Changemaker Delvene Pitt
November 27, 2023

Delvene Pitt | On being a Black Dyslexic ADHD’er in the Performing Arts

In this episode, we talk to puppeteer and actress Delvene Pitt (she/her) about her award-winning puppetry company Little Crowns Storyhouse, how she uses puppeteering to teach history and science to children, and how she’s navigated the performing arts industry as a Black dyslexic ADHD’er.

Team Tiimo

If you’d like to listen to or watch our interview with Delvene, the episode is available on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

Summary 

  • Delvene, the innovative mind behind Little Crowns Storyhouse, offers insight into her life as a Black neurodivergent woman, exploring how this aspect of her identity has shaped her career in puppetry and the arts.
  • Reflecting on her personal experiences, Delvene discusses the challenges she faced growing up neurodivergent, emphasizing how it initially impacted her social interactions and later fueled her passion and approach to creative work.
  • A significant focus of the interview is Delvene's commitment to creating educational content that is not only engaging but also inclusive, highlighting diverse cultures and holidays through puppetry to foster a more inclusive environment for children.
  • Delvene candidly shares her struggles with fitting into conventional workspaces and how these experiences steered her towards a path where she could fully utilize her creative talents, eventually leading her to establish her puppetry company.
  • The interview delves into Delvene's creative process, particularly how she simplifies complex historical and scientific concepts for young audiences, ensuring that her puppetry is both educational and accessible to children.
  • Looking to the future, Delvene discusses her latest venture, Tale Tellers, which is specifically designed to cater to neurodivergent children, aiming to provide them with a platform to explore and engage with the arts.

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Beaux: Hi and welcome to Brainstorm Changemakers by Tiimo. In this series, we're talking to experts, activists, and movers who are shaking things up in the neurodivergent space. My name is Beaux, my pronouns are they/them, and I'm the Inclusion and Belonging Lead at Tiimo, a Danish neuroinclusion company that gives folks planning power to take charge of their daily lives. Today, we're joined by actress and advocate Delvene Pitt, the founder of Little Crowns Storyhouse, an award-winning puppetry company.

Delvene's journey in the arts and her advocacy have made her a trailblazer in the field. She uses puppetry to educate children on history and science, and I'm so excited for her to share more about her work with us today. So hi Delvene, we are so happy to have you on our little interview series, really, really excited to be chatting about your work today. So to start us off, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Delvene: So, yeah, my name's Delvene, and I'm a creative entrepreneur and a puppeteer and an actress and a digital creator and the creator of a company, a puppetry company called Little Crowns Storyhouse. In fact, it's not only puppetry. We use the platform to celebrate inclusive and diverse content for children aged say 0 to 10. Basically, the complete, multifaceted, creative. And that's probably the best way to describe me. 

Beaux: Ah lovely! The the multifaceted background. I always find it's so hard, especially when you're like are passionate about a lot of things like summarize everything that you do so this is very gorgeous. Even without the friends around to describe you. I’m also wondering, you know, how did you discover that you’re neurodivergent or what was the path like?

Delvene: Sure. So um I've always known that I was really different from kind of growing up. And when I was child, I had selective mute. So I just really struggled to communicate what I needed. And one of my earliest memories is I remember I was in nursery and I knew the answer to the question and the words just couldn't come out.

And anyone who looked after me as a child would always express that you just look so to yourself in your own world in a daydream. And you were just always very different. But with me, because I think I started to develop confidence. I became quite social, a sociable person, and I was able to make friends. So a lot of things, a lot of my neurodivergence, I had a little, you would say, qualities I had in the past were overlooked and I was masking because I was kind of masking it with being really sociable and really friendly.

But then I was that difference was still kind of hanging over me like a cloud. And then when I got into college and university, I was studying the thing I wanted to study. So I was I was okay. But my friend mentioned, do you think you have ADHD? And I was like, No, I'm not one of those little boys running around in class.

I never get in trouble. And she was like, No, I know someone who has ADHD and you have very similar qualities. And I was like, okay, whatever. And so when I graduated, I got my first job and I say, I lasted six months before getting fired. And now I look back and they were basically saying ADHD symptoms, like not coming to work on time, you know, being in my own world.

And I remember him saying, you just really like happy and just you’re firing me for being happy. And I realized it's probably just like he was just trying to describe ADHD without understanding what it was. Then I went to drama school, struggled the whole entire time in drama school. Um I went drama school in New York by the way.

So that was just another thing I was in a new country, new environment and I was just really struggling, came back from drama school, got a job, and then I got fired again. And by this time I mentioned I didn't mention I got fired as well before going to drama school. So this was the third time I had been fired from a job by all describing similar things about me not being able to concentrate, me turning up to work late and but the difference is I was actually really trying. So I said, there's something, there's something not right. There's something going on in my brain that I just I'm struggling a lot. And that's why I decided to get my diagnosis. And that's when I when I discovered that I do have ADHD, but it's used to be described as ADD, as, you know, so like it is more internal what I struggle with and also I struggle to as an actress, I struggle to read scripts as well, and I need additional help. So I also discovered that I have both ADHD and dyslexia. So it's just double double struggle. So it's been a whole journey. But yeah, that was, that's my story. I think in brief, yeah.

Beaux: In brief. How do you think your experience kind of reflects the broader experience of Black neurodivergent folks with, you know, finding out maybe late that you're diagnosed and and all that?

Delvene: Yeah, I don't think growing up I think it added an extra layer or it has always added an extra layer. You know, not only am I Black, not only am I a woman, but I'm also neurodivergent too.

And I remember there's all sorts of labels growing up as well. Things like intimidating, which I'm like, I am not intimidating really guys, but it's just having hearing those labels, but also with a neurodivergent side, hearing the words lazy, you know, you can't do it. And those are the things that I've been hearing my whole life.

And then, as I said, being a Black woman, on top of that. It really, really shrunk my self-esteem. And I would go into buildings and just and still to this day, feel really unsure about what I'm capable of. And also being in the Black community, it's not it's not really spoken about. There's so many kids that I knew that grew up neurodivergent, but they just didn't know that you heard the thing of like, you just pray it out of them.

That's not really a thing. It's just the label. So I think it really does add an extra layer to the struggle and it's something that should be talked about even more, and that's what I try to advocate for as well. 

Beaux: Mmm yeah, I can kind of see the red thread to how you dreamt of Little Crowns Storyhouse and creating those resources for kids. Yes. What has the process kind of of accepting and celebrating your neurodivergence look like for you?

Delvene: Um so it's been great. It's all, it's been like coming out. I remember like when I first got the diagnosis and I called on my friends, I was like, guys, I have ADHD and they're like, okay. But I kind of told them what it means.

And I remember talking to my mum about it and I showed her all of the symptoms and she was like, Yeah, that does actually sound like you. AndI was like see I told you. But it's also just making sure that I'm an advocate for it and talking to other people about ADHD and talking to people about the struggles I'm going to go through.

And, and since then, I've had so many people reach out to me saying that, you know, my son is also struggling with this, my daughter's struggling with this. And one message that I got a few months ago, which was so moving for me, was a lady said that, you know, my daughter has ADHD, and I sent her your videos to inspire her because I'm telling her that she can do it and it's okay look Delvene's doing it. And I know that you can. And then just hearing stories like that where all I'm doing is, you know, living and just trying, but I'm still inspiring somebody. And it's and it's really moving when I do hear that, too. 

Beaux: Yes. Oh, a neurodivergent role model. Very much. Yeah. I wish I had had those as a kid. So I'm glad you can be that for folks and. And what was your introduction to the performing arts and storytelling? Do you have any early memories of engaging with the performing arts that that inspired you to you?

Delvene: You know what, as I said, because I was so shy growing up, I think people that knew me as a child are probably like, You're an actress, really? I wouldn’t put that in your category but okay. Me thinking about my upbringing actually makes sense. So I grew up in a kind of Pentecostal church and my grandad was a bishop and my dad was a gospel singer and my mum was a primary school teacher. So my dad being a singer and we had to go to choir practice and just seeing him constantly perform everywhere was just a big part of our lives.

And going to concerts was a massive part of our lives as well. And my mum, because she was a primary school teacher, she was like, We need to do something during the holidays. So she used to take us to the theater all the time, Christmas over the summer. So I didn't realize it's only now I look back, those things were being planted in me and I remember going to the theater and sitting in the theater thinking, I really, really want to do that.

