Margaret Ashley

NEWS

October 2020

Well it looks as though our summer has gone and we are now in the throes of autumn and a second lockdown. Lets hope we all come through this and have a lovely peaceful and enjoyable Christmas and are able to see our family and friends again.

Despite the pandemic I managed to have an interesting summer, one I am sure we are all going to remember. Apart from lots of gardening, which helped produce some great flowers and lovely fruit and vegetables, so had a lovely healthy diet, I produced my new website. So, with regards to voice over work, while lots of companies were closed or doing very little a lot of actors and voice actors started doing things to keep busy and a lot of that was trying to help support the NHS and various charities.

I was contacted by a fellow voice actor who had been diagnosed with cancer and was helped by the NHS, he wanted to give something back so came up with the idea of a fundraiser for the NHS to help all the people who were working so hard trying to cope with the Corona virus and all the sick people in their care. He came up with the idea of making an audiobook of Alice in Wonderland, but having lots of different people read it, giving their time voluntarily and donating to the cause and reading a small part of the book. I was asked to read the bit with the griffin just after the mock turtles dance. This idea grew and celebrities became involved all wanting to help: Michael Palin, Harriet Walter, Ruth Jones, Phyllis Logan, Kevin McNally and many other Pro Voice over actors all read little bits of the book. More info on that here:

https://uk.gofundme.com/f/alice-in-wonderland-voiceover-challenge

It has to date raised over £4000 and is still available to buy I believe.

I also was asked to write a chapter and narrate it for another improvised charity book, called April's Adventure, which was great fun and very imaginative on everyone’s part. Another charity job was yet another podcast about a woman rather like me, trying to get her on-line yoga class to work, have a listen here

https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/ragged-scratch/the-isolation-sessions-ep-07-t7rpOnPCXxc/

Podcasts have become huge over the summer and they are still growing.

I also did some paid work, I narrated several audio stories, podcasts, a lovely one here which is a beautiful evocative story of a woman reminiscing about her life during the second world war:

https://fireflyinajar.podbean.com/e/big-achy-love/

I also did a few audio dramas and books, I recorded a games app, a video game, recorded parts that varied from The Red Queen in the new ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ Interactive Exhibition for the V&A Museum to narrating Corporate Videos and animations, playing characters as varied as a crocodile to a engineer and even a dying dragon. This is nothing if not an interesting life.

Here are links to some of the podcasts I was involved in if you want to have a listen:

The Isolation Sessions Ep 07 Aaaand Stretch

https://www.fireflyinajar.com/big-achy-love.html

https://thegreyrooms.libsyn.com/



September 2020

Well we’ve had a bit of a year, this ‘lockdown’ has had all kinds of effects on everyone. For me it meant spending more time in the garden enjoying the lovely weather as well as making new decisions. One was to update my website and this is it, with an additional new page: my News page, which will be keeping you updated on what I have been doing.

Re-doing my website involved doing lots of research about colours and fonts, who knew they said so much about you, I watched videos and joined webinars to try and gain the best advice and find out what my brand was. I even had a session with a marketing guru.

Anyway this is my new website and I hope you like it.

I discovered that people like to know about the person whose website it is, so here’s a little more about me than is displayed on the front page.

I was born a Geordie, in Gosforth, part of Northumberland as it was then, in the suburbs of the West End of Newcastle. I lived in a road with houses surrounding a big green and most of the houses had children around my age. I was the youngest in my family, but the oldest girl in the street so all the other girls used to follow me and we’d sit on the green and I would make up stories for them and take them on adventures while they listened in awe. I had a very vivid imagination.

My dream even then was to become an actress. However everyone expected me to get a proper job, to be a teacher or work in a bank. I did for a little while, and did amateur dramatics and musicals in my spare time, but thankfully a wonderful old theatrical director spotted my talent and coached me and prepared me for drama school auditions. I was accepted everywhere and was thrilled I was going to train to become an actress. However due to the financial restrictions of my local council for student grants, I had to turn down everywhere, because all the big drama schools RADA, Central (RSSD) etc., were not considered an ‘appropriate educational establishment’ at that time, but while auditioning at East 15, which the council had recommended, I met someone who had an audition the next week at Manchester Poly, School of Theatre, as it was then, it was classed as eligble for me to get a grant. I rang them, got an audition for the next week and I was awarded a place there, starting the following week, I jumped at it. Talk about ups and downs and whirlwinds. I packed a bag and set off for Manchester, with nowhere to live, little money but full of hope. My grant didn’t come through for months, so I slept on another student's tiny bedsit floor for a few weeks until I managed to find a room of my own.

I had an amazing time at drama school, we worked 18 hours a day, learning our craft, starting with Tai Chi in the mornings and then a full day of drama, speech, phonetics, singing, dance,movement, creative writing and the history of drama lessons. I also got to work in the audio visual, radio and stage management departments, we really learned the ropes and the skills we would need for our profession.

I left drama school after 3 years with a theatre job to go to and that’s where I met the audio producers who introduced me to radio advertising. They each saw me in a different shows I was acting in. I think they had come to see me as the local paper had done an article about me: CURTAIN UP ON A NEW NAME, all about the local girl returning to work in her native North East after her drama school adventures. Of course I came back speaking ‘proper’ or RP, so could play many parts and not just use my Geordie accent. It was great, they would get me to record so many different ads, I played so many different characters in these radio commercials, from impersonating Margaret Thatcher to being a sultry diva, the voice of Northern Rock, playing young girls and older women, being the chatty Co-Op milkmans customer. I did voices for so many different products, I was in my element but...

My theatre contract came to an end and so I set off for the big lights of London with great references from my audio producers who said they wouldn’t be able to afford me once I was in London. In London though, it was a closed shop, sewn up by a few celebrity names, I couldn’t get work in voice over. So I followed my theatre and acting career dream, doing things like The Bill, Coronation Street, London’s Burning and even spent some time as an actor's agent and a casting assistant.

Then suddenly voice acting was no longer a closed shop, people kept telling me I should be doing voiceovers, it was while I was in a play, an audience member said he thought my voice was amazing, did I record audiobooks? Lightbulb moment!!

So I looked into doing voice work again, I realised lots of work could be done if I had my own studio. I had to learn how to do all the technical stuff and build a studio, buy all the equipment, but bingo, there I was back telling stories, recording scripts to satisfy the listener and myself.

It has been an amazing journey so far and it keeps changing, something new everyday. I am so lucky to be doing a job I love.

Next month I’ll tell you what I got up to with work during the pandemic!