‘I grew up with farming folk who told extraordinary tales while leaving no paper record of their lives. By sharing my own memories of where I was raised, and how I live now, I hope to help people of all backgrounds find simple ways to set down their stories.’ National Writing Day interview for residency at Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House National Trust (June 2019)
Tanya Shadrick spent her first two decades on the outskirts of a small market town near the North Devon and Cornwall border. An only child, her love of place and nature formed during solitary summer hours spent exploring the nearby coast between Bude and the jagged black cliffs at Crackington Haven.
Raised by her mother (a skilled shorthand-typist) and paternal grandmother (a retired farmer), she was the first person on both sides of her extended family to ‘go away’ for a higher education.
She read English at Sussex, graduating with a First and then Distinction at MA (for which she was awarded a British Academy scholarship). Her Masters thesis looked at constructions of class identity in pre-war documentaries including BBC radio programmes, GPO films and the travel narratives of Orwell, Huxley and J B Priestley: a deep interest in the treatment of working class voices she revisited as guest presenter alongside broadcaster Fi Glover in the three-hour 2017 Radio 4 Extra special People Talking.
Following a sudden near-death experience after the birth of her first child, Tanya left her career in HE and committed to finding ways to share her belief in the transformative power of story-telling and reading: first as a scribe at her local hospice, and since then as a sought-after artist-in-residence who writes and reads aloud in public spaces – including an engagement on her home coast in the Grade II-listed National Trust Artists’ Cabin at Bucks Mill near Hartland.
Her five-minute Wild Writer talk for the PechaKucha network – recorded live in 2018 – tells the story of the role accidents, emergencies and chance have played in this late-emerging creative life.
She has lived for the last twenty-five years on the Sussex Downs – surrounded by the landscape and light which also made the area a settling place for writer Virginia Woolf and artists Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Eric Ravilious. With stone carver Jo Sweeting and writer Louisa Thomsen Brits, Tanya has written for Little Toller about a found chalkstone on a high point of the Downs that became a focus for each woman’s sense of belonging in their adopted county.