01:39] So what year was Women in Steel?

 

Dani Skillen [00:01:42] I want to say 2005 or 2006, because it took us a long time to plan and we performed it in the summer. So I want to say 2006, we performed it because I’m sure I started towards the back end of 2005. Erm, and yeah, I think so, because it was it was nice that we did it at East Carlton and so it had to be 4ish.

 

Judy Caine [00:02:09] Sounds like fun. So, that was your first play, Women of Steel, w,hat was your specific role for firstly in the group and then in the play?

 

Dani Skillen [00:02:17] I didn’t really have a role in the group at the time because, 1) I was incredibly young and 2) when I don’t know people, I tend to be quite quiet and then when I get comfortable, you can’t shut me up. So, at that point, I was at a quiet stage, didn’t really have any ideas or whatever. But, in the play I was a child in a playground doing a dance. I helped choreograph one of the dances because I was a dancer at the time and I helped a lot of my cast members younger cast member and cast members the same age as me.  We had to do a dance thing to a song like we were kids at school. And some of them, mainly the boys, weren’t really, what’s the word … g.ood with rhythm. Yes. They weren’t really that good, so I was a child playing in school and then towards the end of the play, I was what Paula called a steel kid. So we had a poem to say and we did physical actions to the poem about the steelworks and about how there’s nothing. At the time there wasn’t anything in the town centre for young people. I think we only had the Connaughty Centre and there was there was a line in it and it was “I wish we had a better swimming pool, cinema and buses that run after 6.30 [pm]”. And that was like back in 2006 that we wanted that and we were saying what we wanted and what we didn’t have and what we felt like we should have to a man, I can’t remember his role, but he was a developer of some sort that worked with the council at the time. His name was Mark and we literally were like shouting at him in the poem to tell him what we would like to happen. It just so happens that like 10 years down the line, we ended up getting everything we asked for. But I don’t think we were the reason behind it, but…

 

Judy Caine [00:04:25] Well, you say that but from what I’ve been hearing from other people have told me, and tell me if I’m wrong in this, because I wasn’t in Shout, you know, I didn’t even live in Corby when Shout started, I didn’t move to Corby till 16 years ago. So, Shout had been well and truly established a long time before I moved in. I think you only kept going, no, I think you officially finished in ninety eight didn’t you, no, hang on 2018 when Shout officially ended with the project about Stroke. But, you know, from what I’ve been hearing, Shout was was listened to, people took notice, people came to see you, they wanted to know what the young people of Corby wanted to ‘Shout’ about I mean …

 

Dani Skillen [00:05:13] See that’s quite amazing because at the time I didn’t really understand or give a flying toss what we were shouting about. To me, it was just acting and I love acting. But the older I got and the more topics we came about, the more passionate I became, especially once we started doing the Stroke, because when I was a carer and then I was about to go to Uni to become a nurse, a lot of the things along the way became very either hard hitting, real, for me or really relatable. At that time. It was like, I’m just standin’ doing what I like. But Women of Steel was interesting because there was a bit where we were comparing living in Kettering to living in Corby. How Kettering had Tresham, they had all the college and Corby didn’t have that. If you wanted to go to college, it would be you’d have to go to Kettering or Wellingborough. Where as obviously now, we have Tresham in Corby, whereas we didn’t before. We also did a bit about living in Corby and moving to a city, and the differences in opportunities, which was quite, looking back on it now, it was quite amazing that we actually thought of that, but at the time, it was just like, cool.

 

Judy Caine [00:06:28] So, what was unique about Shout do you think and how you created the plays? Because you said you thought about joining CATS or Eclipse, which is, I assume, another theater group? I don’t know, Eclipse.

 

Dani Skillen [00:06:40] Yeah.

 

Judy Caine [00:06:41] But what was different about Shout? Why did you keep coming back?

 

Dani Skillen [00:06:46] I developed really strong friendships there, and it takes a lot for me to make a friend looking back. Or is, at the time it was like, at the time I did a lot of other activities, I did dance, I did swimming and I did horse riding at the time and none of them were really sociable. Dancing with sociable to a point, but there was always that “I’m better than you so fuck off”, type of competitiveness, even with people who you are friends with. Where with Shout it was, it was different. It was everyone was equal, no one was better than the rest, and it just shocked me. I think that’s why I kept coming back. And the more confident I got and the more plays we did, I was like OK. Because my family itself is quite old fashioned, traditional, especially with things that the’ll talk about with like me and my cousin and my younger sister. There were things that I discussed with Paula and with Shout that I never would have even dreamed of talking about with my family.

 

Judy Caine [00:07:51] What, like teenage pregnancy and sex and that sort of stuff?

 

Dani Skillen [00:07:54] Yeah, and my grandparents are borderline racists, technically. If you, thinking back, they are borderline racist. And I didn’t really understand that whole thing. So I grew up with the same views as my grandparents. Then touching on things like that, kind of made me open my eyes a bit more, which I think is why I kept going back. It was more of an intrigue thing and I genuinely enjoyed it. It was really fun.

