14 October 2022
Sydenham High School was delighted to welcome back alumna, Marie-Claire Amuah, to speak to Years 10-13 about her journey from Sydenham High School to becoming a barrister and published author. Her pleasure at being back was clear to see – especially when she recognised a teacher from her time at school! She commented that she was very envious of those currently going through their time at Sydenham High and how key the friendships that she made at school still are to her.
“Be present and understand how fortunate you are to be in this space, together. I didn’t appreciate at the time the incredible foundation that this school gives you. Take every opportunity”.
Despite putting a lot of pressure on herself as an ‘academic’ pupil, and being diagnosed with the rare and debilitating Myasthenia Gravis whilst at school, she commented on how much she appreciated the love for her subjects that was instilled by staff, as well as skills such as the shorthand she learnt in History which she still uses in court today.
Following her degree in English and French at Nottingham University, Marie-Claire was called to the Bar, where she now specialises in fraud, bribery and corruption. She put to good use her advocacy skills and described the physically and mentally demanding job of a barrister and the tools she uses to overcome internal worries or stress to complete her performance in court.
Marie-Claire had always enjoyed reading and writing and was lucky enough to able to take two months out from her busy working life to spend some time in Ireland and let her creativity – of which she felt she had none previously – flow. Once she started writing, she found that she couldn’t stop and the pen and paper were cast aside in favour of her laptop, where she completed 54,000 words during her time away! Following an online search of ‘how to publish a book’, an agent and publisher came in quick succession and her novel One for Sorrow, Two for Joy was in print!
The idea of friendship plays important part in her novel, as does the importance of recognising when your mental health isn’t optimal and the undulating journey to finding and accepting help. It is a story of learning how to heal and feel whole against the background of trauma and delves into the importance of friendship, resilience and hope.
As well as her legal and literary work, Marie-Claire is also a Trustee of the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton – which she highly recommends for those yet to visit! She detailed its history, deriving from the growing frustrations around the treatment of the Black community in the 1980s and the framework of the History curriculum lacking role models and history from the Black perspective. BCA was created to encourage a sense of pride, to collect, preserve and celebrate African and Caribbean heritage, sharing Black history through the Black voice.
Marie-Claire ended by explaining what Black History Month means to her – the importance of celebrating hearing Black voices and experiences so it’s no longer novel and how proud she is to be one of those voices. An informative Q&A session followed, with pupils staying after the session to continue their discussion on topics such as confronting discrimination in the workplace, the challenges of the legal profession, her writing process, which authors inspired her, her favourite aspects of British Ghanaian culture and how key it is to be confident, authentic and believe in your right to be there.