Meet a Member: Anita Holford

This month, we got to know Anita Holford – long-standing 26er and one of the leaders on this year’s neurodiversity project.


Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and what do you do?

I’m originally from Huntley in Gloucestershire, and following times spent in Coventry and Cardiff, I’ve been living in Monmouth, south east Wales for 24 years.

I work mainly with organisations who use music and arts as a tool for education, wellbeing, and social justice. I help them to communicate their value and impact and win hearts and minds. And that can mean anything from copywriting to comms strategy, writing fundraising bids to evaluating a project.

Where did your love of words come from?

I think it comes from my curiosity about people, and how we can better connect with each other. Also from my very curious, very busy brain. Words help me to understand what on earth is going on in there! Like many of us, I have to write to know what I think.

What made you join 26? And how long have you been a member?

I started my working life in journalism, then went into arts marketing. That just made me hungry to do more writing. I took part in a workshop where John Simmons was one of the trainers. What he said about writing really spoke to me. It was a lightbulb moment. From then on, I wanted to get better at making an emotional connection through words. So when 26 was created, I jumped at the chance to join. I was one of the early members, so does that mean I’ve been a member for around 20 years? I was also part of the second cohort of Dark Angels, training with John Simmons, Jamie Jauncey, and Stuart Delves at the desolate and beautiful Monaick Mhor, near Inverness.

Have you been involved in any 26 projects?

Only one so far, which was 26 Treasures, back in 2012. As it’s 12 years since I last did a project, I threw my hat into the ring to be involved this year in the Neurodiversity project. I’m really looking forward to it, as I’m going to explore the subject with my 23-year-old daughter, who is autistic and dyslexic. She’s creative, funny, opinionated, quirky, easily distracted, kind, curious and full of ideas – it’s going to be a blast!

What’s your ideal scenario for writing? (A coffee shop? Quiet retreat? With or without music? What do you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind?)

Very boring: my (garden) office, my desk, my computer. But ask me what’s my ideal scenario for generating ideas, and that’s totally different. My busy brain, if it’s given the right conditions (and even, irritatingly, when it’s not) can create sparks that sometimes lead to writing. Those conditions can be ones that many of you will recognise – in the bath, in the moment between sleeping and waking, when I’m out for a walk.

What are you working on at the moment?

Well today I’ve been finalising a funding application for a Hip Hop for better mental health programme; editing an annual report for an international development charity; and writing a Pecha Kucha presentation about the arts to present to our local county councillors. My life is deliciously varied!

Could you tell us about a piece of writing you’re particularly proud of?

I’d have to say the poem that I wrote for my first 26 project. It really stretched me. And I went through all those creative hoops we all recognise: “I love it … this is going to be the best thing I’ve ever written” … “What on earth was I thinking, I hate this” … “Oooh inspiration, I’m loving this again” … “Oh no, I’m never going to get it written, I’m rubbish, I should never write again” … “Ah, ok, that’s not so bad, yes, I think that’s really all right.”

Where do you get your inspiration?

That’s a really interesting question. I’d love to say music, because it’s such an important part of my life and my work. It certainly motivates me to do what I do, which is ultimately about more people benefiting from music. I also read a huge amount of reports and blogs, attend webinars and talk to people about topics that I care about. I really love connecting people and ideas, and sharing and signposting (and having things shared and signposted). And inspiration comes in a beautiful way when I’m talking with another person, our mirror neurons are firing together and we’re getting animated about a topic.

But none of that is to do with my own creative inspiration for writing. I think I find that harder to answer, because it’s so rare that I write purely for writing’s sake. Which is reminding me , as 26 always does, that I need to build in more time to do just that – so thank you!

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