Senior Lecturer Annie Richardson has worked at the university since 2010. Annie lectures on the subject of early childhood education and care.
Annie has recently taken up writing for pleasure again – something she hadn’t done since she was a child. Her work struck a chord with those who read it and Annie decided to share her story.
Annie’s work was selected for a publication Hidden Sussex, a new anthology for Sussex: Fiction, non-fiction and poetry from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic experience.
Annie spoke to us about her writing which focuses on her experiences of being a black mixed-heritage woman and living in rural South-East England.
“In January this year I started writing a blog A little voice in a noisy world. It wasn’t a blog written for an audience, it was a rather self-indulgent way of critiquing what was happening to the early childhood sector. I say self-indulgent because suddenly I re-discovered a long-abandoned joy of writing.
“It was for no-one but me. I wasn’t writing for affirmation from others, or for approval. However, as I wrote more, I discovered that a theme was emerging. The label for what I produce is ‘life writing’ apparently and as I wrote I discovered that my life of being a black mixed heritage woman who was born and has worked in a mostly white space in East Sussex, had left me with questions that I was trying to unravel. I began to question my identity and how it had been formed and what that meant to me now.
“As I explain in one post “I have internalised the positive and negative experiences into a view of myself and my worth and used this in my decisions on how I respond to, and form relationships with others.” I had my first negative experience from a teacher when I started primary school at just 4 years old, which impacted my feelings of self-worth and influenced much of my life. However, a positive experience also came during secondary school where a teacher encouraged me to look positively at my colour. Education has been a part of much of my working life – through my writing I have realised the importance of representation for people of different heritage other than the dominant one.
“As I reflected within my writing I realised the significant impact of being noticed as different every day, with no choice but to be visible, whilst often feeling voiceless. I have always believed it was important for me to listen to people’s stories because it was my way of learning about the world. As people began to contact me about my writing and how it made them think and feel, I understood how important it was for me to raise my little voice in a noisy world not just for me, but for others like me.
“I have begun to see parallels between my own lived experience and that of students with diverse heritage whom I was working with in my lecturer role. We each have separate stories because we are individuals, but I could see and hear their difficulties in being in a minority and finding themselves in a particular space, with a particular discourse and with a particular dominant culture.
“In March I happened upon a link on Twitter which was a call from ‘Writing our Legacy’ for contributions from the BAME community to express the Sussex experience from the Black and ethnic minority perspective. The aim was to reinvent Sussex Day, which is celebrated in Sussex on 16 June. The closing date was just a week away and so I hastily amalgamated two blog posts into a single piece of writing “Weaving the Threads”.
“I never believed it would be successful and was rather shocked when it was accepted. There are twenty-three contributors from across East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton who tell their own stories and narratives through prose and poetry. An alternative Sussex Flag was commissioned by ‘Writing our Legacy’ and created by Jill Carpin and is reproduced in the book. It represents the importance of recognising the changing identity of Sussex.
“I took part in the launch event in Eastbourne on 14th June where I read part of my contribution from the book and from some blog posts. I met other people from diverse backgrounds who expressed their feelings of ‘otherness’, confusions around identity and ‘Britishness’, and importantly a wish for a sense of belonging. It was a night of celebration that some of the Hidden Voices from Sussex were being heard.”
Find about more about Writing our Legacy