I’m Rebbecca Hemmings the founding director of Strawberry Words Ltd. Over the years, I have accumulated many work-related hats, all related to people development, cultural diversity and health and well-being. Let me provide you with a snapshot of where I am coming from, what I do and who I am as I believe it’s important to know the people behind the services we use.
In case you haven’t noticed, I am a black woman. This has come with its opportunities and many challenges. I have made it my mission to help others explore, understand and challenge racial injustice in safe environments. This has been done this through my training and education work for the last 23 years.
I am one of the founding members of Blackstory Partnership the group the coordinates Birmingham’s Black History Month (I am happy to see they are still going strong), I was the Chair for Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham (2012 -2014) and I am currently a member of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioners’ Ethics Committee for the proposed Data Analytics Lab.
In June 2016, I wrote a blog about the lack of diversity in arts leadership in Birmingham, the article was published in the national Arts Professional magazine. It was a very timely article; it challenged many and got people having difficult conversations which are often avoided.
In 2015, I was privileged to receive an award from Coventry University for my work in promoting cultural diversity in schools. I continue to use my work now beyond the school hall to highlight cultural and racial injustice and help create solutions.
For the last ten years, I have spent time honing my leadership skills as my company grew into a national delivery company of freelancers that used theatre as a tool for learning. I am a graduate of: Common Purpose’s Meridian senior leadership programme, the Re:present Cultural Leadership Programme and I spent time at Stafford University studying ‘Community Practice’ at a postgraduate level.
These studies have enabled me to marry my skill for facilitation and knowledge on effective leadership. Therefore, as time has progressed, the work I lead has naturally led to helping others to develop their: thought-leadership capabilities, strategic planning competencies, successfully navigate diversity related challenges and interpersonal skills.
I also currently work part time at the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance as the Development Officer where I lead on the good practice offer and building the cultural diversity of the organisation.
The Theatre Days
I started out as an actress and theatre practitioner over 23 years ago after studying my degree at Coventry University. I spent many happy years delivering education workshops for children and teachers at venues such as: The Queens Theatre, Essex, with The Royal Shakespeare Company and Birmingham Hippodrome. Though I don’t focus on theatre facilitation anymore, I remain connected to my first love as the freelance Drama Director for Welsh National Opera’s Youth Opera company based in Birmingham.
Fitness and wellness
As an entrepreneur and a big believer in being fit and well, I expanded my services in 2010 to become an international dance fitness instructor. I was a little overweight and I knew that I could kill two birds with one stone if I worked out and developed a fitness arm to my business. Plus, I got to teach in countries such as Slovakia, Belgium and Jamaica.
In 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was lucky as it was found early and I am now cancer free. It was a very difficult time physically and mentally, as I am sure you can imagine. It was vital that I utilised much of the personal development and wellness skills I have acquired over the years such as neuro-linguistic programming, meditation and creativity. Once I was through the worst, I felt (and still feel) very driven to help others who have been through adversity to develop coping strategies and embrace life, hence Time to Glow Up was created. This is an arm of Strawberry Words that specifically focuses on helping others to move past adversity and thrive through events, workshops and a podcast Do take a look.
As all actors will know, no matter what you go on to do, you never lose your innate desire to perform. Therefore, though I stopped acting many moons ago, I continue to ‘perform’. From time to time you will see me hosting a stage show or interviewing remarkable people. In 2015, I became a TV presenter for the Wassifa Caribbean Show. There I proudly interviewed people such as the Grammy Award winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin, Maxi Priest and Joyce Simms. Look through the gallery to see examples of that work.
In 2018, I was honoured to interview June Sarpong MBE (Head of Diversity at Channel Four and TV presenter) for the launch of her book ‘Diversify’.
Presenting is fun and by interviewing people who are at the top of their game, I further increase my knowledge on what it takes to be considered ‘excellent’.
On a personal level, I am the mother of a beautifully smart daughter who maybe will take up the reigns of this company one day. I work out regularly and love a good fashion and beauty event. So that’s my biography in a nutshell.
Hopefully now that you have more knowledge on where I am coming from, you can see why I am so dedicated to my work. Plus, if you see me you now have a few topics to pick up on to start a conversation! I look forward to connecting with you.
Photo credits: Sara Amanda, Gavin Telfer