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‘I was at rock bottom’: Dundee mum who battled substance abuse said theatre saved her life

Dundee single mum community wardrobe
Jade Anderson, 32, is joining Dundee Community Wardrobe as part of a 6 month placement with Creative Dundee. Gareth Jennings/DCT Media

A Dundee mum who called theatre her “lifeline” after hitting rock bottom when she struggled with substance abuse, is giving back to the community with a charity project.

Jade Anderson, 32, will be lending her expertise to the community wardrobe for six-months as part of Creative Dundee’s CULTIVATE programme.

Jade, who until a few years ago was studying for a law degree, said joining the theatre changed her life.

“When I started at the theatre I was pretty much at rock bottom,” Jade explained

“I had depression and anxiety that wasn’t diagnosed.

“And I was working at a job I hated where they took advantage of me.

“I was only supposed to be on a 24 hour contract and I was doing around 45 hours.

Dundee single mum community wardrobe
Jade said that joining the theatre offered her a life line. Gareth Jennings/DCT Media

“I was in so much debt, with creditors and landlords. It got to the point where I just completely shut down and I couldn’t leave the house.

“My son, who I had at 18, was only two at the time. I couldn’t even speak to him to tell him why I couldn’t talk to him.

“How do you even explain that to a two year old?

“I know now that it stemmed from a lot of trauma that I wasn’t acknowledging.

“Before I was handling that with alcohol and other substances – vices that were definitely just making things worse.”

Climbing out of rock bottom

An opportunity for a five week placement at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland put Jade on the path to turning her life around.

“There was one part of the course where our tutor Lorna Penny taught us how to deal with being an actor”, she explained.

Jade switched her degree from law to theatre. Supplied

“How to protect yourself and look after yourself while you were performing.

“And it was like she hit on something and I remember going home after that five weeks and changed everything.

“I got out of the abusive relationship I was in, I left the job I was in, I changed careers – before then I was studying to being a lawyer.

“I was close to getting my bachelors in law and ended up dropping out and completely changing, going back to square one and doing an HND in acting.”

Joining the theatre

It was a surprise for everyone who knew Jade – including herself – who said she had never even seen a panto before the age of 21.

“The first time I went to the theatre, I felt uncomfortable and out of place”, she recalled. “I had always felt like it wasn’t for people like me.”

However, as the final curtain fell on a performance of Equus, Jade was hooked.

“It just blew my mind”, she said.

“I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t been to see anything before and I really loved it.

“I ended up getting involved in an amateur dramatics company, and kind of just stumbled into it.

Jade said that theatre was her lifeline. Supplied

“From there I joined the Reps community company and they were putting on a huge production and met someone who recommended me for a position at the drama therapy group they were running.”

But her real turning point came at a party while working at Dundee Rep.

Jade said: “I remember once I was at a staff party and I got so drunk but I was also on new medication so everything was just reacting badly.

“I just remember thinking this is the place you want to be for the rest of your life, and you’re showing yourself up.

“That was the moment where I realised this needed to stop. I’ve been clean and sober for five years now.”

Working with the community wardrobe

Now, Jade is ready to share her life experience with the community wardrobe.

The Gate Church Carbon Saving Project launched the community wardrobe in 2020.

It aims to reduce Dundee’s carbon footprint by encouraging people to exchange clothes for free, tackling the fast fashion industry.

Jade said she really connected with the project, after feeling pressure to always have the best clothes in high school.

She said: “There was always this focus on having labels, it was so important.

“It just made life much more difficult than it had to be because we didn’t really have money.

Dundee single mum community wardrobe
Jade hopes that she can remove the stigma of second hand clothes. Gareth Jennings/DCT Media

“It was the same for everybody that I grew up around. I grew up in the schemes and it was rough going – no one had money.

“But they still went out their way and got in debt to ensure that their children wore labels.

“I found it really detrimental to myself when I was in high school – it’s like that became more important than anything else.

“So when they said they wanted to remove the stigma of second-hand clothing and taking stuff for free, I thought it was so important.”

Sharing skills with the community

Jade hopes her passion for reusing and recycling will help more people use the community wardrobe.

She hopes to set up a pop-up in the Wellgate, saying: “They’re quite far away on Perth Road.

“So I said well if you were in the Wellgate and had a pop up and ran these workshops to help people just to get basic skills like sewing and mending and all that stuff, more people would use it and know about it.”

Community wardrobe Dundee
The community wardrobe aims to end the stigma of second hand clothes. Paul Reid/ DCT Media

Creative Dundee loved the idea so much, that just one hour after the interview, Jade was told she got the job.

She will join five others who start a six-month placement across Tayside as part of CULTIVATE.

Claire Dufour of Creative Dundee said: “We’re delighted to join forces with these brilliant talents.

“CULTIVATE will offer them brilliant opportunities to explore how their creative skills can be harnessed for the benefit of our communities, in face of the climate emergency.

“The Tay region is so diverse, geographically, socially and economically, and CULTIVATE will also enable regional learning and sharing around being a sustainable place to live, work, play and visit.”