I really, really want to be on stage. And then obviously on the Sunday it was a show in itself. You know, hearing the songs at the dances, we used to do massive Christmas shows as well. So I think I was always exposed to the performing arts, but in a completely different way. I would say more of a cultural way, and that's what kind of starts I actually kind of want to. I want to be a performer. Yeah. And then seeing my dad also my dad was was an actor. He was in Jesus Christ Superstar growing up as well. So like all of those things, he was probably saw from him a lot and a lot. That inspiration from him that kind of was planted in me. And then when I came to the age where I realized that I want to be an actress, I think it's because of that background that I kind of pursued it in the end.

Beaux: I love that. The Family Ties. And then, you know, how does your neurodivergence kind of impact the way you express yourself creatively? And how has your unmasking process kind of factored into that in so many ways? 

Delvene: If I want if I'm being like really honest as well. Um when I think about the when I spoke about my story about me getting fired loads of the time, loads of times sorry, it always pushed me to do what I want to do.

So, for example, when I lost my job as a runner for a production company, I was like, right now I want to be an actress. So when I'd just been it was an actress. And then I got fired and I was like, okay, well, I need to go drama school now because I've just been fired, so I'm going to go to drama school.

And then when I came back from drama school and then again I got fired I was like, Well, now I need to set up my business and I'm going to set up Little Crown Storyhouse. So in a weird way, it's just pushed me to do whatever my brain wants me to do. And I've just kind of gone for a listened to what saying.

And it's not been easy. It's been very, very hard, but it's just kind of pushed me to, to explore my creativity as well because I've been forced to do it. And I think it's really it's really clear that those environments were environments that I just wasn't supposed to be in, and I was trying to fit into this normal world and really masking and just faking it when my brain was like, No, you're a creative, create stories and and do what you want to do with your heart set to do.

And this is just your sign to just keep creating and keep being you also I would say it shaped me because because I've picked up so many skills along the way, because I am neurodivergent and ADHD, I'm like, Oh, I can learn a new skill in this or I can maybe start doing this. I realize that I'm able to just kind of adapt in certain situations because I've been there before.

I've done it before. I've done a course randomly and I didn't know digital arts or something like that. I'm like, oh yeah, I can create like a digital 3D video because I've studied it before. So there’s like so many random things I've just managed to do, and I think it's because of my neurodiversity neurodiversity that it's just been like, Yeah, I can do that. Guys. Like, it's fine and I'm able to adapt to certain situations that nothing really scares me when it comes to creative creativity. Really. 

Beaux: Yes. Extra, extra helpful When you've run and own a business for sure. As you kind of have to be like good at everything. Yeah. 

Delvene: And especially with lockdown as well. I remember because I my business was first a toddler group and then it ran into lockdown happened and it all just kind of went online.

I was like, well, I can edit videos, guys. I studied production, so that's fine. And it was just a really easy adaption because it's like, Yeah, and it was like, you can edit, yeah, I can type, I can do, and if I don't, I'll learn. I'll do a course. 

Beaux: What drew you into the niche of figure theater and puppeteering?

Delvene: So as I mentioned before, I grew up in my church and it was like my second home in a way. And every Christmas they would do a big Christmas performance where all your family and friends can come and watch. And then the lady who was running the session, she made a puppet and she said, okay, I'm going to pick a few people to do the puppets and a few people to do dance.

And she picks me to do a dance as well, to do puppetry and dance and I was like, Okay, this seems cool. So her name is Sister Shirley. She is absolutely amazing. And so she said, now that when she gave me the puppet, I meant I managed to kind of bring it to life. So she chose me every single year to do puppetry for the Christmas shows.

And I was known then as the puppet girl. And obviously drama school happened. Production film school happened as well. And then when I came back from drama school, I realized that maybe I should go back to what I was doing originally as a teen and get back into puppetry. So I made an Anansi puppet and I started telling stories to children and I thought to myself, okay, maybe this is what's going to be my thing.

Maybe I should go back to what I was doing as a child and be the puppet girl again. And this could kind of be my my new my thing. And I mentioned this recently but Sister Shirley is overjoyed that, you know, she gave me a puppet when I was 14 just because she thought, maybe you can do that.

Everyone loved it. And she didn't realize that sparked something in me that has now turned into my career. So, yeah, everyone's really, really happy to see that I'm still actually using puppets in a way. 

Beaux: Go, Sister Shirley! Tell us a bit more about your first puppet. 

Delvene: Yeah, so it was definitely that one. I think her name was Esmerelda and she was green and had orange hair and she was a muppet style puppet as well.

And yeah, I really studied her, studied how to use her movements, her mouth movements, and because we were singing along the gospel songs, some of them were really quickly and fast and stuff like that. And I just made sure that her, she was really coming to life and animated too. But yeah, she was a great, great character and she was my main character throughout the years as well Esmerelda puppet she was very colorful and very lively too, and I was just completely fell in love with her.

And on the back of that Sister Shirley took me to like loads different puppetry conventions and stuff like that where I got to play with and meet other other puppets and puppeteers who were very kind of like minded as well. And to this day, that puppet company, that festival that I went for, went to, they I still work with them to this day as well.

They helped me make a lot of my puppets now. So it's been it's been it was completely random because I didn't realize it was the same until I looked at their logo and I was like, kind of recognize this logo? Did you guys do this back in the early 2000? Right? Yeah, that was us. And I was like, Oh, okay, Yeah.

So this it’s all come around full circle. Definitely. 

Beaux: I want to go to a puppet festival. That's sound amazing. 

Delvene: Yeah, I think there’s one coming up, like in two weeks time, actually. I think in, in where is it, not Readind. I think the one I went to was in Reading, but I think it's in Rugby. That's it. So yeah, it's really fun. Yeah. 

Beaux: And in, in the work that you do, how do you advocate for, for yourself in your support needs when collaborating with folks or when partnering with companies like Tiimo, for example. How do you make sure your needs are met? 

Delvene: And it's really hard. I'm not going to pretend and the reason why it's so hard is because sometimes I get embarrassed because I'm like, I'm a full adult and I'm struggling to read a sentence or I'm struggling with a, you know, as when I'm on an acting job, I'm like, I'm struggling to read the page.

And then I'm looking at my fellow colleagues and they're just like flowing with it. So to kind of be the bigger person and to step out of that, that discomfort and to say, Hey, I'm struggling with this, can I possibly get this printed on yellow paper? Because that makes a massive difference to me. And just being open with communication has absolutely made a huge difference and all and in a way it gains even more respect and an understanding too.

And I just it's actually okay to communicate your needs because people really, really understand. And a lot of the time as well, I think I've found that when I do communicate, the director or the boss or manager will be like, Oh, you know, I struggle with that too. Maybe that will help me. And you realize that you're actually helping each other.

And another point about helping each other is that it's, you know, communicating your needs. You're not only helping yourself, but you're also helping your manager understand you even more. So it's just about making sure you understand what you need. Because sometimes I'm like, like, what do you need? Um I actually don't know. But but, but I know what I struggle with.

So I just try from the jump to to be really, really open. And you don't know who you're inspiring and who you're going to help in the long run. So yeah, that's generally what I go for. 

Beaux: Yes, I love that. Just normalizing that. We all have support needs. Yes. Yeah. And then with our Little Crown Storyhouse, you know, how do you decide what topics to focus on and how are these topics informed by your own lived experience?

(interview continues below)

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Delvene: Yeah, so I always try to talk about diverse and inclusive topics, whether that's my own experience for via, like talking about my history, Black British history, and the reason why I came to making sure that I'm speaking specifically about Black British history is because that's the history that I understand a lot of the time Black History Month comes, which is now, and people firstly go to are we going to talk about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks?

Well, absolutely amazing. But what about Black British history? That's very American. So I just wanted to make sure that my history was spoken about. So that's when I decided to go ahead and write a song about the Windrush. And because that's when my grandparents came over here during the Windrush season. But then I was also like, okay, who are the other black British heroes we can speak about?

And so I decided to write about Claudia Jones, who started Carnival, because there’s carnival every year some people don't know the history of it, so why not write a song about it? And you know, and Olaudah Equiano, who was a past slave, who became a writer and helped to abolish slavery in the land. And lots of people don't know about him.

So it's just like, okay, I need to express and to teach children or even adults about about Black British history or history that actually speaks to me. And it's not only that because I'm trying to broaden my reach as well and speak to the world, and I try to get an understanding from all sorts of kids, from all different backgrounds.

