Secret Diaries

Set to a soundtrack of 80s and 90s guilty pleasures, laugh, love and re-capture your youth with this honest look at the world through the eyes of a queer teenager

Project history

In 2012 writer Sarah Emmott was given 10 years of real life diaries by a friend, which inspired her to write The Secret Diaries of a Teenage Queer, a play about a young lesbian growing up in the 80s and 90s. Candid, poignant and very funny, Emmotts’ play guides us through the landmines of adolescence, capturing the complexity and hilarity of teenage years, whilst following Hayley’s journey into adulthood.

Secret Diaries challenged the status quo by having a young, female lesbian as the central protagonist, which was unheard of back in 2012. The play was a hit with audiences and critics alike and won the ‘Co-operative Respect Award’ for Theatre Production of the Year as voted for by the public, beating West End hits such as Wicked! The play also received attention across the Atlantic when it was featured on the home page of GLAAD award-winning LBGTQIA+ blog Autostraddle.


Best days of your life. Right?

Declaring war on the girl stealing your best friend, striking a pose to Vogue, realising you’re gay and falling in love, facing rejection. But one day you’ll be happy in your own skin, laughing about pouring your heart onto a tear-stained page. Maybe…

As the Iron Lady stands and Iron Curtain falls, Hayley, her Dad and best friend Debbie struggle to find their way in an ever-changing world. To build a future, they must unpack their past. Papering over the cracks, uncovering secrets and lies, they find that the hardest box to open, is your own.

Secret Diaries charts the big stuff in life from teenage years to present day. Set to a soundtrack of 80s and 90s guilty pleasures, laugh, love and re-capture your youth with this honest look at the world through teenage eyes.

An actor in Secret Diaries holding a radio and shouting, the stage is decorated in 90s posters

Education & participation

Secret Diaries had a strong educational package born out of a need for open, safe and eloquent dialogue around issues of homophobia. It was informed by recent research conducted by Stonewall and the LGBT Foundation and aimed at Key Stage 4 and 5 pupils.

Post-performance workshop

Our post-performance workshop was compulsory for all youth audiences and was created in consultation with young people in a school and at an LGBT youth centre. The workshop opened up dialogues between young people, their peers and adults by creating a safe and inclusive space to explore. For none schools performances we provided a post-performance Q&A.

Education Pack

We provided an education pack containing pre- and post-performance lesson plans and activities to assist teachers and youth workers in exploring the plays themes.

Teacher Training

We partnered with Educate and Celebrate and The Proud Trust to deliver teacher training days in Manchester and London on ‘Making your school LGBT+ Inclusive’.

BSL Interpretation

Secret Diaries toured with British Sign Language Interpreter, Rachel Moffatt Feldman.

Two actors on stage in Secret Diaries

With thanks

Touring Team

Writer: Sarah Emmott (née Evans)

Director: Rachel Moorhouse

Dramaturg: Chris Cooper

Hayley: Sarah Emmott

Debbie: Catherine Pugh

Dad: Michael Forrest

BSL Interpreter: Rachel Moffatt-Feldman

Production Manager: Richard Walker

Production Design: Lynsey Akehurst/Richard Walker

Main Image: Nathan McDowell

Production Images: Sam Ryley

Education Pack Design: Tamzin Forster

Our national tour was developed with New Wolsey Theatre and supported by Contactand The Lowry. Funded by Arts Council England, The Granada Foundation, and Equity Foundation and our Kickstarter backers. Supported by The Proud Trust, Educate and Celebrate, Genie Networks and Big Brum Theatre in Education CompanyDevelopment funded by Arts Council England, Manchester Pride, Taurus, The Co-operative, RBS and The Proud Trust. Special thanks to Jennifer Jordan-O’Neill for early development and collaboration.