For this month’s interview series, we spoke to Zoie Kennedy, South London Singing Mamas (read our article about them). Zoie has been a performer for 25 years and before having kids was an actress working in TV and on Stage, doing big theatre tours and episodic and regular TV roles. She runs a multi award winning, very adult puppetry company, Twice Shy Theatre; work throughout Europe as a Storyteller specialising in Improvised healing storytelling; run South London Singing Mamas (a mission very close to my heart!) and squeeze in directing, writing (new play coming to Latitude festival this year), painting, poetry (published in London & New York), voice over work & festival work. Zoie is married to a composer, musician, producer, writer, educational psychologist, musical comedian, cabaret host, & hypnotherapist (all one person!) and mum to a 4 and 7-year-old.
Here is what Zoie has to say:
What drew you to Singing Mamas?
When I had my first child I was unprepared for the isolation I felt and for the amount of time spent alone with my baby. I definitely didn’t want to be anywhere else but I was never really into conventional playgroups and didn’t want to only talk about nappies and feeding…neither did I want to be on my own quite as much as I found myself. I craved an adult centred, child friendly space where I could relax, do something fun, remind myself that my brain still had independent function and be in community! Singing Mamas is the group that I couldn’t find!
What is the motivation behind Singing Mamas?
The motivation is to get everybody singing! Singing Mamas is for the woman in all mothers and the mother in all women. It’s a space to meet up and be allowed to be exactly as we are, without judgement, to sing for ourselves and each other, lift our spirits and bathe in sound. Nobody has to be a great singer- collectively we end up sounding amazing but it’s very much about reclaiming song as a tool for gathering in community, celebrating, grieving, supporting and releasing some good old fashioned endorphins to help those moments of exhaustion and overload that can easily creep up on us as parents.
How does music help mum-to-be and mums?
Music is incredibly powerful. It recharges, relaxes, allows a release of emotion, challenges our memories and our hearts. The little ones who come along LOVE it- you can see tiny babies unfurl as they soak up the harmonies and the older ones start to have favourite songs and rhythms, eventually being old enough to show that they know all the words to songs that have carried them through their infanthood-not just in choir but at night-feeds, playtimes, soothing songs in times of distress; the songs become a part of them. All this is an incredible side effect to the real reason for Singing Mamas! Establishing a little window of guilt-free me-time is so very important. To do something for yourself and to be witnessed by the little ones enjoying yourself.
You have a bursary for PND, could you tell us a bit more about that?
It is vital to me that Singing Mamas is accessible to those who need it most. I work with a group of DV survivors in Croydon and seeing the difference it makes to those who have had a really tough time is inspiring (the bursary places exist for DV survivors too). There has been a lot of research into the effect of singing in community, particularly but not confined to women dealing with PND. I see it every week when someone walks in having had a tough night or week. Sometimes they don’t even need to sing-they can sit in the middle and we can give them a sound bath and allow the harmonies to wash over them and work their magic. It’s a real release, and a tangible way to support each other and to learn to receive rather than always giving-a common pitfall of parenthood.
What do you love most about your job?
The singing! In the holidays I can feel the stress levels mounting up but as soon as term starts up it falls away! Three groups a week (with another due later in the year) means I have the privilege of singing with loads of amazing women! Also seeing what a big difference it makes to families. My youngest came to all the sessions before he started Kindy this year and now his life is lived through song. It’s beautiful.
You have partnered with us. What do you like about working with us?
I use Clapham Mums as a mum, it’s a great way to filter through what’s going on and to get some great deals through the partnership schemes. I also love that it’s mums supporting and promoting mums. It seemed like an obvious choice as a partner. For all my other choirs I only use word of mouth to let people know we’re here but when I decided to open a group here, Clapham mums seemed like a natural extension of that.
How you manage work life balance- any tips?
Haha, if you have any, let me know! The only thing I would say is ‘love what you do’-that way when the balance is out at least your joy-jar is still full! Singing Mamas is pretty unique though in that my kids LOVE coming along and joining in so if they are ever off school for inset or school closure there’s no conflict and they’re over the moon! I have three other creative businesses that I juggle though so it can be a real challenge fitting it all in.
What do you love about the Clapham area?
The green space and the friendliness of the community. Green space keeps me sane in London so I will never have enough of soaking in the common-and the wider areas around Tooting common, Brockwell park & Dulwich woods.
What are your favourite haunts in the neighbourhood?
Other than green spaces…the Picturehouses, Fresh Ground for coffee, WC under Clapham Common Station for date night wine!
If you had to give one piece of advice to younger self, what would that be?
Good question… I guess it would just be to trust that things are exactly as they should be. You are exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to do to lead you to where you want to go. Stay in the moment, enjoy it and trust.
Clapham mums get 20% off all classes. Also any mums in their third trimester are half price for all sessions. Zoie also offers free taster class to all pregnant mums or over 55’s.