Naomi who attended The Mount from 2001 to 2004, is an Actor, freelance Writer and Podcaster. Naomi’s critically acclaimed one-woman show, Good Girl, debuted at the Edinburgh Festival and enjoyed a successful run in the West End in 2018. (Take a look at Emma Thompson’s comments after the London premiere! On YouTube.) She has a BA (1st) from Royal Holloway, an MA (Distinction) from the University of York in Writing, Directing and Performance and LAMDA Professional Actor Training (Distinction).
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think back to your years at The Mount?
I was at The Mount for three years from the age of fifteen, but those years were hugely impactful. What I remember most vividly was the focussed atmosphere: the peaceful corridors, those fresh green lawns, the laughter. The wood-panelled Library was my first experience of the joys of a quiet library. Morning Meetings felt like a very foreign experience! It forced me to sit with my own thoughts for the first time. Learning this skill proved very useful to ground myself at the beginning of the day. Looking back, it was my introduction to meditation.
How important an influence has the Quaker ethos been to you?
Before going to The Mount, I didn’t know much about Quakerism, but I was thrilled to understand their ethos of equality. It is one of the first faiths to champion feminism and I loved learning about it. My writing today holds feminism and equality as core themes. The equal relationship with teachers was also important; they were never just a ‘sir’ or a ‘miss’, they could be negotiated with, and allowed us to feel like we had agency. It was an important shift.
Through your years at university, did you feel conscious of any influences of your time at The Mount that helped you through your studies?
Confidence. I wonder whether it was The Mount’s an all-female environment, (as well just astounding teaching) but I was able to put up my hand and speak out without the fear that being wrong could make me look like foolish. That spirit of open-minded debate with the ability to say, “You’re right; I’ll reconsider my perspective,” was definitely essential to my learning.
Lydia Harris, who taught English, was a positive influence. Her gentleness was such a joy. She taught me how to enjoy reading for the pure pleasure of it, to enrich your soul not just to pass an exam. At the end of College II, she gave us each a page of book recommendations. I’ve still got that little faded page she’d written in her spidery handwriting of all these books that she loved and felt should be with us as companions through our lives.
Can you please describe a moment in your career in which you felt connected to your Mount education?
I mentioned about the Library, which instilled in me a passion for always seeking quiet, studious places; vital for writing. It is a very direct line to my first day at The Mount, when I sat in the Library on my own, looked around and felt at home in that wood panelled, peaceful space.
Sally Hebron taught History through stories. She’d whack the windows open to fuel us with fresh air and then regaled us with tales of the past. That way of accessing the world through story-telling has been very influential for me as a writer.
What is your fondest memory of The Mount?
That’s really tough, because there are so many. There’s a really important memory for me that’s tinged with sadness. When I first moved to The Mount I found the transition quite tough. I was boarding, was still in a period of doubting myself and where I was going in life. One day I left the School, my teacher Sally Hebron jumped into her Mini and drove to find me. She coaxed me back to school and over a cuppa in her cosy office she talked to me about what I wanted from life. She re-instilled my faith in myself. And that changed things forever. For the first time I felt like a person in authority believed in me. That was hugely influential. Having a teacher see something in me and have the time, energy and the will to allow me to see my own potential was a really powerful moment.
Do you keep in touch with girls from your cohort?
Two of the girls from my year were actually at LAMDA with me, Bella Heesom and Sophie Dickson. There are a few with whom I still keep in touch with and who hold a very special place in my heart. Felicity Crawshaw is a terrific photographer- we collaborated on the images for my play and she took my headshots. Bella and I started writing at a similar time and it’s wonderful to bounce ideas together and Sophie and I have done some improv together. We’re working in similar circles and supporting each other.
Looking ahead, what are your hopes for the future?
I’m going to continue writing and acting for stage and screen. I have a few things in development for tv and a theatre commission. I hope to write a novel one day, but for now the plan is to continue acting and writing and to balance the two.
Any final thoughts?
A memory which sums up some of the magic of The Mount is of me and my girlfriends in the art rooms, painting and listening to music. All of us working on our different projects, someone developing photos, someone working on oils, or on sculpture, but all of us totally engrossed in our work. The playful, inspiring presence of Mrs G as she glided around and guided us with maybe a single brush-stroke that would transform the piece, but never judging our work as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’- just supporting us on our journey, on each girl’s individual strengths.