What is your background?
I trained for three years as a classical actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, the same drama school that Benedict Cumberbatch attended. After I left, I realised very quickly that I wasn’t going to be acting full-time and even when I did get work it wasn’t very well paid. So, in my early twenties, I started to plan what else I could do. I didn’t want to work in a bar or wait tables like most jobbing actors. A friend asked me to do some work in schools for him. It wasn’t an area that I had thought about but in a very short space of time I learned loads and started to realise that with my performance skills and knowledge, I could put across information in an interesting way.
Did you have an interest in psychology before you started working with Laughology?
As an actor, I had always been fascinated by behaviour and relationships because that’s what acting is. I had a degree of intuitive emotional intelligence. I would watch people and study how they behaved. That developed into an interest in psychology. I wanted to learn more about people and their foibles and behaviours.
How did you get involved with Laughology?
I was presenting at a conference. I was doing the morning and Laughology CEO, Stephanie Davies, was doing the afternoon. She saw what I was doing and liked it. We talked and I became involved from there.
What makes Laughology different?
The real test for me is authenticity. Very few people who go out and talk to audiences practice what they preach. A lot say stuff, but they don’t do it.
The Laughology team have a broad range of learning and development skills to back up their specialisms, what would you say your strengths are?
I am great at being a catalyst in a room. I’m good at being deployed to create a buzz and an atmosphere. I can shift a room. Being a facilitator allows me to engage with people and be playful.
How are your skills best used?
I’d say that 60 to 70 percent of the time, you turn up to an event and people have had a long day of very dull keynotes. That’s the challenge I enjoy. You never know what you are going to get and it is my job to make sure those people leave that room feeling better than they did when they went in. The trick is to create an environment where people feel happy, and then hit them with some stuff that they’ve not thought about before. And that’s what Laughology does perfectly.
At Laughology, we have spent the last ten years campaigning for happiness and resilience in schools and workplaces to be recognised as an important development tool - do you think views are changing?
People are living longer and working longer. They no longer retire at 65 and businesses have started to realise that they have to keep people happy and healthier for longer so they can continue to be productive. There is also much more awareness of mental health issues. In education, primary schools have always been on board, and now Secondary Schools are getting there too. They are realising that although kids are leaving school qualified, they are not necessarily employable because they are missing the other stuff, which is what we talk about at Laughology; empathy, relationships, confidence, self-awareness and the ability to express thoughts and ideas. With all that’s happening in the world, people are having to get good at coping with change. And that feeds into everything we do in Laughology.
If you were Queen for a day, what would you do to make the world happier?
Simple. I’d ban homework. Nobody likes it. And I’d only employ people in schools who genuinely enjoy and like the company of young people.