 

Judy Caine [00:08:23] How did you choose the topics? Can you remember?

 

Dani Skillen [00:08:28] I think, what used to happen was Paula would come in and she’d be like, right, we’ve been commissioned to do this, this or this. Which one do you want to do? What tickles your fancy or is there anything that you want to do? And then she’d go out and get the grant for it erm. Because we did something with trainee social workers. But she got approached for that. Well, at the Stroke place, she was approached by Maria for that, but I think like the second teenage pregnancy came about because I think someone became a teenage parent or they were pregnant or they knew someone who was. When we did the first alcohol play. I think that was brought up because I think a student must have overheard a conversation about drinking in the park, at  Wessie [West Glebe Park, Corby] with alcohol, and it just developed from there. I think it was just more of people saying ideas and then Paula going, OK, let’s do this, or we’ve done this, why don’t we do this again? So, especially about teenage pregnancy and sex, it’s not it’s not what you’re taught in schools. I don’t know about now, but obviously back then it was a ‘mates channel’. In school. At the time, we weren’t told about the ramifications, the ramifications of not using protection, not just teenage pregnancy, like the STDs and things. We were just told ‘don’t have sex’. That’s like literally it, we weren’t told the actual consequences, if that makes sense.

 

Judy Caine [00:09:56] Yeah, they didn’t discuss STDs as you said, they didn’t discuss AIDS etc. Erm, that’s interesting. Would you say there’s ony one particular play that had a really big impact on you?

 

Dani Skillen [00:10:14] When we did domestic violence, that was very therapeutic for me. Because I took a break from Shout when I was 16 till 18, and that was because I was not in a really healthy relationship at the time. I didn’t know that and I didn’t understand what was happening. And then I was speaking to Paula about it and I wrote it down and we turned that into a play. So it was a form of therapy for me. And that’s always stuck with me.

 

Judy Caine [00:10:43] Wow.

 

Dani Skillen [00:10:44] So I no one knew at the time it was based on … although we overexaggerated it and made it more severe than actually was, a lot of the content was based around my experience with my ex -partner at the time, and it was really, really therapeutic.

 

Judy Caine [00:11:00] And what was the name of that play?

 

Dani Skillen [00:11:03] Consequences. We turned into domestic violence caused by alcohol. I think perhaps it was quite hilarious, because I was re … well, yeah, actually it was quite fun, because I was reenacting some things that happened to me and my partner, but it wasn’t traumatic. It was like, okay, I’m getting over that.

 

Judy Caine [00:11:25] a sort of catharsis?

 

Dani Skillen [00:11:26] Yeah, I, I didn’t get over it completely because I’m in cognitive behavioural therapy for it at the minute so, but it was at the time, it made me understand what happened was 1) wrong, 2) not my fault, and 3) I was quite, I didn’t think I was that easily taken in. I was one of them people that would sit and watch Jeremy Kyle and be like, so why aren’t you leaving him? Like if that happened to me I’d leave.

 

Judy Caine [00:11:48] Yeah.

 

Dani Skillen [00:11:51]  I was quite taken aback, but that was the standout one for me. And it was also quite difficult cox we took it into schools.

 

Judy Caine [00:12:02] The play or did you video it and take the video?

 

Dani Skillen [00:12:05] No, we took the play into the into Lodge Park, Kingswood and CTC. And, erm, coz it was about the whole thing. Like there was drinking in the park. There was domestic violence caused by drinking there was rehypnol and having sex. And there was a lot of topics covered. And we went into schools, we did the whole piece, and then we had the children, the children, the children who were like 14, 15, who were showing it to because mine started when I was 15. And people obviously think that it’s because, when you’re older, it happens when,.

 

Judy Caine [00:12:43] Yeah,.

 

Dani Skillen [00:12:43] That’s not necessarily the case. And we had them stop and they would tell me to do something different, like what would you do in that situation? And it was quite effective. They were like, nope, just don’t let me tell him to fuck off. And their ideas were so like logical, but you don’t think like that, and it was interesting doing it at my old school Kingswood, because I had really good makeup done, Corey Paula’s friend, was.

 

Judy Caine [00:13:09] Oh, I’ve interviewed Corey, she’s amazing.

 

Dani Skillen [00:13:11] Oh, my God. Her makeup skills are phenomenal. She gave me a gash along my cheek. I had a black eye. I had a black eye and had a slight bruise on the cheek. And I went through my old school to go to the toilet and one of my teachers caught me. And actually asked me if I got back with my ex and if he was hitting me, I was like, you what? erm, makeup? Because it looked so realistic and I was like? But I didn’t realize that my, one of my A-level teachers clicked on. Because I’d never spoken to anyone. Never mentioned it in school anyway, yet one of my teachers clicked on and didn’t, and didn’t know how to approach me with it, which was, bizarre. But that was my favourite one. I also upset Paula doing it ‘tick’ – I got drunk on stage, my friend. Hey, you only live once and it still worked, the play.