So, for example, I look after a child who is Jewish and she was like, everything around me is about Christmas. We don't celebrate Christmas. So I was like, Oh, she was like, Yeah, but this Christmas, everywhere. And I was like, okay. So I decided to write a song and put out some content based on Hanukkah. And I got her to voice it as well, because she was and she got to speak about Hanukkah and how she celebrates and what she does every year.

And then I wrote a song called Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and was just trying to get people to understand the different holidays that happened during that time of year. It's not just about Christmas. Christmas is amazing. But not not everyone celebrates it. So it's just to make making sure that all the holidays were included as well. So it's not only that, but also Diwali, Eid, Chinese New Year. So try to kind of get kids that celebrate all sorts of holidays and to feel included in my my content as well. 

Beaux: I love that so much. Yes. I grew up in the Middle East. So there's. Yeah, even like living in the Middle East, there is still such a focus on Christmas even though I was living in a country where most folks are Muslim, so I was always like, Well, what is that?

Delvene: Interesting hm yeah like not everyone celebrates Christmas. 

Beaux: Weird, fun little fact, yeah. And then what strategies is to use to make historical and like scientific concepts that can be really complex to understand, accessible for young learners. 

Delvene: Yeah. So I worked with when I started writing the songs by myself, by just kind of looking up at my mum, I think I mentioned that she was a primary school teacher and she specialized in teaching children from kind of infant age.

So whenever I would write a song or create something, I'd always send it to my mum, like, mum, can we make sure that this is okay for the age group that we're talking about? And how can we make some changes to make sure that actually that we're actually using the correct language is very much my my mum, who has been a teacher for 30 years and she's like, I'm probably my biggest critic as well.

Don't do that. Don't do that. Don't say that. Sometimes I'll be filming with her. She's like, No pause. No, none of that. So it's so helpful to just have her there to help me throughout the content and making sure that I am educating, not just sort of entertaining, which I was training entertainment, but making sure that the education side of it is definitely, definitely seen.

And I also work with another educational consultant called Rachel Beckles, who helps me with the writing as well, because she works with younger kids. We try to make sure that all of it is explained in that in a young language because it's so complex, talking about slavery to 3 to 4 year olds, it's really hard. But yeah, it's just making sure that the language is is appropriate for that age group.

And then you get those really annoying people on Twitter who are it's not for them and they'll be like, you missed out the part when Olaudah and I'm like guys, I can’t include every single thing, like we're going to include as much as we can that's appropriate for a four year old. But we're not going to include some of the gruesome stuff like come on. And yeah, yeah. It's been so funny seeing their Tweets like oh my goodness. 

Beaux: Yeah, it would. I mean, most kids would also probably like, stop paying attention after the tenth minute or something. 

Delvene: So like making plays in their tweets and I'm just like I just, I just ignore it, to be honest with you, because I know who my target audience is.

Beaux: Yeah. What's been some of the feedback from your target audience? Kids and parents and caretakers? 

Delvene: Um great. So it's always just so interesting hearing that, you know, my content is played in quite a lot of schools. So I got some a message, an email from Tunisia saying that, Oh, we're played your content in our class in Tunisia. And I'm like Tunisia??

So it's just always been amazingly positive. And another girl that I look after, she said, Oh, my friend played you in, in his class today. And I was like, what and she was like oh yeah we played your song. And, and I constantly hear like children saying, Oh, we played your song in class. We played your song here. So so hearing that it's being used by the right people because the target audience is teachers, educators and parents, and just hearing that they're playing the videos to help help the children and educate them in a fun and positive way, it's just been absolutely amazing to hear. 

Beaux: I love that. So much. I wish I had had these resources as a kid. So cool that you're dreaming them up for the next generation. And then now, you know, as we as we close out, what's next for you? Is there anything that you're working on that you're extra excited about? 

Delvene: Yes. So being neurodivergent myself and talking about how I grew up and not having access or an understanding to the arts, I thought there are probably there probably there are definitely children out there who have an interest in the arts when they get into the arts but don't know how to get in.

So basically I'm starting my company, a storytelling company specifically for neurodivergent and SEND children called Tale Tellers, and it's just launched. We've just registered. So it's it's really, really, really new. But I've started it and I'm really excited because the launch will probably be in 2024 and we're going to start with some puppetry, puppetry classes and shows and stuff like that for specific, specifically neurodivergent children. So excited about that. 

Beaux: That's incredible. Oh my gosh. I can't wait to follow. 

Delvene: Yes, Yes. I'll send you all the links because it's only got about 20 followers right now on Instagram. So yeah. 

Beaux: Amazing. And the how can folks stay up to date on all of your work? Where can they find you?

Delvene: Yeah. So my Instagram is is just delvene @delvene. I was very lucky. 

Beaux: So iconic.

Delvene: I was like very lucky. I joined Instagram when it was just like opening and my friend was like, What's this Instagram thing? I was like, I was like, Sure, I'll just join whatever @delvene. Now it's like, I can never change my name. So yeah, my Instagram is just Delvene and my TikTokas well. I'm quite active on that, it’s @delvenep for the recipe and also my company Little Crowns Storyhouse. So my website is littlecrownsstoryhouse.co.uk and the Instagram is @littlecrowns.storyhouse, but feel free to drop a message and email. And I'm very active on social media, so I'll always reply.

Beaux: Amazing. Delvene, this was so sweet. I am so happy we had the chance to chat. Thank you so much and thank you. Yeah, that's a wrap for today folks. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, feedback or you know who we should interview next, give us a shout. We're @tiimoapp on all social media can also email us at community@tiimo.dk. We would love to hear from you. And if you have a second to just like subscribe, comment, share these interviews. It would mean the world to us and it would mean that we can keep producing this interview series. So thanks so much. And till next time. Bye! 

November 27, 2023

Delvene Pitt | On being a Black Dyslexic ADHD’er in the Performing Arts

In this episode, we talk to puppeteer and actress Delvene Pitt (she/her) about her award-winning puppetry company Little Crowns Storyhouse, how she uses puppeteering to teach history and science to children, and how she’s navigated the performing arts industry as a Black dyslexic ADHD’er.

Team Tiimo

If you’d like to listen to or watch our interview with Delvene, the episode is available on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

Summary 

  • Delvene, the innovative mind behind Little Crowns Storyhouse, offers insight into her life as a Black neurodivergent woman, exploring how this aspect of her identity has shaped her career in puppetry and the arts.
  • Reflecting on her personal experiences, Delvene discusses the challenges she faced growing up neurodivergent, emphasizing how it initially impacted her social interactions and later fueled her passion and approach to creative work.
  • A significant focus of the interview is Delvene's commitment to creating educational content that is not only engaging but also inclusive, highlighting diverse cultures and holidays through puppetry to foster a more inclusive environment for children.
  • Delvene candidly shares her struggles with fitting into conventional workspaces and how these experiences steered her towards a path where she could fully utilize her creative talents, eventually leading her to establish her puppetry company.
  • The interview delves into Delvene's creative process, particularly how she simplifies complex historical and scientific concepts for young audiences, ensuring that her puppetry is both educational and accessible to children.
  • Looking to the future, Delvene discusses her latest venture, Tale Tellers, which is specifically designed to cater to neurodivergent children, aiming to provide them with a platform to explore and engage with the arts.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Beaux: Hi and welcome to Brainstorm Changemakers by Tiimo. In this series, we're talking to experts, activists, and movers who are shaking things up in the neurodivergent space. My name is Beaux, my pronouns are they/them, and I'm the Inclusion and Belonging Lead at Tiimo, a Danish neuroinclusion company that gives folks planning power to take charge of their daily lives. Today, we're joined by actress and advocate Delvene Pitt, the founder of Little Crowns Storyhouse, an award-winning puppetry company.

Delvene's journey in the arts and her advocacy have made her a trailblazer in the field. She uses puppetry to educate children on history and science, and I'm so excited for her to share more about her work with us today. So hi Delvene, we are so happy to have you on our little interview series, really, really excited to be chatting about your work today. So to start us off, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Delvene: So, yeah, my name's Delvene, and I'm a creative entrepreneur and a puppeteer and an actress and a digital creator and the creator of a company, a puppetry company called Little Crowns Storyhouse. In fact, it's not only puppetry. We use the platform to celebrate inclusive and diverse content for children aged say 0 to 10. Basically, the complete, multifaceted, creative. And that's probably the best way to describe me. 

Beaux: Ah lovely! The the multifaceted background. I always find it's so hard, especially when you're like are passionate about a lot of things like summarize everything that you do so this is very gorgeous. Even without the friends around to describe you. I’m also wondering, you know, how did you discover that you’re neurodivergent or what was the path like?

