Sam Shakes was born 25th January 1972 in Hackney Hospital, London. Her father was a Jamaican who established himself as a self-employed interior decorator. Her mother was a Montserratian who worked as an office administrator for various companies.
Sam started her education at London Fields Primary School were her writing skills and imagination were discovered.
‘I loved listening to stories and making them up. Stories were out this world and anything could happen – that’s what I liked about stories.’
Her education continued at Kingsland School where she left with just two decent graded GCSE’s. Her father encouraged her to re-sit her exams at Sir George Monoux College to improve her results, but she left with the similar low graded outcomes
At the age of 16, Sam started writing journals.
‘There was something about the importance of documenting the experience of Life.’
During her time at college she worked as a Transport Assistant for the same company her mother worked for, helping with administration.
When college was over, keen to explore the world beyond the limitations of education she began to work fulltime at the company. She worked there for four years. She then went on to work as an Order Clerk for a stationary company for five years.
Sam began to realise the lack of creativity within the mundane office world, and the importance of earning money to acquire a so-called ‘better life’ by material goods was no longer a value. Upon this realisation, she considered it worthy to return to education, with the plan of becoming an English teacher. Thus, she pursed an Access course in Humanities, at Waltham Forest College. This led to her beginning an English Literature degree, at Middlesex University in September 1997.
At the beginning of her second year (October 1998) she was hit with raging Ulcerative Colitis and was admitted to hospital. She struggled to take the prescribed medication and be well, but ended up having her colon removed in November 1998, resulting in the formation of a stoma. This was the start of a new life.
The experience led her to realise how fragile our health was, but more importantly how we treat each other in the face of trauma and struggle. She felt humanity was screaming out for attention.
Sam’s first publication ‘Then Life Took Control: A journal from Sickness to Wellbeing’ was published in 2010. It is a three part journal for 1998 – 1999 – 2000 that reveals her steps to dis-ease and wellbeing. Reviewed in 2012, it received four out of five stars as recommended reading from the Nursing Standards.
In 2014 Sam wrote ‘The Happy Man who refused Love and Help: Are you capable of murder?’ that is based on an altercation with a former partner. The intensity of anger during the explosion spurred a realisation of how the suppression of emotions can possibly led to the heinous act of murder.
‘The Woman with a Fish in her Head: An Alcoholic or Worrier’ was published in 2016. Disturbed by the public’s response to people using alcohol (especially rough sleepers), Sam wrote this as a response to normalise the action of alcoholism, by demonstrating how ‘decent’ people can abuse alcohol. Unconsciously, it was a tale of herself, that was realised after publication.
Sam’s love of listening to stories from all, led her to publish her niece’s (Sade Oladejo)story ‘Sam Elbow – Naughty!’ Hearing wisdom from her four year old niece, Sam felt compelled to assist Sade to write her story that was published 2017. It is a tale that has touched the hearts and enlightened many children, as well as adults.
Sam wrote her first script ‘Loving and Serving each other: A monologue’ for a Community Project in 2017. This script was written to improve relationships between organised religions and to promote understanding and co-existence. Her performance via a series of drama sketches received positive feedback with the recommendation to take the sketch into schools.
In 2017 Sam established ‘Writing about Grief – Writing for Relief: A writers group’ at St. Joseph’s Hospice for bereaved people, patients and staff. Grief stricken, compelled her to create this group after the sudden death of her former partner Philip Morgan (1965 – 2017). Writing out her thoughts and memories proved to be one of her saviours, and she wanted to offer this rescuer to others.
‘I wanted to share the benefits of writing to help people grieve, create new relationships and appreciate a new and different life for themselves after losing someone.’
In 2012 Sam worked with Kindred Minds (MIND) facilitating a mental health support group. She included Creative Writing to encourage people to identify their ‘unhelpful’ and ‘helpful’ behaviours; and to explore their creativity through story-telling, poetry and prose.
‘With writing we can set free our authentic selves. Even when we write something that is supposedly not about us, unconsciously we are revealing ourselves, because we created it. And, there is often an instantaneous relief after writing, such is the power of this ‘therapy.’