 

Judy Caine [00:14:12] I’m sure, Paula coped.

 

Dani Skillen [00:14:14] That was my favourite.

 

Judy Caine [00:14:14] So, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but Shout clearly from what you’ve said appears to me, had quite an impact on your life when you were there, when you were doing it, when you were in Shout. Has it impacted in any way on your life after shout?

 

Dani Skillen [00:14:36] Yeah, I’m a lot more … argumentative is the wrong word, but I’m more if I don’t agree with what you’re saying, I will tell you I don’t agree with what you’re saying. I’m not a confrontational person, but I will, I never, if I didn’t agree with you I’d just be like OK. Whereas now I’d be like wait, no, and that happened because we were, it actually started with me arguing with Paula. We did a thing about male entitlement. And I think this is just something we were just bouncing off and I point blank turned round to her and said to her she was wrong. It’s not just men who have entitlement. Women do, and she didn’t agree with me. So we spent half the night arguing and debating about it. Whereas before I would probably be like, OK, you’re right, I’m just going to stay out of it. And I’m still like that now, especially at work if I don’t agree with what someone’s saying, like, erm, I’m more confident and able to be like, no, hang on a minute, stop, which at work can be handy. Like there was a junior doctor who came in bless him he’d only been qualified like for two weeks and was trying to tell me what to do with my patient. And he had this thing in his head. He knew more than me because he was a doctor, I was a nurse. And that’s not how it works in intensive care. It might work on other wards, but on intensive care you’re level with the doctor, you know more your patient, than your doctor does. And he would not listen to me. And before, if I didn’t have Shout, I would have just gone. I’ll go get someone, whereas now I’d be like, oh, no, you’re wrong, I’m not doing that, you do it, but you’ll kill the patient, not me.

 

Judy Caine [00:16:22] So it’s given you the confidence to speak up.

 

Dani Skillen [00:16:24] Yeah. I also view the world a lot differently now. I’m a lot more open-minded than what I probably would have been if I hadn’t have come. Erm, and I probably would have understood mental health more – well, sorry, less if I didn’t. Like my understanding, especially around that, especially with myself. It helped me understand more, because my family used to have the opinion of it’s not real and I would have grown up with probably that ideal.

 

Judy Caine [00:16:56] What mental health issues are not real?

 

Dani Skillen [00:16:58] Yeah, it’s just something that’s said, like I don’t think I’d have the in-depth knowledge or understanding that helps me manage myself now if I didn’t have Paula and Shout.

 

Judy Caine [00:17:09] Wow. That’s a big claim. That’s amazing.

 

Dani Skillen [00:17:16] Some of my happiest memories are from childhood, and I got one of my closest friends from that group. So it’s done a lot for me.

 

Judy Caine [00:17:25] That wouldn’t be Gary, by any chance would it?

 

Dani Skillen [00:17:27] Yeah (smiles).

 

Judy Caine [00:17:30] I may look daft (smiles back).

 

Dani Skillen [00:17:32] Yeah (both laugh) – our friendship is very strong from that group, which is odd because we are completely different.

 

Judy Caine [00:17:43] That’s really, really good. What do you think about the current project Shouting for 20 Years?

 

Dani Skillen [00:17:52] I love the fact that we’re doing it. I think it’s really good. I think it’s a good, I think it’s good for Paula. Because we literally after the ‘Shout About Stroke’, it was within like two weeks we decided to call it quits on the group. And for something that had such a big impact on her life and ours, but more so, Paula, because it was her life for over 20 years. Erm, I think it would it would have been a big shock like losing a part of her. And I think doing this can kind of bring that to a close. But I think it’s amazing, like it’s funny going back and looking through what we actually did, because a lot of the things when I was talking to people who came back for it, like, my old friend Dannie.

 

Judy Caine [00:18:38] Dannie Smith as in?

 

Dani Skillen [00:18:39] No, her name’s. Danny Malcomson, she used to go Shout, but then she moved to London for uni and we lost touch. But going through that, some of the things we were reading, it’s like, did we do that? I don’t remember doing that. Like when me and Paula were going through boxes that she had and it was like things that were written down or what we learned and stuff, and it was like, holy crap, we did that? So it was like a nice going down memory lane. And you did a lot more than what you actually think. If that makes sense.

 

Judy Caine [00:19:12] Yeah, no, it does it makes …

 

Dani Skillen [00:19:14] But, I think it’s a good project to bring it to a close and more so for Paula than anyone else. I think it’d be a good way for her to kind of end that chapter that’s probably not going to come back.

 

Judy Caine [00:19:27] That’s interesting. I mean, would Shout work now? Is there a need for another Shout goup or not? What do you think?

