20 Questions... Sarah-Louise Young

To mark 20 years of Hay Festival Winter Weekend, we are asking speakers and performers to answer 20 questions. Here's how performer Sarah-Louise Young responded...


1. If you could put one question to anyone on the planet, who would you choose and what would it be?

Kate Bush, to invite her to see our show.

2. What was the last book you read and loved?

I devoured the first six Shardlake novels by C.J. Sansom and am about the start the seventh, Tombland. They are set in the 16th Century during the reign of Henry VIII and are full of juicy details about the Catholic Church, monarchy and politics. I read a lot of non-fiction for my work so it was a joy to be able to disappear into this grimy, gripping and gruesome world.

3. What are you most proud of?

My friendships: I am still very close with friends I have known since childhood. The fact that they are still happy to know me after decades of shared highs and lows makes me feel very loved and proud.

4. What was the best question you were ever asked in an event and how did you answer it?

I usually get asked about the making process for the show I am publicising or my upbringing but I did once get asked to decide which tattoo the interviewer should go for next. I have no idea whether they went with my choice.

5. What one piece of advice do you wish you could give your 16-year-old self?

Saying no does not make you a difficult person.

6. What's the most famous book you've never read?

An unread War And Peace has been propping up my books shelves for a few decades now…

7. What author or book do you think is most underrated? And why?

Dr Seuss. Although written for children, ‘The Waiting Place’ has some profound advice for all ages.

8. Which writers today will still be read 100 years from now?

Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Julia Donaldson, Alain de Botton and, I very much hope, Reni Eddo-Lodge.

9. Favourite word?

Curious.

10. Least favourite word?

Hubby.

11. What is the first thing you wrote?

A play called The Quarry Of Littlebourne for a drama group my friends and I ran aged ten. Littlebourne doesn’t have a quarry but I needed one for the plot to work so I didn’t let that stop me.

12. What one thing should each writer know before they begin?

There is enough coffee in the house… Or for those writers able to function without caffeine, they should know they have a story.

13. Where's your favourite place to write?

In the front room of my flat with the morning sun streaming in. The rest of the place is like the arctic.

14. Pen and paper, or laptop?

Pen and paper for planning. iPhone for 2am inspiration. Laptop for organising.

15. Favourite book of 2019?

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge.

16. Favourite book to read at Christmas?

Christmas is usually a very busy time of year for me with work so I don’t have a lot of time but I often re-read the opening chapters of A Christmas Carol for the description of the bustling market place with it’s ‘juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes and seething bowls of punch’. My mum used to read it to us with great relish.

17. What is the best book you've ever been gifted, and who gave it to you?

My dear friend and fellow performer Lynn Ruth Miller gave me a copy of Finding Meaning In The Second Half Of Life by James Hollis and it lead me onto reading all of his other books several times over. He is a Jungian analyst and humanities lecturer and writes with great clarity and creativity about the path to individuation and the long over due appointment we all have with our inner selves. His work has changed my life.

18. What books are you most excited about reading in 2020?

My partner (who is a wonderful writer) makes an Annual Review just for us each year. It contains photos and memories of the past twelve months. It usually arrives at the end of January and I am very much looking forward to discovering where all that time went!

19. Best Hay Festival memory?

This is my first trip so I hope to make a few so I can answer that question properly next year.

20. What are you working on right now?

I have a few projects on the go at the moment: I am writing a new solo show for Edinburgh 2020 about voice loss and collaborating with Russell Lucas (my co-creative on An Evening Without Kate Bush) on a two-hander about Ghosts for Halloween. I have also written a musical set in the Grand Guignol in1920’s Paris with Michael Roulston and we are hoping to workshop that early next year. Any willing sponsors please make yourself known! I shall be coming to Hay just three days before opening in The Snow Queen at the Park Theatre and in between performances will be dramaturging a new play about witches. Lots of fun projects brewing.


Actress and performer Sarah-Louise Young presents her new show An Evening Without Kate Bush at Hay Festival Winter Weekend on Sunday 1 December 2019. Buy tickets here.