ELLEN PHETHEAN

Here, at the Fat Earth, after traveling for the past four years we felt it was about time that we shared some of the amazing people we’ve met along the way. We compiled interviews and ‘People of the Fat Earth’ was born. Over the course of this series these beautiful humans will share their insights on life, what is important for them and how they live life positively and fully.

Meet Ellen. A dynamic, jolly, independent, generous, energetic feminist. Albert and I stayed with Ellen when we briefly returned to our old home in Newcastle upon Tyne to visit Albert’s mum, Silversmith and Artist Maria Sears (photo below shows Ellen and Maria together). We quickly nicknamed Ellen “The Renagade” because of her feisty, vibrant personality. She owns a house in Heaton which she keeps open for nomadic souls, like ourselves, looking for temporary, flexible accomodation.

Ellen is a writer, playwright and poet. She co-founded an iconic non-profit women’s press called Diamond Twig. Ellen has had an impactful writing career with many highs such as being shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award, her first Young Adult novel, ‘Ren and the Blue Hands’ longlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition, a writer in residence for Gateshead Libraries and at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books. She has written a number of plays for Northumbria University Drama department, Live Theatre’s Youth Group and the Durham Mysteries Cycle. She also runs workshops and teaches Creative Writing.

Knowing some of Ellen’s life experiences and the emotional hardships she has overcome, we asked her about how she stays positive and how her past has shaped her present.

Ellen, what has been the hardest moment for you and how did you overcome that?

The hardest moment for me was losing my partner in a hit and run when our two boys were 12 and 17. Our life was broken, thrown into the air and it came down in a different pattern. I survived with the help of good friends, and writing, both allowed me to make sense of my tangled emotions and experiences.

Do you have a philosophy to help you with life living?

My philosophy, such as it is: don’t judge too quickly, have empathy, but speak out when you see injustice. Be kind, compromise, be happy with enough and share.

Have you read any books that have made a big impact on your life?

A book that was important to me was The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer. It gave me a framework to understand my experience as a woman, under patriarchal capitalism.

How do you stay positive?

I do things I enjoy: swim (photo below shows Ellen swimming off the coast of Turkey), write, read, see friends. This keeps me healthy and happy, to live long enough to support my children and grandchildren into an uncertain future.

How does living in a strong community impact you mentally/physically/spiritually?

A strong community makes me feel less alone, more confident and that there is some hope for the future.

Would you like to share one of your favourite recipes?

Lemony Leeks with Chickpeas and Feta, Serves 2-3
Ingredients:
3 large leeks
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup chickpeas
½ cup crumbled goat feta
Dressing:
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. liquid honey
juice and zest of one lemon
pinch of sea salt + pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small bunch fresh dill

Directions:
1. Slice off the root end of the each leek, then cut the stalk into 1-inch chunks on the diagonal. Submerge leek slices in a large bowl of water to remove dirt between the layers.
2. In a large frying pan or saucepan, heat the vegetable broth until simmering. Remove leeks slices from water and place in the broth. Cover and let simmer for 4-5 minutes on medium heat.
3. While the leeks are cooking, make the dressing by combining all ingredients except for the lemon zest and dill.
4. When leeks are just tender (do not over cook!), remove from pan with tongs and set on a serving platter, leaving the remaining broth. Pour chickpeas into the pan and heat in the broth for about one minute, tossing to warm through. Add half of the dill and toss.
5. Remove pan from heat and place chickpeas on top of the leeks. Pour dressing over top, sprinkle with remaining dill, feta, lemon zest, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

What do you love about your home/area? Why did you decide to stay here?

My Area. I love my pedestrianised street: I feel safe, I hear and see children playing and I know my neighbours. Every street should be like this. Plus I have friends nearby and good local shops and cafes and it’s easy to walk/cycle around.

How can someone get started on a journey towards community?

You can’t achieve much on your own. As an actor/writer I’ve worked collaboratively to produce performances and events. With a group of single people with few financial resources we formed a housing co-op and built some flats. They still exist today. My advice is find sympathetic people who share your vision, make goals and work towards them together.

Where do you see your life in the future? What would you envision for that time? What are you working towards?

Life in the future looks insecure and scary. However, I think people have always felt like that. Embrace change, try to be positive and look for ways to lessen our impact on the world. And Take Action.

Is there anything you would change about your life experience and why?

Adversity and tragedy is how we learn to be human and have empathy. Confidence comes with experience. Don’t waste energy in regret, learn from mistakes and do better next time.

Want to support us?
If you feel inspired by our journey we would love if you could share our blog or a particular post on social media, follow us on Instagram @the_fat_earth. Or you can support us by donating via GoFundMe here.

We would also be happy to hear from you, so get in touch with ideas, communities, places, people or in solidarity with the small change we are trying to make in an uncertain world.

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