Hi my name is Morag Livingstone and I used to work in an office. I had a long held dream. A dream that I ignored for a long time. The diary of my 14 year old self found by my much older self reminded me of that dream - I wanted to be a journalist and film maker when I grew up. The diary of my 16 year old self told a different story - that I wanted to be a business person, like Rupert Murdoch or, Trump (seriously, don’t blame me, I was a teenager … in my defence the older me just winced as I typed those two names).
So what happened to make me change my career choice? The news is what happened - a year long strike of the print workers at News International (Wapping) 1986/7 and the Miners strike of 1984/5. What I saw on the TV changed my want. A business person at the top of the chain was a better aspiration, more secure and made sure I’d “fit in”. Knowledge shapes views. Thatcher’s Britain. That is who I was for the next 20 plus years. I loved many of the people I worked with, still do. I loved the jobs I had. I was writing contracts and bids, negotiating. We worked and played hard. It brought me to London, I lived and worked in Zambia. I travelled. I bought a house. The money was more than enough. But it wasn’t enough in other ways. Throughout this time I forgot the dreams of my 14 year old self. Still something drew me to journalism, photojournalism and storytelling. I regularly bought newspapers and read them cover to cover, preferring to stay in on a Sunday and go though them all. I savoured and devoured the photographs and the words on the page. I still didn’t remember my dream. At work I did a really good job, but I felt like I was a square peg in a round hole.
In 2005, I was involved in closing a big deal for the company I worked for - it was much celebrated, and we went to the pub after. Someone, meaning it as a complement, told me I was “like part of the furniture - always there”. I was 34 and I didn’t want to be furniture. I resigned within the week. Many, except a few close friends, were surprised. I went back to University to study an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography. It wasn’t easy moving from corporate to creative. I cried. A lot. I am truly lucky to have done that course. I wasn’t the best photographer, but the tutors I had encouraged me, challenged me, helped me find my passion. Having worked in business also gave me a grounding, that too had taught me much, not least the basis of how corporations work. That knowledge informs the methodology in the research for my investigations.
In 2015 I was half way though making my first feature documentary (Belonging The Truth Behind the Headlines) I was broke, feeling useless and wondering how I could bail - but knowing I couldn’t because of the responsibility towards those I’d interviewed. To avoid what I was meant to be doing - editing the film - I decided to clear out the attic. I found the diaries of my 14 and 16 year old self. I read them and wept. I cried for the lost time, for not doing what I really wanted to do from the beginning, for trying to fit in. But then again I had a great time, met some fantastic people who I am still friends with today and, if I hadn’t been in business, if I hadn’t worked in the oil industry, I wouldn’t have been inspired to make Belonging The Truth Behind the Headlines, so if I had my time again, I wouldn’t change it - but that’s another story.
In the decade since I got my MA, I have been published in newspapers, made numerous short films, helped shape government policy and co-written two best selling books. People have written about my work (good) and me (weird). More recently I launched my feature documentary about where power lies (in both senses of the word) - the response has been incredible. The film has blown all expectations out of the water and won a number of awards, over a year since launch people are booking it for community screenings. I started living the dream. In theory at least. It is not always a dream. Sometimes it’s tough. Really tough. People think I know what I am doing. But often I am just like many others, I don’t, I make mistakes, big ones - but I do give it a go, and I learn, and with some hard work from me and many and a lot of support from friends and family - we get there.
What I do know is that I would not be where I am I without those who have been through real crap in their lives, crap they didn’t ask for, survived and then are still willing to trust me with their stories. Sometimes when they have refused to speak to anyone else. I hope I never forget that. The responsibility I feel to them can be overwhelming, but then I go for a walk and remember, it is they who lived through adversity, they who had the strength to come through it. They are the brave people of the world, they are the ones that stand up when it counts - often to great personal cost. I am lucky enough to be their story teller, they trust me. My bad days are not a patch on theirs. I can not express my admiration for them enough - to go through all that and then be willing to put your face on screen, or on a page so others can understand about the workings of the world, and hopefully learn from it. It’s humbling. Meeting and knowing them, finding the truth, reinforces my admiration for them as people. They show us what it is to fight for better. By telling their stories they teach us, me, what better is. That is something I aspire to be. My stories take time so I get to know them and it is here that I find that I don’t have the words to express my respect for them properly.
So while we need less adversity and we need those in power to do their jobs better - we also need more bravery in the world. We also need more people willing to write and publish the often untold stories of our time - and on that, and until monolithic media structures change to allow truth (not balance) in media - thank goodness for the internet.
This blog - serious and independent journalism with a peek into the trails and tribulations as well as the motivations and joy of how it all happens …Oh, and I’ve just moved from London to Scotland. Anotehr dream come true - Im living by the sea.