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2 Years On: How This Website Changed My Life

All That Dazzles is 2 years old today! As we enter the terrible two's (expect moodswings and tantrums but what's new there?) I wanted to look back at the last 2 years and why a seemingly impulsive moment has led to a complete change in my life. Forgive me if this is a bit self-indulgent but I wanted to write from the heart. I'll be back to posting puns about Cock and using ridiculously excessive but amazing hyperlatives to describe anything and everything immediately after, don't worry.

April 21st 2020.

We were one month into the first lockdown and it is safe to say I was not in a good place. Too anxious to leave the house, lonely with my mental health spiralling. I always knew how much I loved theatre and how important it was to me - what I never realised was how integral it was to my mental health. One month without it and it was a dark and depressing time in my head.

I needed to do something to snap myself out of this funk (I said funk, don't worry. I'm still trying not to swear on the website - which anyone who has met me in person will testify is an achievement in itself) and the idea of a website bounced around in my head. For years people had told me I should write - probably down to the conversations I'd have after seeing a show that went something like this:

Me: What did you think? Them: I liked it. How about you? Me: *lists details of every cast member and production element for 10 minutes*

They probably encouraged me to write to save themselves from having to hear it every time. But I always protested wondering who on Earth would care what I had to say? That probably comes from a confidence and self-worth issue but that's a story for another time.

The catalyst to actually try and do something came from conversations from two of my friends (Sam and Zack) at the same time unbeknownst to either of them. Zack, in his life-coaching wisdom uttered the immortal words "What you do now will shape your narrative. I encourage you - do something you can be proud of of" while Sam had been pushing me for years to do something like this. I had also sent a message to a theatre blogger a week earlier (who I am now proud to call a friend) to applaud him for standing up to a certain bully who shall remain nameless. In the conversation, I'd commented that I was just a theatre lover but would have done the same thing if I had a website. That put the idea in my head that maybe I should do something. Something positive to counter the negativity that was being put out there by this loathsome character who seemed to enjoy spreading misery in the theatre community.

Between all of this, I decided I had to do something. And this was the tweet that started it all:

And All That Dazzles was born.

Ok, technically I came up with the name All That Dazzles in 2010 with the idea of making a trashy celebrity gossip website (I was a very different person back then, don't judge me) but after an introduction post, I never stuck with it.

People actually think All That Dazzles is a play on two song titles from Chicago (All That Jazz/Razzle Dazzle) but the truth is, I was never a big fan of the show. I did like it when i saw it on tour last month though now that Gemma Collins is going in it, who even knows how I feel?

All That Dazzles was just a play on my name being Daz and Dazzle being my nickname, but you all know how much I love a pun so the Chicago story is better.

Things moved very quickly after I posted that tweet. My friend Paul offered to help me and built the website that same night, creating the logo that I am still using 2 years later.

April 22nd 2020.

The next day, I started writing and created my first post "The Joy Of The Theatre" (Don't judge me. I was very young. Ok, not that young but young in terms of writing). I didn't know where to go from there so just shared it on social media, creating the twitter account which has gone on to make people groan with my terrible puns and unrivaled excitement.

Since then, things grew beyond my wildest dreams. I've been given opportunities I could never have imagined and had multiple pinch me moments - I still find it bizarre that people I have spent years respecting and admiring know who I am, let alone like me for what I do. It's not without its challenges though - you will always find me at a press night fighting a constant battle against imposter syndrome, and there is still the challenge of trying to be taken seriously in an industry that at times feels reluctant to change, reduceing bloggers as "less thans" or, in extreme cases, "seals".

There are a couple of aspects of creating the website that have changed my life for the better substantially. I've had the opportunity to see shows that I never would have been able to otherwise, broadened my own theatre taste and found a deeper appreciation for every aspect of theatre. My favourite aspect though has to be the stagey community. Before the website, I used to sit in the theatre envious of people that had stagey friends. Now, my life has been transformed and I can count some of my stagey friends I have met from creating this website as some of the greatest people I have ever met - one of whom has become so close to me, I couldn't have got through a difficult time recently without. Never underestimate the power of theatre as it can impact your life in many different ways, some of them unexpectedly.

So why have I written this rambling mess? I wanted to acknowledge everything I have been through over the past 2 years. In fact, everything we have ALL been through. The person I was 2 years ago is not the same person I am now and I cite the website and everything that has come from it as the sole reason for this. Be it my job, relationship or general personality - everything has changed for me in the last 2 years - and let's not even talk about my dress sense and the ridiculous things you'll regularly catch me wearing to the theatre. Perhaps I struggled to find who I was before but now I have a confident sense of identity and for the first time ever I know where my life is going.

Theatre means the world to me and to be able to do something that contributes to the industry in some small way is the most rewarding and satisfying feeling. My heart leaps whenever anybody tells me they liked a review of mine or that it inspired them to buy tickets. I've always had a great love and passion for all things theatre and to have an outlet to be able to share that with the world has completely enriched my life.

I do wish I'd started the website sooner than 2 years ago but perhaps it wouldn't have worked then? Whether I wasn't ready, didn't know my own voice or maybe theatre wasn't ready for me? Who can say? One thing I can say for certain is I'm extremely proud of this website and what I have done with it. I have never been someone who has seen any project through - even when i first started this, I expected I'd get bored and give it up fairly quickly. Over 500 articles including over 200 reviews later and it's still going strong... to my own amazement! Whenever any of my quotes or star ratings make posters or adverts for any show, I still find it hard to believe. Being associated with such amazing shows in even the smallest of ways really does make my heart soar.

I have spoken to people recently who have been in the position I was 2 years ago - they have wanted to start their own theatre blog, or something completely new not related to theatre. There is always this sense of trepidation about doing something new or different. It's risky, it's dangerous, it might not work. I would encourage everyone to do it - you never know what you might achieve and more importantly, what you might be missing out on? You never know. Your whole life might change.

I want to thank everybody that has taken a chance on me, stood by me, stood up for it, supported me and just read any of my weird posts over the past 2 years. PRs, performers, press and anyone I've got to speak to in person or online. I honestly can't tell you how much I needed this website and how thankful I am for it and everybody who reads any aspect of it - be it articles, tweets or terrible puns. All I wanted to do was spread a bit of positivity and make people laugh, even if it's at me with my awful jokes (the phrase beating a dead horse is used about me constantly... though I draw the line at doing that).

I have countless ideas for the future, whether any of them come into fruition is anyone's guess but I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing for the last two years and hope it can make a positive difference in some small way. I hope that I've managed to bring some joy in to your life over the last 2 years. I look forward to seeing what the next 2 years bring.



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