Happy Days here again...

Gillian Hesketh who runs Happy Days creative resources
Gillian Hesketh who runs Happy Days creative resources
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Little Boots has some seriously big shoes to fill.

Not that Gillian Hesketh of Little Thornton trades on being mother to English electro pop vamp Victoria – aka Little Boots.

It’s only when you glance at the walls of the family home a familiar face appears amidst the other portraits. Isn’t that...?

Yes. She paid a flying visit home the other day to sit in companionable silence with mum Gillian, working on her new business Happy Days Publishing while Victoria treated Twitter followers to a track Motorway from her second album Nocturnes – which is due out in May. Little Boots has also offered to promote it at Blackpool’s branch of HMV – so long as it stays open.

Victoria’s own secret angel is her mum because Gillian’s creativity knows no bounds either. Gillian’s a writer who has had to overcome dyslexic tendencies to live her dream. “I used to draw and think in shapes,” she recalls. “I was always making clothes and collages.”

She became a wedding dress designer. Today she wears glasses with coloured lenses to overcome word blindness. “I left school with few qualifications. I knew I’d been let down by the system so wanted to prove something to myself.”

Both sides of the family are in business. “We’re all workaholics. When you’ve got four kids you’ve no choice but to work hard.”

Gillian now has a BA Hons English Lit and Linguistics at university-linked Blackpool and The Fylde College and a Masters in Creative Writing under her belt. The PhD is on ice while she grows her business, creative writing, drawing and interactive resources. “It takes every waking minute. I’m fortunate my husband is a golfer!”

Gillian also writes poems, short stories, novels and plays. She hopes to present her one-act diet club-based black comedy No Fat in Champagne as a charity fundraiser.

She provides “tool kits” for care homes too. Happy Days Memory Boxes can be filled with pictures and items of particular significance for an individual. Or built in partnership – a younger carer slotting each element of the memory jigsaw into place so that others can see the bigger picture.

Gillian’s memory “joggers” include wash day pegs, ribbons, cotton reels. Simple but effective in the right hands, the right carer, health professional, teacher or mentor. Other aids include carbolic soap, coupons, saving stamps, ration books, snapshots of bygone Blackpool, music, more.

All can be a diversion from dementia – providing stimulus and something to sort. They can spark memories and bridge the gap between Alzheimer’s and our world. Gillian’s own memories kickstarted creative writing. “You can re-look and re-learn from the past, it can free you if you feel locked into a situation.”

For the last 18 months, often working till dawn, Gillian has produced colourful creative interactive cards, boxes, picture bingo and resources spanning the age and need spectrum of potential new customers to www.happydayspublishing.co.uk. The title was suggested by her own mum, 86. “I told her what it was all about and she came right back with the most perfect name.” Her work extends to younger people. Disturbed by the riots of 2011 Gillian delved in troubled family units and specialist fields to explore how early intervention could help. Her interactive workbooks with their sensitive text and themed images already make a difference in one Wyre school – and now she’s hoping Blackpool and Fylde may follow suit. “I think looking at recent headlines schools – and pupils – need all the help they can get,” she admits. “But I need to get a foot in the door, reach the right people.”

While we can’t identify the Wyre school involved in the pilot scheme the head teacher there praises the “emotional literacy” of Happy Days Publishing for assisting pupils who “face challenges with emotional wellbeing and behaviour.”

Blackpool Carers Centre has snapped up the idea. Michelle Smith, chief executive of Blackpool Carers Centre, who went to Elmslie School, now closed, with Gillian, explains: “Gillian has provided superb workbooks to help our carers. She is passionate about providing top quality products and offers a friendly, flexible and creative approach from start to completion.”

Like her daughter, Gillian uses social media to spread the word, but also favours direct action. Memory boxes are in the post to Esther Rantzen, Fiona Phillips and Hilary (Dragon’s Den) Devey. Another’s earmarked for Carrie Longton, co-founder of online phenomenon Mumsnet, and recently listed by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour as the seventh most powerful woman in Britain – four places ahead of JK Rowling. Carrie also wento to Elmslie independent girls school. “There must have been something in the air there,” Gillian concludes.

* Follow Gillian on Twitter @HappyDaysPages, Facebook at Happy Days Publishing, or email her at happydayspublishing@yahoo.co.uk.