Helen Aitchison

The Luxe Lowdown: Helen Aitchison

Helen Aitchison is an author, a director of CIC, Write on The Tyne, and a book publisher. We sit down to have a conversation about all things Luxe…

Luxe checks in with Helen Aitchison about her day-to-day, her downtime, living luxe and her life lessons.

Getting To Know You

Name

Helen Aitchison

Title

Author / Director

Where is home?

North Tyneside

Three reasons you love where you live?

The people, the history, the coastline

The Day Job

What do you do for a living?

I’m an author (signed with Cahill Davis Publishing) and I am the director of CIC, Write on the Tyne. The non-profit aims to make creative writing and storytelling inclusive and accessible. I teach, mentor, deliver community projects, and work with charities and groups of people to help give marginalised people a voice, share local narratives, and focus on social equity. 

Within the business, there is a publishing house arm, and I provide book publishing services (as well as sign a very small number of local writers).

Before this, I spent twenty years working in social care in the North East, including as domestic abuse support, as an IDVA, social worker, and in senior management for a national charity, born in the North East (Changing Lives).

Helen Aitchison

A day in the life of you?

I’m really lucky in that two days are never the same and I have autonomy in regards to exploring ideas and projects I wish to pursue around writing and storytelling. This is usually where I see a gap in provision or a way in which as many (often voiceless) people can be heard.

It may be teaching a free class of learners, doing a drop-in for people to be part of a local project, or interviewing someone for an anthology.

Alongside this, I squeeze in writing my own fiction, editing for clients, exploring local opportunities to collaborate with creatives, and volunteering with the charities I am involved with (Age UK North Tyneside and Omega).

Any recent, ongoing or upcoming projects or achievements we should know about?

My third novel with Cahill Davis Publishing, is released on 12 April. ‘The 31 Days of May‘ is about overcoming adversity, finding our place in the world, and finding our people.

I am also working with the NHS on a collection of people’s experiences of living with mental illness, and have funding through Lottery Heritage to deliver an intergenerational project on memories and experiences of living in North Tyneside. 

I’m currently producing a children’s book about my award-winning rescue cat, Eric, with proceeds going to Cats Protection.

Helen Aitchison

What does downtime mean to you?

Something I need to do more of! Balance can be hard when you run your own business and as a woman in my early 40s, I have to remember I don’t have the energy (despite having copious amounts of enthusiasm) I had twenty or even ten years ago.

Exercise is a big part of my well-being, as is reading, and travelling. I’m definitely a work in progress with managing downtime, as I think so many of us are.

Helen Aitchison – Lessons In Life

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I think, like most kids, I wanted to be something different each week. Somewhere, the child inside me still wants to be a mermaid when I grow up.

And I’m not quite 100% on what I want to do or be, even now. I’m flexible and that keeps me interested and motivated. 

I never wanted to be a writer, ironically. But, I always recall wanting to work with people and my first experience of working with marginalised people was as a late teenager.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

That you are enough, just as you are.

What is your greatest fear?

Loss of a loved one. It’s something we never get over – time doesn’t heal, we simply learn to walk with our limp.

Which living person do you most admire and why?

I admire anyone who has overcome trauma or has managed a challenge that many of us don’t have to (although not immune from), such as homelessness, addiction, mental illness, life-threatening health, and abuse. As well as all the people I have worked with, whose stories are incredibly inspiring, poignant, and important to hear.

I tend to admire people I know rather than those I only see a snippet of (such as celebrities). However, I admire two of my favourite authors (and writing inspirations). Mitch Albom – one of his books made me want to write and he is a wonderful philanthropist. And Matt Haig, who is an advocate for mental health (in particular for male mental health).

Living Luxe with Helen Aitchison

What is top of your bucket list?

To have my first book, The Dinner Club, made into a series directed and starring Ricky Gervais. ‘After Life’ is the most incredible piece of writing, acting, and directing that I have ever seen!

What is your most treasured possession?

My memories.

What does the weekend mean to you?

Usually a little work, the gym, catching up with family, and some time with my partner and cat. I try to go to the theatre or to see live music, or comedy every month or so. Most recently, I saw Adam Kay on his Undoctored tour and over Easter, Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands, which was incredible.

A memorable holiday?

This is too hard! My favourite places are Las Vegas and Barcelona, but (even though I don’t think I would go back as I saw what there was to see) San Francisco was incredible for Alcatraz.

I also went to Krakow a few years ago. It was a beautiful city with lovely people. We visited Auschwitz, and despite managing veteran services and working with veterans in the past, and my late grandmother telling me about WW2, it was indescribably haunting and heartbreaking.

Best dress?

Anything midi-length, floral, and usually from Vinted!

Who would be your top-three dinner guests?

Ah, three isn’t enough! Okay, I’m not going to include my favourite authors, then it will be easier. Ricky Gervais, Sharon Horgan and Nathaniel Rateliff.

The last place you ate?

Dabbawal in Jesmond. 

The last book you read?

‘My Best Friend’s Secret’ by the brilliant Danielle Ramsey.

The last thing you listened to?

The Dead South’s new album on vinyl. 

The last thing you watched?

Currently watching ‘Sex and the City’ on DVD! In preparation for a trip to New York. 

Your three luxe things in life?

My hot tub, my Mulberry handbag (that I have had for years and is timeless) and my bookshelf. However, I’m also very happy (and grateful) with my mismatched PJs, my cat on my knee, and a crisp sandwich!