September 2020

Margaret Ashley

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!