Barbie and Ken. Romeo and Juliet. Danny and Sandy. The list is endless. The stories we tell our children, from fairy tales to adulthood, do not effectively reflect society.
But thanks to one artist, the rule book is being torn up as she rewrites the narrative.
Amie Taylor, puppet creator and mental health educator, creates plays for our generation of tomorrow which are inclusive of all identities.
Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Amie said: “A lot of artists find making autobiographical work cathartic, but I think you have to be careful, especially when dealing with difficult things that have happened to you, as performing them every evening has potential to retraumatise and hardwire that experience.
“I think instead, I make work that touches on things close to my heart, such as mental health, or work with LGBTQ+ characters.
“This is important to me, especially when making work for kids, as growing up I had no LGBTQ+ role models. I want to make sure that that’s different for kids nowadays.”
When asked about the pushback from critics or faith schools who try to fight inclusivity, Amie said that while she appreciates it’s sensitive for some people, not talking about these issues can have a significant impact for those enduring them in silence.
She explained: “I am very strongly against anyone using their religion (or any other excuse) to oppress others.
“The impact that those who fight against inclusivity has on young LGBTQ+ people’s mental health is huge.
“There are so many LGBTQ+ people of faith across the world, who manage to practice their faith and be open about their sexuality or gender identity – but many who still can’t because it isn’t safe.
“I look to those in this country who manage to have both and use them as shining examples when talking to young people around faith and LGBTQ+.
“I understand, first-hand, the damage that can be done when young LGBTQ+ people do not see themselves reflected in their society, curriculum, literature and media, and that includes young LGBTQ+ people in faith schools.
“It is my hope that every young LGBTQ+ person will eventually have access to a curriculum that represents them, as well as their heterosexual counterparts.”
Amie’s incredible journey into puppetry began in her twenties, after visiting friends in London.
And it was here that she fell in love with storytelling.
She said: “It started because I went to university in Devon, which I enjoyed, but I was always a bit jealous of friends at uni in London, because it seemed so exciting being in the capital.
“In my third year, I tried to spend as much time as possible in the holidays with them, but most had work in the daytime, so I looked for places to volunteer to keep me busy and out of their way.
“I stumbled across the Little Angel Theatre, who needed volunteers to support their kids’ puppetry-making workshops. So, I did lots of volunteering for them, and this was where I learned how to make puppets… and from there, my love of puppets and puppetry grew.
“10 years on, I now work for the Little Angel Theatre [in Islington] as a freelancer on their puppetry programmes in schools.”
Amie believes that her flair for creativity dates back to childhood, when she started hatching big ideas during playtime.
She added: “I remember being hugely frustrated as a child because I always had big ideas for making plays or building things (i.e. the time I wanted to construct a water park in the bath for my Action Man toys) but I didn’t have the materials, the money, or the know-how.
“I was once deeply upset when I was seven and a teacher would only give me scrap paper to pen my latest novel on, whereas I knew that my latest novel was worthy of the best paper.
“So, in a way, I spent my whole childhood preparing for now, when finally, I could turn my ideas into reality.”
But even for those without creative backgrounds, Amie says that nurturing the link between art and creativity with wellbeing is extremely important.
She said: “Adult humans, on the whole, can often see art and creativity as a ‘kids thing’, but I think there’s nothing more important to make time in your week to do something creative, whether it’s knitting, painting, paper cutting – even gardening or cooking in a creative way – and you don’t have to be any good at it, just do it for the love of the ‘doing’.
“I think a lot of us are very cerebral nowadays, there’s a lot to worry about in the world, but when we make or create it takes us somewhere else.
“I find while doing creative things, I process a lot. So, I think it’s important in lots of ways for mental wellbeing.”
**goes on Google to search ‘knitting for beginners’**