Delvene: Sure. So um I've always known that I was really different from kind of growing up. And when I was child, I had selective mute. So I just really struggled to communicate what I needed. And one of my earliest memories is I remember I was in nursery and I knew the answer to the question and the words just couldn't come out.

And anyone who looked after me as a child would always express that you just look so to yourself in your own world in a daydream. And you were just always very different. But with me, because I think I started to develop confidence. I became quite social, a sociable person, and I was able to make friends. So a lot of things, a lot of my neurodivergence, I had a little, you would say, qualities I had in the past were overlooked and I was masking because I was kind of masking it with being really sociable and really friendly.

But then I was that difference was still kind of hanging over me like a cloud. And then when I got into college and university, I was studying the thing I wanted to study. So I was I was okay. But my friend mentioned, do you think you have ADHD? And I was like, No, I'm not one of those little boys running around in class.

I never get in trouble. And she was like, No, I know someone who has ADHD and you have very similar qualities. And I was like, okay, whatever. And so when I graduated, I got my first job and I say, I lasted six months before getting fired. And now I look back and they were basically saying ADHD symptoms, like not coming to work on time, you know, being in my own world.

And I remember him saying, you just really like happy and just you’re firing me for being happy. And I realized it's probably just like he was just trying to describe ADHD without understanding what it was. Then I went to drama school, struggled the whole entire time in drama school. Um I went drama school in New York by the way.

So that was just another thing I was in a new country, new environment and I was just really struggling, came back from drama school, got a job, and then I got fired again. And by this time I mentioned I didn't mention I got fired as well before going to drama school. So this was the third time I had been fired from a job by all describing similar things about me not being able to concentrate, me turning up to work late and but the difference is I was actually really trying. So I said, there's something, there's something not right. There's something going on in my brain that I just I'm struggling a lot. And that's why I decided to get my diagnosis. And that's when I when I discovered that I do have ADHD, but it's used to be described as ADD, as, you know, so like it is more internal what I struggle with and also I struggle to as an actress, I struggle to read scripts as well, and I need additional help. So I also discovered that I have both ADHD and dyslexia. So it's just double double struggle. So it's been a whole journey. But yeah, that was, that's my story. I think in brief, yeah.

Beaux: In brief. How do you think your experience kind of reflects the broader experience of Black neurodivergent folks with, you know, finding out maybe late that you're diagnosed and and all that?

Delvene: Yeah, I don't think growing up I think it added an extra layer or it has always added an extra layer. You know, not only am I Black, not only am I a woman, but I'm also neurodivergent too.

And I remember there's all sorts of labels growing up as well. Things like intimidating, which I'm like, I am not intimidating really guys, but it's just having hearing those labels, but also with a neurodivergent side, hearing the words lazy, you know, you can't do it. And those are the things that I've been hearing my whole life.

And then, as I said, being a Black woman, on top of that. It really, really shrunk my self-esteem. And I would go into buildings and just and still to this day, feel really unsure about what I'm capable of. And also being in the Black community, it's not it's not really spoken about. There's so many kids that I knew that grew up neurodivergent, but they just didn't know that you heard the thing of like, you just pray it out of them.

That's not really a thing. It's just the label. So I think it really does add an extra layer to the struggle and it's something that should be talked about even more, and that's what I try to advocate for as well. 

Beaux: Mmm yeah, I can kind of see the red thread to how you dreamt of Little Crowns Storyhouse and creating those resources for kids. Yes. What has the process kind of of accepting and celebrating your neurodivergence look like for you?

Delvene: Um so it's been great. It's all, it's been like coming out. I remember like when I first got the diagnosis and I called on my friends, I was like, guys, I have ADHD and they're like, okay. But I kind of told them what it means.

And I remember talking to my mum about it and I showed her all of the symptoms and she was like, Yeah, that does actually sound like you. AndI was like see I told you. But it's also just making sure that I'm an advocate for it and talking to other people about ADHD and talking to people about the struggles I'm going to go through.

And, and since then, I've had so many people reach out to me saying that, you know, my son is also struggling with this, my daughter's struggling with this. And one message that I got a few months ago, which was so moving for me, was a lady said that, you know, my daughter has ADHD, and I sent her your videos to inspire her because I'm telling her that she can do it and it's okay look Delvene's doing it. And I know that you can. And then just hearing stories like that where all I'm doing is, you know, living and just trying, but I'm still inspiring somebody. And it's and it's really moving when I do hear that, too. 

Beaux: Yes. Oh, a neurodivergent role model. Very much. Yeah. I wish I had had those as a kid. So I'm glad you can be that for folks and. And what was your introduction to the performing arts and storytelling? Do you have any early memories of engaging with the performing arts that that inspired you to you?

Delvene: You know what, as I said, because I was so shy growing up, I think people that knew me as a child are probably like, You're an actress, really? I wouldn’t put that in your category but okay. Me thinking about my upbringing actually makes sense. So I grew up in a kind of Pentecostal church and my grandad was a bishop and my dad was a gospel singer and my mum was a primary school teacher. So my dad being a singer and we had to go to choir practice and just seeing him constantly perform everywhere was just a big part of our lives.

And going to concerts was a massive part of our lives as well. And my mum, because she was a primary school teacher, she was like, We need to do something during the holidays. So she used to take us to the theater all the time, Christmas over the summer. So I didn't realize it's only now I look back, those things were being planted in me and I remember going to the theater and sitting in the theater thinking, I really, really want to do that.

I really, really want to be on stage. And then obviously on the Sunday it was a show in itself. You know, hearing the songs at the dances, we used to do massive Christmas shows as well. So I think I was always exposed to the performing arts, but in a completely different way. I would say more of a cultural way, and that's what kind of starts I actually kind of want to. I want to be a performer. Yeah. And then seeing my dad also my dad was was an actor. He was in Jesus Christ Superstar growing up as well. So like all of those things, he was probably saw from him a lot and a lot. That inspiration from him that kind of was planted in me. And then when I came to the age where I realized that I want to be an actress, I think it's because of that background that I kind of pursued it in the end.

Beaux: I love that. The Family Ties. And then, you know, how does your neurodivergence kind of impact the way you express yourself creatively? And how has your unmasking process kind of factored into that in so many ways? 

Delvene: If I want if I'm being like really honest as well. Um when I think about the when I spoke about my story about me getting fired loads of the time, loads of times sorry, it always pushed me to do what I want to do.

So, for example, when I lost my job as a runner for a production company, I was like, right now I want to be an actress. So when I'd just been it was an actress. And then I got fired and I was like, okay, well, I need to go drama school now because I've just been fired, so I'm going to go to drama school.

And then when I came back from drama school and then again I got fired I was like, Well, now I need to set up my business and I'm going to set up Little Crown Storyhouse. So in a weird way, it's just pushed me to do whatever my brain wants me to do. And I've just kind of gone for a listened to what saying.

And it's not been easy. It's been very, very hard, but it's just kind of pushed me to, to explore my creativity as well because I've been forced to do it. And I think it's really it's really clear that those environments were environments that I just wasn't supposed to be in, and I was trying to fit into this normal world and really masking and just faking it when my brain was like, No, you're a creative, create stories and and do what you want to do with your heart set to do.

And this is just your sign to just keep creating and keep being you also I would say it shaped me because because I've picked up so many skills along the way, because I am neurodivergent and ADHD, I'm like, Oh, I can learn a new skill in this or I can maybe start doing this. I realize that I'm able to just kind of adapt in certain situations because I've been there before.

I've done it before. I've done a course randomly and I didn't know digital arts or something like that. I'm like, oh yeah, I can create like a digital 3D video because I've studied it before. So there’s like so many random things I've just managed to do, and I think it's because of my neurodiversity neurodiversity that it's just been like, Yeah, I can do that. Guys. Like, it's fine and I'm able to adapt to certain situations that nothing really scares me when it comes to creative creativity. Really. 

Beaux: Yes. Extra, extra helpful When you've run and own a business for sure. As you kind of have to be like good at everything. Yeah. 

Delvene: And especially with lockdown as well. I remember because I my business was first a toddler group and then it ran into lockdown happened and it all just kind of went online.

I was like, well, I can edit videos, guys. I studied production, so that's fine. And it was just a really easy adaption because it's like, Yeah, and it was like, you can edit, yeah, I can type, I can do, and if I don't, I'll learn. I'll do a course. 

Beaux: What drew you into the niche of figure theater and puppeteering?

