Posted: 26 October 2023

Artist Spotlight: Writer & Theatre Maker, GULERAANA MIR

Photo by Greg Veit

Guleraana Mir is an award-winning writer, theatre maker and one half of The Thelmas, a female-led theatre company devoted to redressing the equality imbalance in the arts. She is passionate about telling authentic stories that celebrate not stereotype, and speak to complex social realities in a fresh and disruptive way.

A Tamasha Playwrights alumna, Guleraana specialises in developing new work through devising and writing with young people and community groups, and leads writing programmes for artists of all ages at a number of institutions.

How did you get into theatre? 

I studied English and Creative Studies at university and have an MA in Educational Theatre. I started off working in schools using theatre techniques to explore the curriculum. Then moved onto making theatre with community groups, and designing and delivering participatory projects.  

For years I focused on other people’s creativity and dismissed my own. It was only when someone gave me permission to tell the stories I didn’t think mattered did I start to take my own writing seriously.  

For those who don’t know, tell us about The Thelmas and how it all came about? 

The Thelmas was established by Maddy Moore (Artistic Director) in 2014 to commission women writers. Maddy successfully curated, directed and produced two iterations of Ladylogue – five one-woman plays (one of which I wrote COCONUT for), alongside developing a couple of other pieces. In 2106 she approached me to develop COCONUT into a full-length play. With support from Park Theatre and New Diorama we did just that, and the piece was then picked up by Ovalhouse. At this point I joined her to formally establish the company, taking the role of Executive Director.  

Since then, we have developed and produced a number of award-winning shows, run a successful womens‘ writer group, and worked with organisations to deliver artist-development workshops.  

What is the most challenging thing about being a creative freelancer and do you have any top-tips on how you deal with this? 

The most challenging thing for me is choosing, balancing, and managing my workload. I’m lucky enough to have a portfolio career; I write, run a company and often teach/deliver participatory projects – all of which fuel me in different way. The variety is exciting and overwhelming. A couple of years ago I developed criteria for saying yes to work. Before taking on a project I ask myself: 

  • Does this pay me enough (taking into consideration the timescale)? 
  • Will this creatively fulfil me?  
  • Will this further my career? 

A potential project must meet all three criteria for me to say yes. I don’t always get it right, but it has helped make it easier to say no…which as a recovering workaholic and people pleaser is kind of massive.  

Who were your creative inspirations growing up? 

I grew up with my head constantly in a book; reading is still my hyperfocus. Magic realism was my favourite genre, allowing me to make the most of my imagination. Salman Rushdie’s writing influenced me in the way I want to tell stories. As a teenager, music captured my emotions in a way that nothing else could. I was inspired by songwriters who wrote complex lyrics, and the women of the 90’s alt-scene. 

How do you let off steam? 

I tend to find stillness in movement, so I always turn to being active. Favourites include long walks in nature, lifting weights and climbing.  

What was the last play you saw recently? 

I confess, since returning from Edinburgh Fringe Festival I’ve barely been to the theatre. BUT I am just about to book to see Untitled F*ck Miss Saigon Play at Young Vic and Blue Mist at Royal Court. 

What’s a mantra you live by that you could pass on to our readers? 

“It doesn’t have to be right, it just has to be written.” Meaning you can’t develop an empty page, so just write something…you can focus on whether it’s any good once it’s out. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to do what you do? 

Define what success means to you, and then pursue that. Don’t do things, or apply to opportunities just because other people are. Don’t compare yourself, your art, or your journey to others. Be prepared for it to be HARD. Be prepared to hustle. And finally, enjoy every single moment of it. 

What’s coming up for Guleraana Mir in 2024?  

Unfortunately BBC’s DOCTORS got cancelled recently (I’ve written three episodes for the show), so once I’m done mourning that I will start actively pursuing other writing opportunities in TV. 

Fiza Comes Home – a piece of gig-theatre commissioned by Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch will have its production. 

The Thelmas will be touring Santi & Naz.

I’m writing and developing my first mainstage play I Am The Ghost Of Qandeel Baloch with an excellent team of artists (Beth Kapila & Samia Djilli). 

At some point I’ll sleep. 

Discover more about Guleraana Mir