#SheInspires Emm Watkins

July 8, 2022

One of the breakout hits of this year’s Anywhere Festival was Emm Watkins sell out show, BAD LOVE. It’s a mixture of tragedy, musical and a whole lot of heart. BAD LOVE is one woman’s story of falling into and breaking free from bad love. She Society were privileged to attend the recent one night only encore performance of BAD LOVE. This enchanting and heartbreaking story was performed, produced and written by Emm Watkins.

After seeing the show and realising it was based on real experiences, I had to find out more. I met with Emm on a grey and drizzly day, at local café The Lodge, where we enjoyed exceptional lattes, warming pumpkin bread and a friendly chat. It was a fitting day as most of Emm’s story is set in Manchester, where it rains a lot and where something so simple as hanging out the washing , was one of the points of contention with her ex – husband. 

Emm’s tale is a cautionary one but one which many women experience. She has come out scarred and bruised, but through her music and finding her voice she has hope and light in her life once again. It is true that we are shaped by our experiences and through this one Emm has found a way to shine the light on domestic violence, and perhaps in turn help other women who find themselves in the same situation. 

Emm was not always a musician. At 27, she applied for a working visa to the United Kingdom, like many young Aussies before her. She knew one person in Manchester, so this was where she began her overseas adventure. Attending the local church she met a nice looking , blue eyed Englishman who charmed her with his accent. He just happened to ride the train to work with her every day and they became friends. It’s great to find a new friend when you are so far from home. 

Friendship blossomed into romance and after a whirlwind courtship he soon asked for her hand in marriage, despite them never having had sex. Emm thought he was such a gentleman. She cautions others to not have a short engagement. Get to know your partner first. 

Once they were married cracks began to appear. He became controlling. She didn’t cut an onion correctly. She wasn’t allowed to sing around the house and he began to take control of their finances. To the outside world he seemed like the perfect husband, but inside their home Emm was walking on eggshells. 

She secretly began going to counselling, where her counsellor advised that even though her husband was not physical with her it was still abuse. Did you know that it takes seven times trying to leave before most women actually leave their abuser? Seven times! During this time Emm began journaling and jotting down some words to songs. She never dreamed that they’d ever see the light of day. 

Finally, Emm left Manchester behind and moved to London, before making her way back home to Australia. She was staying with a friend in Brisbane, secretly singing in the shower. She’d found a new counsellor in Australia with whom she shared her words of lament.

“These are songs that need to be shared,” the counsellor said. 

Emm began working on her writing and voice, making new connections and developing ideas. She first thought about a multi media show combining art, film and music. A friend advised her to create a one woman show. She met collaborators, Helen Rae Glindemann who became her Musical Director and Lisa – Maree Southgate who came on as dramaturg and Director. Emm had the songs but now she had to write a script to go with it, adding another string to this talented woman’s arsenal. And at age 44, friends at the Anywhere Festival helped to give her a platform for this unique show, which is funny, poignant and at times heartbreaking. It was embraced by all. 

Emm’s own musical taste is eclectic. She loves Tori Amos, who is mentioned in the show, plus Sarah Blasko, Katie Noonan and George, Kate Bush and Jungle Giants. Asked about the future Emm revealed that she is working with several local musicians and hoping to record and release her original songs, especially the poignant Way Down. She’s still working hard on her voice and hoping to complete a novel and a fairytale. 

Most exciting of all Emm is also writing a new show on eating disorders, which sounds like another topic close to her heart. Music is like that, it can shed light on the most difficult topics in the loveliest of ways. You’ll be able to catch it at the Brisbane Festival. It’s called Glutton For Punishment: life, love & eating disorders. It follows on from her initial sell – out show, BAD LOVE. It’s a lighter mix of stand up and song. Emm reflects on life, love & eating disorders proving that you can win some and lose some and still be winsome. 

Emm knows that this is not the end of her story but just the beginning. Although it’s been hard she is one of the lucky ones, unlike women like Hannah Clarke. She knows that music is cathartic and a salve for the soul. If her bravery in sharing her own story can spark something in others, can educate and shine a light on domestic violence then it will be worth all the hard work, anxiety and worry and that is why #She Inspires.

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