Delvene: So as I mentioned before, I grew up in my church and it was like my second home in a way. And every Christmas they would do a big Christmas performance where all your family and friends can come and watch. And then the lady who was running the session, she made a puppet and she said, okay, I'm going to pick a few people to do the puppets and a few people to do dance.

And she picks me to do a dance as well, to do puppetry and dance and I was like, Okay, this seems cool. So her name is Sister Shirley. She is absolutely amazing. And so she said, now that when she gave me the puppet, I meant I managed to kind of bring it to life. So she chose me every single year to do puppetry for the Christmas shows.

And I was known then as the puppet girl. And obviously drama school happened. Production film school happened as well. And then when I came back from drama school, I realized that maybe I should go back to what I was doing originally as a teen and get back into puppetry. So I made an Anansi puppet and I started telling stories to children and I thought to myself, okay, maybe this is what's going to be my thing.

Maybe I should go back to what I was doing as a child and be the puppet girl again. And this could kind of be my my new my thing. And I mentioned this recently but Sister Shirley is overjoyed that, you know, she gave me a puppet when I was 14 just because she thought, maybe you can do that.

Everyone loved it. And she didn't realize that sparked something in me that has now turned into my career. So, yeah, everyone's really, really happy to see that I'm still actually using puppets in a way. 

Beaux: Go, Sister Shirley! Tell us a bit more about your first puppet. 

Delvene: Yeah, so it was definitely that one. I think her name was Esmerelda and she was green and had orange hair and she was a muppet style puppet as well.

And yeah, I really studied her, studied how to use her movements, her mouth movements, and because we were singing along the gospel songs, some of them were really quickly and fast and stuff like that. And I just made sure that her, she was really coming to life and animated too. But yeah, she was a great, great character and she was my main character throughout the years as well Esmerelda puppet she was very colorful and very lively too, and I was just completely fell in love with her.

And on the back of that Sister Shirley took me to like loads different puppetry conventions and stuff like that where I got to play with and meet other other puppets and puppeteers who were very kind of like minded as well. And to this day, that puppet company, that festival that I went for, went to, they I still work with them to this day as well.

They helped me make a lot of my puppets now. So it's been it's been it was completely random because I didn't realize it was the same until I looked at their logo and I was like, kind of recognize this logo? Did you guys do this back in the early 2000? Right? Yeah, that was us. And I was like, Oh, okay, Yeah.

So this it’s all come around full circle. Definitely. 

Beaux: I want to go to a puppet festival. That's sound amazing. 

Delvene: Yeah, I think there’s one coming up, like in two weeks time, actually. I think in, in where is it, not Readind. I think the one I went to was in Reading, but I think it's in Rugby. That's it. So yeah, it's really fun. Yeah. 

Beaux: And in, in the work that you do, how do you advocate for, for yourself in your support needs when collaborating with folks or when partnering with companies like Tiimo, for example. How do you make sure your needs are met? 

Delvene: And it's really hard. I'm not going to pretend and the reason why it's so hard is because sometimes I get embarrassed because I'm like, I'm a full adult and I'm struggling to read a sentence or I'm struggling with a, you know, as when I'm on an acting job, I'm like, I'm struggling to read the page.

And then I'm looking at my fellow colleagues and they're just like flowing with it. So to kind of be the bigger person and to step out of that, that discomfort and to say, Hey, I'm struggling with this, can I possibly get this printed on yellow paper? Because that makes a massive difference to me. And just being open with communication has absolutely made a huge difference and all and in a way it gains even more respect and an understanding too.

And I just it's actually okay to communicate your needs because people really, really understand. And a lot of the time as well, I think I've found that when I do communicate, the director or the boss or manager will be like, Oh, you know, I struggle with that too. Maybe that will help me. And you realize that you're actually helping each other.

And another point about helping each other is that it's, you know, communicating your needs. You're not only helping yourself, but you're also helping your manager understand you even more. So it's just about making sure you understand what you need. Because sometimes I'm like, like, what do you need? Um I actually don't know. But but, but I know what I struggle with.

So I just try from the jump to to be really, really open. And you don't know who you're inspiring and who you're going to help in the long run. So yeah, that's generally what I go for. 

Beaux: Yes, I love that. Just normalizing that. We all have support needs. Yes. Yeah. And then with our Little Crown Storyhouse, you know, how do you decide what topics to focus on and how are these topics informed by your own lived experience?

(interview continues below)

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Delvene: Yeah, so I always try to talk about diverse and inclusive topics, whether that's my own experience for via, like talking about my history, Black British history, and the reason why I came to making sure that I'm speaking specifically about Black British history is because that's the history that I understand a lot of the time Black History Month comes, which is now, and people firstly go to are we going to talk about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks?

Well, absolutely amazing. But what about Black British history? That's very American. So I just wanted to make sure that my history was spoken about. So that's when I decided to go ahead and write a song about the Windrush. And because that's when my grandparents came over here during the Windrush season. But then I was also like, okay, who are the other black British heroes we can speak about?

And so I decided to write about Claudia Jones, who started Carnival, because there’s carnival every year some people don't know the history of it, so why not write a song about it? And you know, and Olaudah Equiano, who was a past slave, who became a writer and helped to abolish slavery in the land. And lots of people don't know about him.

So it's just like, okay, I need to express and to teach children or even adults about about Black British history or history that actually speaks to me. And it's not only that because I'm trying to broaden my reach as well and speak to the world, and I try to get an understanding from all sorts of kids, from all different backgrounds.

So, for example, I look after a child who is Jewish and she was like, everything around me is about Christmas. We don't celebrate Christmas. So I was like, Oh, she was like, Yeah, but this Christmas, everywhere. And I was like, okay. So I decided to write a song and put out some content based on Hanukkah. And I got her to voice it as well, because she was and she got to speak about Hanukkah and how she celebrates and what she does every year.

And then I wrote a song called Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and was just trying to get people to understand the different holidays that happened during that time of year. It's not just about Christmas. Christmas is amazing. But not not everyone celebrates it. So it's just to make making sure that all the holidays were included as well. So it's not only that, but also Diwali, Eid, Chinese New Year. So try to kind of get kids that celebrate all sorts of holidays and to feel included in my my content as well. 

Beaux: I love that so much. Yes. I grew up in the Middle East. So there's. Yeah, even like living in the Middle East, there is still such a focus on Christmas even though I was living in a country where most folks are Muslim, so I was always like, Well, what is that?

Delvene: Interesting hm yeah like not everyone celebrates Christmas. 

Beaux: Weird, fun little fact, yeah. And then what strategies is to use to make historical and like scientific concepts that can be really complex to understand, accessible for young learners. 

Delvene: Yeah. So I worked with when I started writing the songs by myself, by just kind of looking up at my mum, I think I mentioned that she was a primary school teacher and she specialized in teaching children from kind of infant age.

So whenever I would write a song or create something, I'd always send it to my mum, like, mum, can we make sure that this is okay for the age group that we're talking about? And how can we make some changes to make sure that actually that we're actually using the correct language is very much my my mum, who has been a teacher for 30 years and she's like, I'm probably my biggest critic as well.

Don't do that. Don't do that. Don't say that. Sometimes I'll be filming with her. She's like, No pause. No, none of that. So it's so helpful to just have her there to help me throughout the content and making sure that I am educating, not just sort of entertaining, which I was training entertainment, but making sure that the education side of it is definitely, definitely seen.

And I also work with another educational consultant called Rachel Beckles, who helps me with the writing as well, because she works with younger kids. We try to make sure that all of it is explained in that in a young language because it's so complex, talking about slavery to 3 to 4 year olds, it's really hard. But yeah, it's just making sure that the language is is appropriate for that age group.

And then you get those really annoying people on Twitter who are it's not for them and they'll be like, you missed out the part when Olaudah and I'm like guys, I can’t include every single thing, like we're going to include as much as we can that's appropriate for a four year old. But we're not going to include some of the gruesome stuff like come on. And yeah, yeah. It's been so funny seeing their Tweets like oh my goodness. 

Beaux: Yeah, it would. I mean, most kids would also probably like, stop paying attention after the tenth minute or something. 

Delvene: So like making plays in their tweets and I'm just like I just, I just ignore it, to be honest with you, because I know who my target audience is.

Beaux: Yeah. What's been some of the feedback from your target audience? Kids and parents and caretakers? 

Delvene: Um great. So it's always just so interesting hearing that, you know, my content is played in quite a lot of schools. So I got some a message, an email from Tunisia saying that, Oh, we're played your content in our class in Tunisia. And I'm like Tunisia??

