When I was a child there was a charming old barn that housed within its walls a large marketplace with different subsections: one room which sold antiques had a little shelf that ran it\’s way in a giant circle around the space with a small set of tracks. It was so much fun to always watch the train go by, there was also a craft section where I learned how to properly cut stain glass, create puffy velvet bows, and beautiful ribbon roses. But for those of you who know me, know I would follow the trail of sugar granules. In the bakery aside from beautiful pastries they sold the perfect twisted candy sticks. I was always mesmerized how the twirl would move when ever I would hold them in between my thumb and index finger, and the taste was always exceptional. I started to think about the origin of the candy sticks that remind me so much of the elements that go into making these delectable sweets. The attention called to mind a very Twisted Sarah; a Psychology Student, Contortionist, and someone for a love of knots as they pertain to knitting. I find Sarah Twist to be extremely eclectic and very whimsical, her origin story is one you should read as it is truly quite inspirational. I find in life, I am surrounded by individuals who have had so many blocks during their journey and realise there is more than one way to skin a cat and make lemonade. Sarah is as such. For more information on Sarah Twist & her corkscrew shaped adventures check out her Facebook page Twisted Sarah Contortion.
RMMW: We all have an inner critic; how do you contend with yours?
ST: Thankfully I have a lot of great friends who are very encouraging. Imposter syndrome is a big thing and I deal with it as much as the next person, so trying to accept a compliment as true can be difficult. I realise that I don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on my achievements, so finding ways of doing that can really help give me the confidence to tackle the next challenge.
RMMW: Do you any artist rituals before you preform?
ST: I don’t know, maybe I should get some! Usually before I do a contortion routine I do a bit of a “body check” by stretching out each body part to identify any usual areas of tension so I don’t injure myself performing. A proper warm up would be great but usually there isn’t space or time to do one between everything else that needs to happen pre-show.
RMMW: Have you ever been creatively blocked? If yes, how did you overcome it?
ST: I’ve sometimes lost the enthusiasm or motivation with a creative project, usually in that time I just put the project down and come back to it a bit later. I’ve had things which I’ve put down for a few weeks or a few months at a time to come back and tinker with later.
RMMW: What was the first space you squeezed into as a contortionist?
ST: Oooh, tricky to say. I’ve been squeezing into small spaces for a long time. When I was 11 I put myself into my PE locker at school and there’s a picture of me about 13 being carried down the garden by my brothers in a closed BBQ box. Currently when I perform I have a metal trunk which I’ve been getting into for about 2 years now.
RMMW: What made you want to squeeze yourself into small spaces as a contortionist?
ST: I like the feeling of being in small spaces, but the desire to contort actually came about from pole dancing. In order to do certain moves like the spatchcock you need to be really flexible, so I developed my splits and backbends in pole class which later morphed into stretching as a job. Now I work with a company called Violet Streak’s Circus and a small performance group called The Dead Nymphettes.
RMMW: Please tell me a little bit about the ‘Circus of Horrors’.
ST: The Circus of Horrors is a UK-based circus that has been running for 25 years. It’s a variety show with acts from amazingly talented performers, with a story running through each touring show. It’s the brainchild of its ringmaster, Doktor Haze and features acrobats, aerial artists, sword swallowers, live musicians, and of course, contortionists!
RMMW: What did it mean to you to perform with ‘Circus of Horrors’?
ST: It was absolutely amazing. I started following the Circus of Horrors just as I was reinventing myself and running at life full tilt, so I just took every opportunity to go and see them. I made a super cautious enquiry in response to a Facebook ad asking for people to come and audition, and was signed up to a slot within a couple of days. I was so nervous the entire time, from driving to the audition to the morning after the show.
The cast were so kind to help me feel at home (plus they knew me from hanging around after the shows for the past 18 months!) and I watched the whole performance from the side of the stage when I wasn’t on. I got my performance name of Twisted Sarah at that show when Doktor Haze introduced me, and I’ve kept it from then.
So many of my friends turned up to support me which was really touching, and I’ve got much less nervous in all of my subsequent performances!
RMMW: One you complete your degree what specialty would you like to focus on?
ST: When I’m done I’ll be a Counselling Psychologist. I’m a bit undecided on where I’ll take that specifically. I think I’d like to work in a psychodynamic approach and in the NHS, but not sure what group I’ll work with as they’re all really interesting to me.
RMMW: What made you want to study Psychology in the first place?
ST: One of my brother’s friends worked as a psychiatric nurse for a few years and before then I’d never considered that mental health and psychology was an option. As soon as I started looking at it I fell in love and knew that whatever I did, I wanted it to be psychology. After not getting the highest grades at undergrad, I realised I couldn’t get onto a clinical psychology programme, and spent a few years wandering until I found out about counselling psychology which just clicked for me, did a masters just to get my grades up (accidentally falling in love with the complexities of research along the way) and now I’m just finishing up my first year of doctoral training. It’s been a tough road but I’m glad to be on it and nearing the end.
RMMW: Besides crocheting what else do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
ST: I’d say my heart belongs to knitting more than crochet, but I tend to really enjoy crafting in general, especially during lockdown. I’m a big lover of music, so in normal times I go to a lot of gigs, and I just formed a band but our first rehearsal got cancelled as the country locked down.
I train a lot of circus skills, mostly acrobatics and some other aerials. I’m learning to unicycle (poorly) and have been failing at juggling for a few years but getting there slowly, and stepping into unicycling and hula hooping. As soon as the lockdown is over I’m also going to start learning to sword swallow.
I also volunteer on the local committee for the British Psychological Society where I’m a chair for the branch, so that takes up a fair amount of time over the year.
Basically I do too much in my spare time!
RMMW: What do you think our world will look like from a clinical perspective once the lockdown is over?
ST: I hope that there will be a greater depth of understanding for the needs of others, and a greater flexibility in allowing people to work from home, as those infrastructures are now in place technologically as well as socially.
RMMW: If you could wave a magic wand, what positive changes would you make happen in your life?
ST: I feel like the changes I want in my own life are all achievable, if I want to have amazing skills as a musician or to be fluent in another language I only need to practice, it’s the changes in the world that I think would need a magic wand. If I had only one wish it would be to make the mental health system a simple, joined up system which is easy to access and understand. One day I hope to get there.
RMMW: If you had a superpower what would it be?
ST: My answer to this question has always been, and will always be, telekinesis. I want to move things with my mind, it’d be really cool! At least as a psychologist, I’ve already got the power to read minds.