 

Dani Skillen [00:19:35] I, I don’t know. I think people are too wrapped up in themselves now. And a key part of Shout’s dynamic is phones are not allowed on, you’re not allowed to use it during the session unless it’s the half an hour break. I think if you try and tell teenagers, now they will tell you where to go. I think the age group it appeals to is completely different to the age group that was 10 or so years ago, even like back to when it first started. I think there’s a lot less respect there now. And I don’t think it would work, not with the way it worked with us, you’d have to change quite a lot for it to dynamically work. And I don’t think people care now. I think as long as people have their friends, their followers, everyone, they’re happy, they don’t care that something’s not right or that what you see on porn and stuff isn’t real or there are people with other disadvantages, I think they prefer to be more ignorant now. Whereas I think we were more curious back in the day, and I don’t think that applies now. I think people are too wrapped up with technology and games.

 

Judy Caine [00:20:49] Do you think that’s a bad thing?

 

Dani Skillen [00:20:52] Yeah, to a point. I mean, it is a bad thing because they’re literally doing nothing and their whole view of the world is based on what they see on a gaming screen. And that is so unrealistic. And I didn’t really think about it until discussing it, and it was Danny Smith had said that she actually had to tell someone that releasing on a woman’s face is not normal. And it’s like you’re 14, 15 and now, I mean, I’m not being funny, but I knew nothing about that 14. I mean, how warped is your view? And it’s like, OK, OK, that’s when it kind of hit me that I think it’s not really a good thing that we spend the whole time on the computers, because what you see is not reality, not at all. Not at all.

 

Judy Caine [00:21:51] So do you think social media, in effect, has not exactly killed the need for a Shout theatre, but, I don’t know? I’m trying to work out what you mean?

 

Dani Skillen [00:22:05] I think it’s more that they don’t need to get a group of kids together to Shout about the issues. All they have to do it now is post “I don’t like this” or set up a page that everyone likes and people are more interested in that than going to watch a 2 hour performance piece about the same issue.

 

Judy Caine [00:22:24] So Social Media is them their ‘Shout’ voice rather than having to go to a theatre group?

 

Dani Skillen [00:22:28] The anonymity behind social media can be quite empowering if you’re not that confident. Instead of being around people, you can be like, look, this is happening. So, on one hand, yes, it’s really good that they have social media, but no, because I do think doing plays can be more hard-hitting, doing performances can make someone think more like when we did ‘Foreigners, Bloody Foreigners’, although we could never do that now, we split the audience. We gave them passports, and people who were Scottish had to sit separately. So we were splitting families up, coming to watch their family members. If you put up a thing on Facebook saying racism is wrong. That’s not going to make any difference to being physically separated from your family.

 

Judy Caine [00:23:14] No.

 

Dani Skillen [00:23:16] So, I think it’s ruined the effect and the power that you can give by performing something.

 

Judy Caine [00:23:27] So what impact do you think Shout had on the town? What impact did Shout have on Corby?

 

Dani Skillen [00:23:34] I think it was a positive impact. I mean, I think unless you knew about it and you then, then you would see a play. However, doing things randomly in the street, like when we did the domestic abuse thing in ASDA, that went horribly wrong. That impacted everyone who worked there because they were all like gunning to go hit one of the Shout performers for attacking his sister. But unless you physically see it, I think you wouldn’t really understand or know about the impact, but I think it’s had a really good impact. Like we got sent to an alcohol conference to do our first alcohol play ‘Stop Think, Don’t Drink’.

 

Judy Caine [00:24:10] What, the whole Shout Youth Theatre got sent to a  conference?

 

Dani Skillen [00:24:14] Yeah, I think it must have been Phil Hope the MP at the time. It must have been someone related to him because we did have members, a part like, members of the council come and see ‘Stop Think, Don’t Drink’ and that had teenagers dying in a car accident from drinking and driving. It had girls going into clubs under age, and at that time, or a couple of years later, one of the nightclubs in Corby was raided and ninety six percent of the people in there were underage. I think they only left like seven or eight people in there after the police kicked everyone out and put everyone who was there under age on a watch list, they weren’t allowed in a pub until they were 18. And it had drinking in the park, and I think they saw that and went, OK, we’ll do it for a conference. The conference was at the Holiday Inn, but it was a bunch of alcohol specialists and doctors, consultants, therapists. I think there was recovering alcoholics there, I’m not too sure about that one. But, we had to do the play and then we got to go to the tables and we were given tables to sit at and they had cue cards about how many units is in a bottle of wine, how many units is in … and we had to match them up and we had to let them do it on their own and then we would do it separately. We got more right than the professionals.

 

Judy Caine [00:25:42] Wow.

 

Dani Skillen [00:25:43] And we were kids, we were like, I think I was like 15, 15 at the time, and we got more right than the adults. We were allowed to come out of school for that as well because it was during a day at school. So I think it did have an impact with some people, like we were on the news at one point, we were on the radio, and we went to the conference, all because of an alcohol play.