So it's just always been amazingly positive. And another girl that I look after, she said, Oh, my friend played you in, in his class today. And I was like, what and she was like oh yeah we played your song. And, and I constantly hear like children saying, Oh, we played your song in class. We played your song here. So so hearing that it's being used by the right people because the target audience is teachers, educators and parents, and just hearing that they're playing the videos to help help the children and educate them in a fun and positive way, it's just been absolutely amazing to hear. 

Beaux: I love that. So much. I wish I had had these resources as a kid. So cool that you're dreaming them up for the next generation. And then now, you know, as we as we close out, what's next for you? Is there anything that you're working on that you're extra excited about? 

Delvene: Yes. So being neurodivergent myself and talking about how I grew up and not having access or an understanding to the arts, I thought there are probably there probably there are definitely children out there who have an interest in the arts when they get into the arts but don't know how to get in.

So basically I'm starting my company, a storytelling company specifically for neurodivergent and SEND children called Tale Tellers, and it's just launched. We've just registered. So it's it's really, really, really new. But I've started it and I'm really excited because the launch will probably be in 2024 and we're going to start with some puppetry, puppetry classes and shows and stuff like that for specific, specifically neurodivergent children. So excited about that. 

Beaux: That's incredible. Oh my gosh. I can't wait to follow. 

Delvene: Yes, Yes. I'll send you all the links because it's only got about 20 followers right now on Instagram. So yeah. 

Beaux: Amazing. And the how can folks stay up to date on all of your work? Where can they find you?

Delvene: Yeah. So my Instagram is is just delvene @delvene. I was very lucky. 

Beaux: So iconic.

Delvene: I was like very lucky. I joined Instagram when it was just like opening and my friend was like, What's this Instagram thing? I was like, I was like, Sure, I'll just join whatever @delvene. Now it's like, I can never change my name. So yeah, my Instagram is just Delvene and my TikTokas well. I'm quite active on that, it’s @delvenep for the recipe and also my company Little Crowns Storyhouse. So my website is littlecrownsstoryhouse.co.uk and the Instagram is @littlecrowns.storyhouse, but feel free to drop a message and email. And I'm very active on social media, so I'll always reply.

Beaux: Amazing. Delvene, this was so sweet. I am so happy we had the chance to chat. Thank you so much and thank you. Yeah, that's a wrap for today folks. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, feedback or you know who we should interview next, give us a shout. We're @tiimoapp on all social media can also email us at community@tiimo.dk. We would love to hear from you. And if you have a second to just like subscribe, comment, share these interviews. It would mean the world to us and it would mean that we can keep producing this interview series. So thanks so much. And till next time. Bye! 

Delvene Pitt | On being a Black Dyslexic ADHD’er in the Performing Arts
November 27, 2023

Delvene Pitt | On being a Black Dyslexic ADHD’er in the Performing Arts

In this episode, we talk to puppeteer and actress Delvene Pitt (she/her) about her award-winning puppetry company Little Crowns Storyhouse, how she uses puppeteering to teach history and science to children, and how she’s navigated the performing arts industry as a Black dyslexic ADHD’er.

Georgina Shute

Georgina is an ADHD coach and digital leader. She set up KindTwo to empower as many people as possible to work with Neurodiversity - not against it.

If you’d like to listen to or watch our interview with Delvene, the episode is available on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

Summary 

  • Delvene, the innovative mind behind Little Crowns Storyhouse, offers insight into her life as a Black neurodivergent woman, exploring how this aspect of her identity has shaped her career in puppetry and the arts.
  • Reflecting on her personal experiences, Delvene discusses the challenges she faced growing up neurodivergent, emphasizing how it initially impacted her social interactions and later fueled her passion and approach to creative work.
  • A significant focus of the interview is Delvene's commitment to creating educational content that is not only engaging but also inclusive, highlighting diverse cultures and holidays through puppetry to foster a more inclusive environment for children.
  • Delvene candidly shares her struggles with fitting into conventional workspaces and how these experiences steered her towards a path where she could fully utilize her creative talents, eventually leading her to establish her puppetry company.
  • The interview delves into Delvene's creative process, particularly how she simplifies complex historical and scientific concepts for young audiences, ensuring that her puppetry is both educational and accessible to children.
  • Looking to the future, Delvene discusses her latest venture, Tale Tellers, which is specifically designed to cater to neurodivergent children, aiming to provide them with a platform to explore and engage with the arts.

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Beaux: Hi and welcome to Brainstorm Changemakers by Tiimo. In this series, we're talking to experts, activists, and movers who are shaking things up in the neurodivergent space. My name is Beaux, my pronouns are they/them, and I'm the Inclusion and Belonging Lead at Tiimo, a Danish neuroinclusion company that gives folks planning power to take charge of their daily lives. Today, we're joined by actress and advocate Delvene Pitt, the founder of Little Crowns Storyhouse, an award-winning puppetry company.

Delvene's journey in the arts and her advocacy have made her a trailblazer in the field. She uses puppetry to educate children on history and science, and I'm so excited for her to share more about her work with us today. So hi Delvene, we are so happy to have you on our little interview series, really, really excited to be chatting about your work today. So to start us off, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Delvene: So, yeah, my name's Delvene, and I'm a creative entrepreneur and a puppeteer and an actress and a digital creator and the creator of a company, a puppetry company called Little Crowns Storyhouse. In fact, it's not only puppetry. We use the platform to celebrate inclusive and diverse content for children aged say 0 to 10. Basically, the complete, multifaceted, creative. And that's probably the best way to describe me. 

Beaux: Ah lovely! The the multifaceted background. I always find it's so hard, especially when you're like are passionate about a lot of things like summarize everything that you do so this is very gorgeous. Even without the friends around to describe you. I’m also wondering, you know, how did you discover that you’re neurodivergent or what was the path like?

Delvene: Sure. So um I've always known that I was really different from kind of growing up. And when I was child, I had selective mute. So I just really struggled to communicate what I needed. And one of my earliest memories is I remember I was in nursery and I knew the answer to the question and the words just couldn't come out.

And anyone who looked after me as a child would always express that you just look so to yourself in your own world in a daydream. And you were just always very different. But with me, because I think I started to develop confidence. I became quite social, a sociable person, and I was able to make friends. So a lot of things, a lot of my neurodivergence, I had a little, you would say, qualities I had in the past were overlooked and I was masking because I was kind of masking it with being really sociable and really friendly.

But then I was that difference was still kind of hanging over me like a cloud. And then when I got into college and university, I was studying the thing I wanted to study. So I was I was okay. But my friend mentioned, do you think you have ADHD? And I was like, No, I'm not one of those little boys running around in class.

I never get in trouble. And she was like, No, I know someone who has ADHD and you have very similar qualities. And I was like, okay, whatever. And so when I graduated, I got my first job and I say, I lasted six months before getting fired. And now I look back and they were basically saying ADHD symptoms, like not coming to work on time, you know, being in my own world.

And I remember him saying, you just really like happy and just you’re firing me for being happy. And I realized it's probably just like he was just trying to describe ADHD without understanding what it was. Then I went to drama school, struggled the whole entire time in drama school. Um I went drama school in New York by the way.

So that was just another thing I was in a new country, new environment and I was just really struggling, came back from drama school, got a job, and then I got fired again. And by this time I mentioned I didn't mention I got fired as well before going to drama school. So this was the third time I had been fired from a job by all describing similar things about me not being able to concentrate, me turning up to work late and but the difference is I was actually really trying. So I said, there's something, there's something not right. There's something going on in my brain that I just I'm struggling a lot. And that's why I decided to get my diagnosis. And that's when I when I discovered that I do have ADHD, but it's used to be described as ADD, as, you know, so like it is more internal what I struggle with and also I struggle to as an actress, I struggle to read scripts as well, and I need additional help. So I also discovered that I have both ADHD and dyslexia. So it's just double double struggle. So it's been a whole journey. But yeah, that was, that's my story. I think in brief, yeah.

Beaux: In brief. How do you think your experience kind of reflects the broader experience of Black neurodivergent folks with, you know, finding out maybe late that you're diagnosed and and all that?

Delvene: Yeah, I don't think growing up I think it added an extra layer or it has always added an extra layer. You know, not only am I Black, not only am I a woman, but I'm also neurodivergent too.

