Liz Bentley: creativity, therapy, laughs and anger


As part of her Guest Editorship on DAO, Dolly Sen talks to performer, writer, musician and therapist, Liz Bentley about her life and creative process.

Liz Bentley at a microphone

Liz Bentley performing

My name is Liz Bentley. I am female, 98% heterosexual, age 54.  I live in Peckham, born in Essex and didn’t escape home until I was 21.  I was diagnosed with MS when I was 23, was bulimic, took recreational drugs and alcohol daily and was highly promiscuous.  I was abused as a child.  I went into therapy then promptly trained to be a therapist and have been practising for 26 years, working privately, in the NHS, colleges etc.

I have managed my physical and mental health with creativity, psychotherapy, homoeopathy, sex, swimming like fuck and staying away from anyone who thinks they know what’s best for me.  I am now married after over 100 partners of some kind or another, (I’m blogging).  I have a son age 18 and a daughter age 12, I have two stepdaughters aged 12 and 14…Oh my god, next year that’s four teenagers in one open plan living space at Christmas! I hate Christmas.

I am also a writer, comedian, musician and poet. When I was 30 and settled into my first council flat, my psychotherapist told me about Morley College. I started acting and writing and wrote a novel.  A literary agent told me it was too personal and had too many descriptions of bodily functions for her taste and suggested it would work better as short stories, so I took her literally and made it into stories, reading out one at a spoken word open mic.

The audience laughed at what was deadly serious, upsetting stuff about a personal relationship. The applause over rid the sense of my trauma being publicly undermined and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to entertain others. This led to nearly two decades of 100’s of shows, performances, three published books and awards etc. I have performed at Southbank, London Literature Festival, National Theatre, Ledbury Poetry Festival, four Edinburgh Fringe shows (including one in the Fringe’s only swimming pool venue), Liberty, DaDafest and much more.

I create because it is an outlet for my extremely busy, sometimes confused, sometimes re-traumatized, sometimes too overly excited, too sexual mind. My thoughts can be pretty dark, and I have to find a way to channel them creatively as opposed to acting out in a destructive, self-sabotaging way.

Regarding the things I write and perform about, everything that is real to me and everything that has some sort of emotional impact – quite often anger.  I struggle so much dealing with anger in everyday life so writing it down and performing it with a massive passive aggressive smile on my face helps enormously.

Liz Bentley sitting on a couch

Liz Bentley

People inspire me, humanity and all that that entails. I would rather be in the big brother house than in a beautiful place alone. Anyone and everyone inspire me, from the Tesco Delivery Man (3 times this year it was a woman, mimics my sexuality I’ve just realised) to wondering about Hitler’s relationship with his mother or whether the Easyjet pilot is suicidal.  I am so curious about how our minds rumble on.  I went swimming today and spent most of the time wondering what the lifeguard was thinking about. It’s something I may write a story about.

And Freud inspires me. I love working with the unconscious and dreams.  Dreams are brilliant.  Last night I had sex with Andy Whitehead in a matchbox in the back of a scout van – that inspired me and will go in a story, if it hasn’t already. I think I’ve had the dream before!

I don’t get out much to see stuff, I need to, I want to more, but I guess anyone who keeps creating, keeps producing inspires me. Dolly, you inspire me.

Here are some short pieces. I literally just wrote the first one, the other two are published work, somewhere in my trilogy of poetry books.

Year 8 – On Sexuality

I’m bisexual

I’m hetero

I’m not as straight as a ruler


Separation and Anxiety

My washing machine caught on fire

I will never leave it on its own again


Fear of Rejection

He had an Irish accent

But I woke up with an American

Goodness only knows what the future holds. Everything I have just written about is now past and I would now answer the questions differently and decide that my new poem needs work on.

My son has just left for University in Falmouth and I feel like I have a little bit more space for creating.  Much has focused on the kids the last decade and the creative baton I have given to them is now coming back to me. I am excited that young people are seeing the world in a very different way that gives me hope for my own future. Young people are so out there, nothing seems “too personal” for their taste.

I want to publish more, I’d like to do more performing, but I am also content with getting to any/all audience just now.  You reading this, you have got this far to read about me.  Thank you, I hope it has been of interest, I truly appreciate it.  It keeps me going.  Another reason why I create.

Here is my website.