 

Judy Caine [00:26:12] I think that’s absolutely amazing. I really do.

 

Dani Skillen [00:26:18] One of our friends who was in the play the weekend before the alcohol conference, she was with her friend who was drunk, and she got beaten up by her friend when she was drunk. Quite badly.

 

Judy Caine [00:26:33] Was she OK?

 

Dani Skillen [00:26:33] Yeah, yeah, she was fine in the end, but it was just like we were literally doing an alcohol play, we were in the process of, about to do it, and an alcoholic event happened to one of our cast members. It was just a bit surreal.

 

Judy Caine [00:26:49] Hm, no, I can see that. What was your favorite moment in Shout if you have one?

 

Dani Skillen [00:26:58] Learning how to hit people!

 

Judy Caine [00:27:03] Without hurting them, I hope?

 

Dani Skillen [00:27:07] Yeah. So. When we were going through erm, like it was, I don’t know if you met Lee?

 

Judy Caine [00:27:14] Yes, at the reunion, tall, skinny guy.

 

Dani Skillen [00:27:17] Yes. So when we were rehearsing the beating me up scene, I did it like seven different ways with three different guys. But then I got to do it on them (laughs). And it was just, it was hilarious because we were trying to be serious, but Lee’s not. Lee’s about as serious as a clown. So doing that  with Lee when he’s trying to laugh, when I’m trying to be, like, angry at him and he’s just laughing at me because I’m like, yay big and he’s yay big, it just was, like that.

 

[00:27:48] Most of my memories are from when we’re meant to be rehearsing and we’re not actually rehearsing because I follow scripts, I like lines, I like learning them, I have a really good memory. However, the two people I tend to act with most hate scripts, can’t follow scripts and make it up on the spot. So that was fun trying to get the gist of that because that’s not something I’m comfortable with.

 

Judy Caine [00:28:15] That was quite a big part of Shout though wasn’t it – the improv?

 

Dani Skillen [00:28:18] Yeah, yeah. And they’re my favorite memories of like, not pretending to do work, but doing work without actually making an effort and doing work, if that makes sense. Like, when we went to the social work thing, we had to create a character …

 

Judy Caine [00:28:38] What’s the ‘social work thing’?

 

Dani Skillen [00:28:38] Ah so, we were asked by Northampton uni. to help 2nd and 3rd year social workers learn how to interview a person who they’ve taken away. And we had to, we got to choose the age of our character and I think our age limit was 15 or 16. The social workers were split into like four or five groups, and over the course of a week, no sorry, 2 to 3 days, we were in Northampton uni. testing them. And it was up to us how our charcter acted. They were given a brief summary of our character, not a lot of information, like what they would get in real life. And they had to try and coax information out of us, and each group had four people in and they would individually come in and you’d have I think we had like 15, 20 minutes with them. And I accidentally gave one a panic attack because I throw a tantrum because I was pretending to be a five year old and I kicked off. And she was a really, really, really cocky person. She was adamant she was going to get something out of me. So I did what five year olds do, when they don’t get their own way, I threw a tantrum. And she panicked and couldn’t figure out what to do. And that’s one of my funniest memories. I came out, I made her cry. Paula said, what’s up, I said I made her cry, she’s having a panick attack. I felt guilty. But at the same time, I was like …

 

Judy Caine [00:30:05] Well she needs to learn to cope with it.

 

Dani Skillen [00:30:09] But that was fun. Because what nineteen, well 18-year-old can say they acted like a five year old for 2 days?

 

Judy Caine [00:30:19] I can think quite a few actually (laughs) mostly men, but we’ll not go there! (laughs).

 

Dani Skillen [00:30:25] So, yeah, it was really, it was really fun, especially getting to understand, like Mark, the person who asked us, he was a lecturer in Northampton uni. and he was giving us information on what they should ask us and what they shouldn’t, like about open ended questions and all that stuff.

 

Judy Caine [00:30:44] Yeah.

 

Dani Skillen [00:30:44] And how they tried to manage us. They all looked very like, huh? I don’t think they realized that it was going to be as hard as what we made it.

 

Judy Caine [00:30:56] Yeah, good for you. Well, I’ve only got two more questions for you. Do you have a worst moment we’ll do the smaller question before the bigger question.

 

Dani Skillen [00:31:13] Erm yeah, the first time we did consequences, the one with the domestic abuse bit in. I had a really bad panic attack before doing my first scene and I couldn’t calm myself down. It had never happened before a performance. I was used to goin’ on stage performing because of dancing and it never happened before. And I just couldn’t calm down. And that was probably my worst moment. But then Paula taught me how to calm myself down. But at that point, I was just like, I aint doin’ it. I just couldn’t get my head around doing it, and there was a point where me and Gary had a really big argument. And we weren’t on good terms and then we had to act all lovey dovey and friendly in a scene during rehearsals and it was like, I’m a stubborn bitch when I’m pissed off and he’s exactly the same, and that was probably one of the hardest moments. Like trying to like someone when you are at that point and really you want to just kick them in the face.

