Featured Contributor - Music

James Pretlove

A message from James Pretlove

I am a writer, storyteller and Scottish country dance teacher in my early fifties. With the help of a brain haemorrhage which threatened to stop me in my tracks at the age of just 28, the direction of my life changed irrevocably.

Prior to this, I had worked in fashion, creating and editing the cult satirical fashion magazine, BLOW, as well as writing pieces for newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Independent and The London Evening Standard. After the bleed, I was diagnosed bipolar, and spent five or so years going in and out of psychiatric wards. During this time I had to let go of a luxury warehouse flat I lived in which was situated next to Tower Bridge to move into a tower block council flat hard by a vast and ever-busy road and railway junction. While the traffic outside never stopped, once I was living there, I finally did. Unable for the time to work, supported by low-cost housing, and in receipt of state sickness benefits, I now had time, and plenty of it. I was at last able to consider not what it was I wanted to do, but who it was I wanted to be.

Over the next few years, I had a series of ‘coincidental’ meetings with people who talked to me about their time at the Findhorn community, and I eventually left London to move to the glorious and magic-filled north-east coast of Scotland. It was there that my spirituality developed, there that I fell in love once more with the natural world and there that I started to flower in many new and unexpected directions.

Additional Text about Project: One sunny September Sunday in 2018, completely unexpectedly, my dynamic and vital mother woke early, drove to the River Thames and drowned herself. In the following months, as part of the path I trod through my time of grieving, I assembled a list of things for which I felt gratitude to my Mum. I finally arrived at seventy-eight of these thank yous, one for each year of her life. I then conducted a ritual based on the thank yous, and later crafted them into the book Seventy-Eight Thank Yous. In it, by demonstrating the power of gratitude to unearth the joys and benefits of what many would see as a tragedy, I challenge current attitudes towards death in general, and suicide in particular. Seventy-Eight Thank Yous also shows how extraordinary an ordinary life can be. During 2021, I performed readings from it in venues in Brighton, London and Findhorn, and have now developed this piece of work into a one-man show.