Zones of Avoidance explores a mother’s quest to understand her daughter’s descent into addiction. It tells the heart-rending story of ‘Sunny Girl’, whose substance misuse triggers schizophrenia, with devastating consequences. Fusing the real life testimonies of addicts in recovery with vivid language and evocative film, Zones of Avoidance gives a powerfully moving account of a mother caught up in the drama of her daughter’s addiction, taking her to a place of ‘tough love’ … and beyond.
Written and performed by poet Maggie Sawkins, the work was developed as a multimedia live literature production during 2013 by director Mark C. Hewitt and features video sequences by Abigail Norris and musical transitions by Portsmouth pedal steel guitarist, Nick Evans. Audio material was edited by Jack Kingslake.
The production was first performed on 30 October 2013 at the Menuhin Room, Portsmouth Central Library.
In March 2014, Zones of Avoidance was announced as the winner of The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, the award being given to an innovative work created during the previous year. In the words of Ted Hughes: “In order to thrive, poetry must always be open to the world it inhabits. This means that it’s vital for poets to engage with other art forms.” Speaking on behalf of the judges, Denise Riley said:
“This is an ambitious multimedia presentation using film, voices and sound, which works exceptionally well. It is a challenging, painfully open account of a daughter’s addiction, yet it’s an account which also offers graceful good humour. Beautifully written and uncompromising, it’s a modern story that we felt the writer was compelled to tell; it acts as a vivid witness of harsh experiences which aren’t often described in poetry, and Maggie Sawkins’ illuminating descriptions will prove helpful for others to hear.”
The project was funded by Arts Council England through Grants for the Arts. New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth provided important technical support during the early development stages of the production.
In 2015, ZoA poetry productions was set up to support the development and touring of the production.
The creative team wish to thank the *PUSH Recovery Community for generously sharing their thoughts and memories and their continued involvement with the production. (*Portsmouth Users Self Help group).
Read more about Maggie’s experience of her daughter’s addiction on the Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control website.