 

Judy Caine [00:32:20] Well, you go through it.

 

Dani Skillen [00:32:22] Yeah.

 

Judy Caine [00:32:25] Is that a skill you’ve take on to your adult life, learning how to just shout back and get on with stuff?

 

Dani Skillen [00:32:30] Yeah. So, I’m usually good at hiding it if someone irritates me, but my eyes tend to give me away. I’m really good at the whole bitch glances and stuff without realizing I’m doing it. And if someone annoys me I can really hide it now. Not so much for people I know, but if someone I don’t know is really rubbing me up the wrong way I’ll be like, OK. Or if a patient gets on my nerves, I obviously can’t be annoyed at them, but, but if they really piss me off, I’ve learned to kind of control that aspect, whereas before I couldn’t. I wouldn’t, if I didn’t like you, then I would not work with you I would not talk to you. Whereas now I kind of, I can, I can, I can push my feelings away and be like now we have to get a job done. We have to do this.

 

Judy Caine [00:33:17] Yeah. Fair enough. OK. My last question is, you said when you first joined Shout you didn’t actually have a role, you just enjoyed the acting, then you went away for a bit when you’re 16, 17 and then came back. What was your role, in Shout, when you came back? Were you a helper, were you on the management team? How did it change?

 

Dani Skillen [00:33:37] At first I was just there to perform and act. But then over time, erm, I was never asked, but everyone else was younger than me and I kind of took on, I want to say a mother role, but, it was a bizarre family dynamic. And everyone who was there ended up coming to me for advice, or they’d be like, can you help me with this? Can you help me with that? So over time, I automatically took a step up and eventually I became the secretary of Shout because the other one left.

 

Judy Caine [00:34:19] What did that involve?

 

Dani Skillen [00:34:21] So when I we had a chair meeting, I used to write all the minutes from the meeting and then type it up and keep it on my computer, because at the time, Gary was made chair and then I was made the secretary. Which kind of worked out well because not many people understand how he writes, how he talks because of his dyslexia. He doesn’t really express things in public.

 

Judy Caine [00:34:47] I didn’t know you had dyslexia.

 

Dani Skillen [00:34:49] , it’s really bad you can’t read black on white. So when, whenever I was trying to do something, whatever he was typing something, he would always have sent it to me for me to proofread and then go through it before sending it to Paula. So we ended up working together as a team to get half the stuff done, and that’s when probably my role changed because it was like, OK, so you need to put this, this this in while I’m writing this. And that’s when I started having more responsibility, I think. And if there was any issues come up, people tend to speak to me about it rather than Paula. So when everyone left and we sat having a drink and discussion, I could say look this has happened, there’s awkwardness here, what shall we did about it? And that surprisingly still occurred even when, because at one point we combined groups, so we had adult adults in the group.

 

Judy Caine [00:35:48] Was that the Shout Youth Theatre and the Womens’ Theatre Group?

 

Dani Skillen [00:35:49] Yeah, at one point we kind of combined to become Shout Theatre Group and the adult adults who are like much older than us, it still ended up being the same dynamic. We still were kind of like, OK, we’ll do this, this this not out of disrespect, but they will just, it was like, OK, it’s a weird dynamic. And so I don’t, the older I got, I don’t think it changed from the minute I became secretary and was helping people, it didn’t really change much until, me, Gary and Paula decided to end the group.

 

Judy Caine [00:36:29] That must have been a really tough decision to make. How did you come to that decision?

 

Dani Skillen [00:36:36] Me and Gary were talking about it for a while before mentioning it to Paula. And we kind of, we were looking at people who would come in, what we were doing and the fact that majority of the cast members were made up of not youth groups. I think in the end, there was just 5 and three of them were brothers. So it was an obvious decision, but a hard, hard decision, especially when it’s part of your life. Like, I was still doing it when I was in the first year of uni. I was coming in, we were in the middle of getting the last bits togetehr for the Stroke play, when I first went to uni. So, Tuesdays I was coming back from uni to practice, to rehearse and go through things and then go back that night.

 

Judy Caine [00:37:30] Which uni did you go to?

 

Dani Skillen [00:37:32] DeMontford.

 

Judy Caine [00:37:32] OK Leicester, so not too far.

 

Dani Skillen [00:37:35] Yeah, so I literally I jumped the train home, rehearsed and jumped the train back to uni in the morning.

 

Judy Caine [00:37:43] Dedication.

 

Dani Skillen [00:37:46] Hmm, yes … (laughs)

 

Judy Caine [00:37:46] Well, no, I think that does show dedication. You’ll know from just trying to do the ‘Shouting for 20 Years’ stuff now, trying to get people to commit regularly, same time, all to do … I’m saying no more … (laughs)

 

Dani Skillen [00:38:01] It’s hard.