And I remember there's all sorts of labels growing up as well. Things like intimidating, which I'm like, I am not intimidating really guys, but it's just having hearing those labels, but also with a neurodivergent side, hearing the words lazy, you know, you can't do it. And those are the things that I've been hearing my whole life.

And then, as I said, being a Black woman, on top of that. It really, really shrunk my self-esteem. And I would go into buildings and just and still to this day, feel really unsure about what I'm capable of. And also being in the Black community, it's not it's not really spoken about. There's so many kids that I knew that grew up neurodivergent, but they just didn't know that you heard the thing of like, you just pray it out of them.

That's not really a thing. It's just the label. So I think it really does add an extra layer to the struggle and it's something that should be talked about even more, and that's what I try to advocate for as well. 

Beaux: Mmm yeah, I can kind of see the red thread to how you dreamt of Little Crowns Storyhouse and creating those resources for kids. Yes. What has the process kind of of accepting and celebrating your neurodivergence look like for you?

Delvene: Um so it's been great. It's all, it's been like coming out. I remember like when I first got the diagnosis and I called on my friends, I was like, guys, I have ADHD and they're like, okay. But I kind of told them what it means.

And I remember talking to my mum about it and I showed her all of the symptoms and she was like, Yeah, that does actually sound like you. AndI was like see I told you. But it's also just making sure that I'm an advocate for it and talking to other people about ADHD and talking to people about the struggles I'm going to go through.

And, and since then, I've had so many people reach out to me saying that, you know, my son is also struggling with this, my daughter's struggling with this. And one message that I got a few months ago, which was so moving for me, was a lady said that, you know, my daughter has ADHD, and I sent her your videos to inspire her because I'm telling her that she can do it and it's okay look Delvene's doing it. And I know that you can. And then just hearing stories like that where all I'm doing is, you know, living and just trying, but I'm still inspiring somebody. And it's and it's really moving when I do hear that, too. 

Beaux: Yes. Oh, a neurodivergent role model. Very much. Yeah. I wish I had had those as a kid. So I'm glad you can be that for folks and. And what was your introduction to the performing arts and storytelling? Do you have any early memories of engaging with the performing arts that that inspired you to you?

Delvene: You know what, as I said, because I was so shy growing up, I think people that knew me as a child are probably like, You're an actress, really? I wouldn’t put that in your category but okay. Me thinking about my upbringing actually makes sense. So I grew up in a kind of Pentecostal church and my grandad was a bishop and my dad was a gospel singer and my mum was a primary school teacher. So my dad being a singer and we had to go to choir practice and just seeing him constantly perform everywhere was just a big part of our lives.

And going to concerts was a massive part of our lives as well. And my mum, because she was a primary school teacher, she was like, We need to do something during the holidays. So she used to take us to the theater all the time, Christmas over the summer. So I didn't realize it's only now I look back, those things were being planted in me and I remember going to the theater and sitting in the theater thinking, I really, really want to do that.

I really, really want to be on stage. And then obviously on the Sunday it was a show in itself. You know, hearing the songs at the dances, we used to do massive Christmas shows as well. So I think I was always exposed to the performing arts, but in a completely different way. I would say more of a cultural way, and that's what kind of starts I actually kind of want to. I want to be a performer. Yeah. And then seeing my dad also my dad was was an actor. He was in Jesus Christ Superstar growing up as well. So like all of those things, he was probably saw from him a lot and a lot. That inspiration from him that kind of was planted in me. And then when I came to the age where I realized that I want to be an actress, I think it's because of that background that I kind of pursued it in the end.

Beaux: I love that. The Family Ties. And then, you know, how does your neurodivergence kind of impact the way you express yourself creatively? And how has your unmasking process kind of factored into that in so many ways? 

Delvene: If I want if I'm being like really honest as well. Um when I think about the when I spoke about my story about me getting fired loads of the time, loads of times sorry, it always pushed me to do what I want to do.

So, for example, when I lost my job as a runner for a production company, I was like, right now I want to be an actress. So when I'd just been it was an actress. And then I got fired and I was like, okay, well, I need to go drama school now because I've just been fired, so I'm going to go to drama school.

And then when I came back from drama school and then again I got fired I was like, Well, now I need to set up my business and I'm going to set up Little Crown Storyhouse. So in a weird way, it's just pushed me to do whatever my brain wants me to do. And I've just kind of gone for a listened to what saying.

And it's not been easy. It's been very, very hard, but it's just kind of pushed me to, to explore my creativity as well because I've been forced to do it. And I think it's really it's really clear that those environments were environments that I just wasn't supposed to be in, and I was trying to fit into this normal world and really masking and just faking it when my brain was like, No, you're a creative, create stories and and do what you want to do with your heart set to do.

And this is just your sign to just keep creating and keep being you also I would say it shaped me because because I've picked up so many skills along the way, because I am neurodivergent and ADHD, I'm like, Oh, I can learn a new skill in this or I can maybe start doing this. I realize that I'm able to just kind of adapt in certain situations because I've been there before.

I've done it before. I've done a course randomly and I didn't know digital arts or something like that. I'm like, oh yeah, I can create like a digital 3D video because I've studied it before. So there’s like so many random things I've just managed to do, and I think it's because of my neurodiversity neurodiversity that it's just been like, Yeah, I can do that. Guys. Like, it's fine and I'm able to adapt to certain situations that nothing really scares me when it comes to creative creativity. Really. 

Beaux: Yes. Extra, extra helpful When you've run and own a business for sure. As you kind of have to be like good at everything. Yeah. 

Delvene: And especially with lockdown as well. I remember because I my business was first a toddler group and then it ran into lockdown happened and it all just kind of went online.

I was like, well, I can edit videos, guys. I studied production, so that's fine. And it was just a really easy adaption because it's like, Yeah, and it was like, you can edit, yeah, I can type, I can do, and if I don't, I'll learn. I'll do a course. 

Beaux: What drew you into the niche of figure theater and puppeteering?

Delvene: So as I mentioned before, I grew up in my church and it was like my second home in a way. And every Christmas they would do a big Christmas performance where all your family and friends can come and watch. And then the lady who was running the session, she made a puppet and she said, okay, I'm going to pick a few people to do the puppets and a few people to do dance.

And she picks me to do a dance as well, to do puppetry and dance and I was like, Okay, this seems cool. So her name is Sister Shirley. She is absolutely amazing. And so she said, now that when she gave me the puppet, I meant I managed to kind of bring it to life. So she chose me every single year to do puppetry for the Christmas shows.

And I was known then as the puppet girl. And obviously drama school happened. Production film school happened as well. And then when I came back from drama school, I realized that maybe I should go back to what I was doing originally as a teen and get back into puppetry. So I made an Anansi puppet and I started telling stories to children and I thought to myself, okay, maybe this is what's going to be my thing.

Maybe I should go back to what I was doing as a child and be the puppet girl again. And this could kind of be my my new my thing. And I mentioned this recently but Sister Shirley is overjoyed that, you know, she gave me a puppet when I was 14 just because she thought, maybe you can do that.

Everyone loved it. And she didn't realize that sparked something in me that has now turned into my career. So, yeah, everyone's really, really happy to see that I'm still actually using puppets in a way. 

Beaux: Go, Sister Shirley! Tell us a bit more about your first puppet. 

Delvene: Yeah, so it was definitely that one. I think her name was Esmerelda and she was green and had orange hair and she was a muppet style puppet as well.

And yeah, I really studied her, studied how to use her movements, her mouth movements, and because we were singing along the gospel songs, some of them were really quickly and fast and stuff like that. And I just made sure that her, she was really coming to life and animated too. But yeah, she was a great, great character and she was my main character throughout the years as well Esmerelda puppet she was very colorful and very lively too, and I was just completely fell in love with her.

And on the back of that Sister Shirley took me to like loads different puppetry conventions and stuff like that where I got to play with and meet other other puppets and puppeteers who were very kind of like minded as well. And to this day, that puppet company, that festival that I went for, went to, they I still work with them to this day as well.

They helped me make a lot of my puppets now. So it's been it's been it was completely random because I didn't realize it was the same until I looked at their logo and I was like, kind of recognize this logo? Did you guys do this back in the early 2000? Right? Yeah, that was us. And I was like, Oh, okay, Yeah.

So this it’s all come around full circle. Definitely. 

Beaux: I want to go to a puppet festival. That's sound amazing. 

Delvene: Yeah, I think there’s one coming up, like in two weeks time, actually. I think in, in where is it, not Readind. I think the one I went to was in Reading, but I think it's in Rugby. That's it. So yeah, it's really fun. Yeah. 

