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CONTRIBUTORS

EVERYONE HAS A STORY TO TELL

SPREADING LIFE'S JOY: JOY HOPWOOD

Samantha Wills

Joy Hopwood, writer and creator of The Wong Side Of Life - a play inspired by her mother's message of inclusion and acceptance.

Joy Hopwood, writer and creator of The Wong Side Of Life - a play inspired by her mother's message of inclusion and acceptance.

Over five years ago my mum died of bowel cancer.

I didn't know how to cope, so after her funeral, I booked a holiday to New York by myself. It was during this time that I found myself again and wanted to spread my mum's message about not judging anyone until you've walked in their shoes. A friend summed up her message - "the only time you should ever look down on a person, is to hold out your hand to help them up!"

In New York, I saw Avenue Q on Broadway, which inspired me to write The Wong Side of Life; a theatre play about The Wong Family (Wong being my mother's maiden name). It’s set in 2101, (with puppets who travel by jet pack) and it focuses on the life of Lin Wong who was bullied and a victim of racism. It was part autobiographical and it took only two days to write, non-stop.

In the story, Lin boyfriend's mum dies of bowel cancer, and just before she passes away she has a moment of realisation. She wishes she hadn’t judged people based on their social class, or race and says "The only time you should ever look down on a person is to hold their hand to help them up."

When I returned to Sydney, I contacted The Cancer Council NSW to let them know about my project, and that I wanted to produce it to raise money for them. They were so touched that they made me a Daffodil Day Ambassador that year.

The Wong Side of Life is now in schools and is part of the "Kindness is for Free" initiative (an anti-bullying and anti-racism initiative).

During this time, I also started the Joy House Film Festival at Hoyts Mandarin Chatswood, celebrating short films of Joy and diversity. We award prizes for best film, best youth film, best diversity film. (None of which would have been possible without the kindness and generosity of our sponsors.)

This year, I wrote a romantic comedy film titled, The Casting Game - produced by myself and Priya Roy, and directed by Pearl Tan. It's a modern-day Aussie Love Actually meets Muriel's Wedding romantic comedy with a diverse cast and a message of not judging people until you've walked in their shoes!

Connect with Joy on Instagram.