 

Judy Caine [00:38:02] It is hard, yeah, I get it, people have lives, they’re busy, but if they want to do, if they want to be part of the project, you have to make time.

 

Dani Skillen [00:38:11] Yeah.

 

Judy Caine [00:38:11] And it’s a real bugbear of mine.

 

Dani Skillen [00:38:13] And I was quite lucky. So, when we were performing the Stoke play, it was just before my first placement. Everything kind of fell into place for me because it would have been awkward with my placement. But, it sort of worked, but it was quite upset doing that last one.

 

Judy Caine [00:38:32] Yeah, I bet.

 

Dani Skillen [00:38:33] It was it was probably the only play I only had one role in as well.

 

Judy Caine [00:38:38] Which was?

 

Dani Skillen [00:38:38] I was a lady who had a stroke. She had six children and she had a stroke and, at the time, she was in the middle of her master’s degree. And she literally ran a household, oh, my dear, the woman was incredible, well is incredible. There wasn’t a day where she rested and then she did like her husband worked, she got him ready and she did everything. She took the kids to, I think there was like cadet’s, dancing, football, brownies. There was, she did so many things every single day. And then she had a stroke and was completely out of action for near enough a year. And her husband had to take over and her husband was just like huh.

 

[00:39:25] And because we, it was like a block story, so we did like a first half, middle and then the end. So it was like the only time that I got to play just one character. But my God, it was tiring. But I only pretended to be a mother of six for like two minutes at the most, and I was like …

 

Judy Caine [00:39:50] I’m having one child, maybe two, no more …

 

Dani Skillen [00:39:53] Yeah, and it was really bizarre doing it as well, because there was a scene where I was in recovery, because eventually she recovered mostly …

 

Judy Caine [00:40:06] Was this based on a real person?

 

Dani Skillen [00:40:06] Yeah, Yeah. She recovered. At the time we met her, she was still using a crutch to help walk a bit. But, I’m honestly not sure about now because I’ve not spoken to her in a while. But, she literally near enought made a complete recovery and then she got her PhD and it was like, she she was only in her 30s she wasn’t old at all.

 

Judy Caine [00:40:34] When I had my stroke, I was only thirty nine.

 

Dani Skillen [00:40:37] You had one too?

 

Judy Caine [00:40:38] I was thirty seven. Thirty seven.

 

Dani Skillen [00:40:41] Wow.

 

Judy Caine [00:40:42] No, I had a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage, 15 hours of brain surgery, three operations over five months had to relearn to walk, talk, and re learn all my social skills. Boring story, not interest in that at the moment. But, that’s why I said I’m just interested to know if it was based a real person.

 

Dani Skillen [00:40:59] Playing her, and talking to her about everything she went through, and the fact I was only playing her, it was so much nicer than having to think, well I’ve got to be this characte and that character. I literally could just be in her head set all the time.

 

Judy Caine [00:41:13] Ah, that’s nice.

 

Dani Skillen [00:41:13] And that was a scene where I was at physiotherapist. And what happened when, at the physiotherapist, was I had to be kept talking over and kept like. I think he was just panicking and trying to do everything for her, not being like namby-pamby. And so Gary had to do that because he was playing my husband and oh, my dear Lord, I could have punched him. And I’m, I’m a talker. I like to talk and I had to stay silent for like a lot of that play. After the stroke part, I have to stay silent for a long time. I was like [taps fingers on desk] but you could see every time we rehearse, I do something that would really get me agitated or he would say something and I be like … but obviously I couldn’t say anything. So I have no idea how she must have felt. But it was quite an honor to be able to play. Yeah.

 

Judy Caine [00:42:07] Yeah, I can see that. Yeah.

 

Dani Skillen [00:42:09] She was happy to let me tell her story.

 

Judy Caine [00:42:13] Oh that’s good. You’re obviously built up a certain amount of trust for her to let you in on that world, which is interesting.

 

Dani Skillen [00:42:20] And one of one of the children in the play was her actual daughter.

 

Judy Caine [00:42:24] Oh, wow.

 

Dani Skillen [00:42:25] So she could give us, she could give the others her insight of how it was for her watching her Mum; go through everything that her Mum went through.

 

Judy Caine [00:42:33] Wow. That’s amazing. Thank you so much.

 

[00:42:38] OK. Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about that I haven’t asked you about Dani? Relating to Shout I’m talking about here.

 

Dani Skillen [00:42:49] No, I don’t think so. Just trying to think. No, no, no …

 

[00:43:00] Erm, except, one of the things, I suppose you’ve probably heard about the foreigner play that we did?

 

Judy Caine [00:43:06] Foreigners Bloody Foreigners?

