Inspiring and Empowering Women: An interview with Jane Postlehwaite

Main photography by Andy Hollingworth and Richard Boll 2018

Main photography by Andy Hollingworth and Richard Boll 2018

Originally from Cumbria, Brighton Girl Jane Postlehwaite made a career change. Previously the social media officer for Brighton Council, she evaluated her life and decided to undertake an Acting Diploma at the age of 30.

“I had a dream when I was 29 (and wondering what I was doing with my life) that my Granddad was sat next to me in a theatre on the top seats. He said to me, ''What are you doing sat here? You should be down there.”  and he pointed to the stage. I took it as a sign and signed up for a local two week acting workshop. After that two weeks I was invited to audition for the two year diploma. Which I did, and I got in.”

During acting school there were no good parts for women, they built our hopes up, that we would leave and fall into roles, but the market is saturated.

“I fell into comedy by accident” Jane told me, her note keeping during acting class was where she would write silly events or the people who annoyed her.  She attended the ‘funny women’ workshop at Leicester square theatre and in six hours was back there to perform a five minute set.

At her comedy gigs, she could be playing in front of 90 people, or three men and a dog. “It really toughens you up.”

In 2014’s Brighton Fringe, Jane realised that comedy characters was her real love. In 2015, she stopped performing, after a bad break up with ‘the one’ and Anxiety and Depression, returning to the stage of Brighton Fringe to perform.

Her first solo show ‘made in Cumbria’ comprised of five interestingly layered, intelligent and dark female characters. She wrote the characters she wanted to play but was never cast as. It sold out, and after meeting with Jane it is clear why. Her dry wit, recognisable characters and comedy which is relatable and soul questioning at the same time.  

Main photography by Andy Hollingworth and Richard Boll 2018

Main photography by Andy Hollingworth and Richard Boll 2018

At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016 she was approached by Anna Morris, a London based comedian who asked to direct her next show. “She taught me about the industry, helped me with my script.” And in 2017 the hard work paid off when Jane quit the day job and focused on writing and her passion for comedy.

In July 2018 Jane was selected for the BBC New Comedy award heats 2018.

Main photography by Andy Hollingworth and Richard Boll 2018

Main photography by Andy Hollingworth and Richard Boll 2018

Characters are the focus of Jane’s performance. “It’s a way to play with different energies, and you can get away with a lot more!” Each of her characters are- sometimes without knowing at first- a little bit of her personality, with some based on her life and others not at all. Her character ‘Joy Hope’ is a children's author who hates children and people and doesn’t smile.

Talking about prejudice in comedy because of being a woman, it seems no career can escape the male ego. “When I did my first show, some of the male comedians were bitchy. It was petty. Sometimes at gigs they wouldn’t even look at me!”

Representation in comedy is also a huge hurdle we have yet to overcome. “It annoys me how many males are going around the world doing programmes. There definitely isn’t enough TV/ film female comedians.” But Jane doesn’t just complain about this, she is one of the few women who are actively trying to change the situation. “It drives me to do more.”

In 2019, Jane started the Cumbria school of comedy. She has designed workshops she wishes she had had when she was younger. Now 37 years old, she runs women’s comedy workshops for women who want to do comedy and/ or step out of their comfort zone. “Comedy gives me a release from dark thoughts, and inspires people to talk about it.”

For Jane, the workshops are a creation of a safe space, where women can come to a male free/ competitive free zone and walk away feeling happy and buzzing. “It’s a comedy vs Self help group. People keep in contact- when you find people who like the same thing as you do, it’s important to collaborate and share ideas.”

“I know I want to do comedy forever now I am comfortable in my own skin. I’ve been single for 3 years now and I don’t date anymore. I can’t be bothered. I believe bad things that happen, happen for a reason. I don’t care what other people think, and I trust my instincts. There is a lot of pressure to meet your life goals, but you can always change your mind when you find your calling.”

When I asked her what success looked like, Jane shared with me her goal to go to LA this year, build her podcast and be confident in writing scripts for radio and TV. “Ultimately, success for me is feeling happy and finding joy in things. It’s day to day. It’s not one thing, it’s the quality of your life.”

She co-hosts the Miraculous Cumbria Podcast with fellow comedian and writer Steph Bradshaw. The podcast involves the pair visiting Cumbrian Landmarks and places of interest then talking about them. You can find it here along with more information about Jane, her shows and comedy workshops-