Beaux: And in, in the work that you do, how do you advocate for, for yourself in your support needs when collaborating with folks or when partnering with companies like Tiimo, for example. How do you make sure your needs are met? 

Delvene: And it's really hard. I'm not going to pretend and the reason why it's so hard is because sometimes I get embarrassed because I'm like, I'm a full adult and I'm struggling to read a sentence or I'm struggling with a, you know, as when I'm on an acting job, I'm like, I'm struggling to read the page.

And then I'm looking at my fellow colleagues and they're just like flowing with it. So to kind of be the bigger person and to step out of that, that discomfort and to say, Hey, I'm struggling with this, can I possibly get this printed on yellow paper? Because that makes a massive difference to me. And just being open with communication has absolutely made a huge difference and all and in a way it gains even more respect and an understanding too.

And I just it's actually okay to communicate your needs because people really, really understand. And a lot of the time as well, I think I've found that when I do communicate, the director or the boss or manager will be like, Oh, you know, I struggle with that too. Maybe that will help me. And you realize that you're actually helping each other.

And another point about helping each other is that it's, you know, communicating your needs. You're not only helping yourself, but you're also helping your manager understand you even more. So it's just about making sure you understand what you need. Because sometimes I'm like, like, what do you need? Um I actually don't know. But but, but I know what I struggle with.

So I just try from the jump to to be really, really open. And you don't know who you're inspiring and who you're going to help in the long run. So yeah, that's generally what I go for. 

Beaux: Yes, I love that. Just normalizing that. We all have support needs. Yes. Yeah. And then with our Little Crown Storyhouse, you know, how do you decide what topics to focus on and how are these topics informed by your own lived experience?

(interview continues below)

Delvene: Yeah, so I always try to talk about diverse and inclusive topics, whether that's my own experience for via, like talking about my history, Black British history, and the reason why I came to making sure that I'm speaking specifically about Black British history is because that's the history that I understand a lot of the time Black History Month comes, which is now, and people firstly go to are we going to talk about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks?

Well, absolutely amazing. But what about Black British history? That's very American. So I just wanted to make sure that my history was spoken about. So that's when I decided to go ahead and write a song about the Windrush. And because that's when my grandparents came over here during the Windrush season. But then I was also like, okay, who are the other black British heroes we can speak about?

And so I decided to write about Claudia Jones, who started Carnival, because there’s carnival every year some people don't know the history of it, so why not write a song about it? And you know, and Olaudah Equiano, who was a past slave, who became a writer and helped to abolish slavery in the land. And lots of people don't know about him.

So it's just like, okay, I need to express and to teach children or even adults about about Black British history or history that actually speaks to me. And it's not only that because I'm trying to broaden my reach as well and speak to the world, and I try to get an understanding from all sorts of kids, from all different backgrounds.

So, for example, I look after a child who is Jewish and she was like, everything around me is about Christmas. We don't celebrate Christmas. So I was like, Oh, she was like, Yeah, but this Christmas, everywhere. And I was like, okay. So I decided to write a song and put out some content based on Hanukkah. And I got her to voice it as well, because she was and she got to speak about Hanukkah and how she celebrates and what she does every year.

And then I wrote a song called Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and was just trying to get people to understand the different holidays that happened during that time of year. It's not just about Christmas. Christmas is amazing. But not not everyone celebrates it. So it's just to make making sure that all the holidays were included as well. So it's not only that, but also Diwali, Eid, Chinese New Year. So try to kind of get kids that celebrate all sorts of holidays and to feel included in my my content as well. 

Beaux: I love that so much. Yes. I grew up in the Middle East. So there's. Yeah, even like living in the Middle East, there is still such a focus on Christmas even though I was living in a country where most folks are Muslim, so I was always like, Well, what is that?

Delvene: Interesting hm yeah like not everyone celebrates Christmas. 

Beaux: Weird, fun little fact, yeah. And then what strategies is to use to make historical and like scientific concepts that can be really complex to understand, accessible for young learners. 

Delvene: Yeah. So I worked with when I started writing the songs by myself, by just kind of looking up at my mum, I think I mentioned that she was a primary school teacher and she specialized in teaching children from kind of infant age.

So whenever I would write a song or create something, I'd always send it to my mum, like, mum, can we make sure that this is okay for the age group that we're talking about? And how can we make some changes to make sure that actually that we're actually using the correct language is very much my my mum, who has been a teacher for 30 years and she's like, I'm probably my biggest critic as well.

Don't do that. Don't do that. Don't say that. Sometimes I'll be filming with her. She's like, No pause. No, none of that. So it's so helpful to just have her there to help me throughout the content and making sure that I am educating, not just sort of entertaining, which I was training entertainment, but making sure that the education side of it is definitely, definitely seen.

And I also work with another educational consultant called Rachel Beckles, who helps me with the writing as well, because she works with younger kids. We try to make sure that all of it is explained in that in a young language because it's so complex, talking about slavery to 3 to 4 year olds, it's really hard. But yeah, it's just making sure that the language is is appropriate for that age group.

And then you get those really annoying people on Twitter who are it's not for them and they'll be like, you missed out the part when Olaudah and I'm like guys, I can’t include every single thing, like we're going to include as much as we can that's appropriate for a four year old. But we're not going to include some of the gruesome stuff like come on. And yeah, yeah. It's been so funny seeing their Tweets like oh my goodness. 

Beaux: Yeah, it would. I mean, most kids would also probably like, stop paying attention after the tenth minute or something. 

Delvene: So like making plays in their tweets and I'm just like I just, I just ignore it, to be honest with you, because I know who my target audience is.

Beaux: Yeah. What's been some of the feedback from your target audience? Kids and parents and caretakers? 

Delvene: Um great. So it's always just so interesting hearing that, you know, my content is played in quite a lot of schools. So I got some a message, an email from Tunisia saying that, Oh, we're played your content in our class in Tunisia. And I'm like Tunisia??

So it's just always been amazingly positive. And another girl that I look after, she said, Oh, my friend played you in, in his class today. And I was like, what and she was like oh yeah we played your song. And, and I constantly hear like children saying, Oh, we played your song in class. We played your song here. So so hearing that it's being used by the right people because the target audience is teachers, educators and parents, and just hearing that they're playing the videos to help help the children and educate them in a fun and positive way, it's just been absolutely amazing to hear. 

Beaux: I love that. So much. I wish I had had these resources as a kid. So cool that you're dreaming them up for the next generation. And then now, you know, as we as we close out, what's next for you? Is there anything that you're working on that you're extra excited about? 

Delvene: Yes. So being neurodivergent myself and talking about how I grew up and not having access or an understanding to the arts, I thought there are probably there probably there are definitely children out there who have an interest in the arts when they get into the arts but don't know how to get in.

So basically I'm starting my company, a storytelling company specifically for neurodivergent and SEND children called Tale Tellers, and it's just launched. We've just registered. So it's it's really, really, really new. But I've started it and I'm really excited because the launch will probably be in 2024 and we're going to start with some puppetry, puppetry classes and shows and stuff like that for specific, specifically neurodivergent children. So excited about that. 

Beaux: That's incredible. Oh my gosh. I can't wait to follow. 

Delvene: Yes, Yes. I'll send you all the links because it's only got about 20 followers right now on Instagram. So yeah. 

Beaux: Amazing. And the how can folks stay up to date on all of your work? Where can they find you?

Delvene: Yeah. So my Instagram is is just delvene @delvene. I was very lucky. 

Beaux: So iconic.

Delvene: I was like very lucky. I joined Instagram when it was just like opening and my friend was like, What's this Instagram thing? I was like, I was like, Sure, I'll just join whatever @delvene. Now it's like, I can never change my name. So yeah, my Instagram is just Delvene and my TikTokas well. I'm quite active on that, it’s @delvenep for the recipe and also my company Little Crowns Storyhouse. So my website is littlecrownsstoryhouse.co.uk and the Instagram is @littlecrowns.storyhouse, but feel free to drop a message and email. And I'm very active on social media, so I'll always reply.

Beaux: Amazing. Delvene, this was so sweet. I am so happy we had the chance to chat. Thank you so much and thank you. Yeah, that's a wrap for today folks. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, feedback or you know who we should interview next, give us a shout. We're @tiimoapp on all social media can also email us at community@tiimo.dk. We would love to hear from you. And if you have a second to just like subscribe, comment, share these interviews. It would mean the world to us and it would mean that we can keep producing this interview series. So thanks so much. And till next time. Bye! 

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