 

Dani Skillen [00:43:07] Yeah, and the trouble it sort of …

 

Judy Caine [00:43:11] With the BNP?

 

Dani Skillen [00:43:12] Yeah. Yeah, that was difficult. We got threatened by the BNP. We got a letter sent to the Labour Club for us.

 

Judy Caine [00:43:24] Nobody’s told me about the letter that was sent. Tell me about that.

 

Dani Skillen [00:43:25] Erm, we’d finished the play and obviously during one of the times we did the play, someone  vandalized the girls bathroom and wrote really bad prolifics in the girls toilets.

 

Judy Caine [00:43:37] Now, I’d heard about that.

 

Dani Skillen [00:43:38] And then not long after that, we received a letter from the BNP. Not, I don’t think they were happy at how we portrayed Nick Griffin, because we literally compared him to Hitler.

 

Judy Caine [00:43:50] Fair enough.

 

Dani Skillen [00:43:52] And Gary did a fantastic job.

 

Judy Caine [00:43:55] What he was Nick Griffin?

 

Dani Skillen [00:43:56] Yeah. Yeah, and you’ve met Gary, so, yeah, he, he, he did a really good job and it caused us a lot of problems and it was also very eye-opening because we met so many different people. And we met one chap who was, he lived in the jungle in Kazakhstan for two years because he was getting hunted. And he explained his story and what happened, and you don’t realize, well, I didn’t realize how actually lucky I was. Because growing up, I’m not going to say I was spoiled but, I was very lucky with how I grew up. And I kind of assumed majority of people, it was naive of me at the time, I kind of assumed that everyone had like two loving parents that were still together, two sets of grandparents, a large family who actually genuinely liked each other. And it wasn’t until doing, well joining Shout and doing the ‘Foreigners Bloody Foreigners’ that people actually go through so much.

 

Judy Caine [00:45:10] How did it make you feel when you had that letter and … ?

 

Dani Skillen [00:45:13] I was a bit like, ah, erm, at the time, I think I was a bit scared. Just because I had never been threatened in my life, it wasn’t directly to the kids, it was towards Shout in general. It was more like, oh, we really kind of gone up shit creek without a paddle here now. What’s going to be the ramifications? Have we honestly, genuinely upset someone? Because if we were to try doing that play now with what is in that play, we probably could get locked up for racist, for being racist without actually mean to. Erm. So, it was a bit of a holy crap, OK, moment, for me. But I don’t think Paula was worried because Paula’s probably “let them protest and stuff”, but for me personally, I was a bit like we really upset someone that really weren’t nice. But what we said in the play wasn’t actually untrue. If you read it. But, yeah, that’s probably the only thing I could say, because that’s probably the only play that had really bad ramifications. Not bad for us, just bad in total, if that makes sense.

 

Judy Caine [00:46:24] Yeah, I know, I know I know what you mean, but sometimes it is important to stick your head above the parapet and say stuff.

 

Dani Skillen [00:46:32] I was also quite shocked because we did a game called ‘The Weakest Foreigner’ and, in that game, they ask questions that is on an actual British Citizenship test they have to take to be granted entry into the country. And testers, Paula gave us the questions to see if we knew them. Now, I think I only knew one of the answers at the time. And they have to get one hundred percent and it’s like, so I was born here and I can’t tell you half the words of our national anthem, you have to finish off the God Save the Queen thing. The only one I knew was the royal family’s last name. That was the only one I knew and then all the questions were like huh, you what? It took me aback that I’m British and I can’t tell you the answers to my own country, but someone from another country has to tell you our history, basically, that is so bad. That is not right.

 

[00:47:37] We should probably know half the answers, or at least all of them is a bit hypocritical. But I didn’t realize that. I didn’t realize how much you have to do to become a citizen.

 

Judy Caine [00:47:51] Yeah, as a local councilor, I help a lot of people with that. Erm, and when I first read those questions, like you, I was like “Oh, don’t know that one” or “I think it might be”, yeah, it’s not easy, it’s not easy.

 

Dani Skillen [00:48:08] Not right.

 

Judy Caine [00:48:08] We digress. Thank you very much.

 

Dani Skillen [00:48:13] That’s OK.

 

Judy Caine [00:48:14] I will now send you a release form to sign to say I can transcribe this and use it. Can you send me a beautiful picture of your goodself, please? Well, it doesn’t have to be beautiful, I’m sure it will be, whatever. Just a picture you’re happy with that I can use. And I’ll do the transcription and basically it’s picture this side, transcript (probably about 12 pages) and they’re all going to go into a book with a disk or a memory stick of the interviews.

 

Dani Skillen [00:48:45] Yeah, I’m happy with that.

 

Judy Caine [00:48:49] Thank you very much.

 

Dani Skillen [00:48:51] That’s OK.

 

Judy Caine [00:48:51] And I just want to say keep up the amazing work, I’m just going to stop this recording, hang on a minute.

 

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