Work Hard

Charlotte Fisher chats performing, law and Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr

We caught up with the Yarm native and discovered how undiagnosed dyslexia fuelled her competitive creativity.

Written by High Life North
Published 01.04.2023

By Claudia Robinson

Charlotte Fisher is one of those people who pushes herself, and excels, at everything she does.

She loves to sing and perform, she’s a practising solicitor, a new mum and recently showcased her exceptional eye for stunning interior design (a self-taught hobby) on the hit BBC One programme, Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr.

Born and raised in Yarm, Charlotte attended Yarm Primary and Conyers and wanted to try everything when it came to extracurricular activities. She’s always loved to challenge herself, so was one of those kids that was swimming one day, dancing the next, and she enjoyed her school years.

She experienced barriers along the way and found she was always having to try harder than her counterparts – many years later, aged 23, she was diagnosed as dyslexic. It all, then, made sense.

“When I was younger, my spelling was so bad, but in the later years of primary school and into secondary, the focus in English was on creative writing,’ reflects Charlotte.

“The assumption was made that I was bad at English, and I started to fall behind. But as I continued up through the years and English became more about exploring and interpreting novels, rather than spelling and grammar, I came into my own and got an A* in the end.”

The legal eagle

Being a grafter and trying to excel at whatever she turns her hand to are two of Charlotte’s key traits.

From a working-class background, she was the first generation of her family to go to university. Charlotte read Law at Leeds University, still unaware of her dyslexia, and continued to find herself being slower than everyone else during her studies. But in true Charlotte-style, this only made her work harder and she attained a 2:1.

In the ‘90s, it was unusual to be tested for dyslexia at school.

“I just thought I was bad at spelling,” explains Charlotte. “And by the time I went to Uni, I was used to getting on with it and didn’t make excuses. I didn’t really know what a fast reading speed was. One time I wrote an essay and didn’t realise the spell checker was turned off. I wasn’t sure why I’d failed until I read through it and saw all the circled spelling mistakes – it was horrendous! I should have realised then, but dyslexia wasn’t on my radar.”

Once Charlotte completed her Law degree, you’d think that her next step would be to become a solicitor. But we’re forgetting that Charlotte loves to challenge herself and was always trying new activities whilst she was a child. During that time, she developed a love for dancing, singing and acting, and now she had a very respectable degree under her belt, she chose to pursue those passions.

The performer

A personality trait of dyslexia is creativity, of which Charlotte has bucket loads.

“My intention had always been to get qualified first, but once I left university I was accepted onto the post-graduate musical theatre course at Guildford School of Acting,” she explains.

“I’ve wanted to be in the West End since I was about four. But, quite rightly, my parents wanted me to gain qualifications in a discipline that would lead to an academic job, a degree that will be with you forever, and to do the creative training afterwards. Music and singing are a massive part of my life so I had to pursue them, with the intention always to go back to law.”

Charlotte finished the year-long course and attended lots of auditions before securing work as a singer in the show team on a cruise ship. For six months, she travelled on the ship, performing in mini musicals, before returning to the UK. She began to find it difficult to make ends meet as a performer in London and decided to do the practice course and qualify as a solicitor.

It was at this point that her tutor asked if she’d been tested for dyslexia and only then was it picked up.

“It all made sense”, says Charlotte. “But I wouldn’t change it, it’s made me who I am. I’ve developed self-coping mechanisms over the years, such as developing ways to improve my short-term memory, which is terrible. But I’ve adjusted and it’s made me have the robust personality that I have.”

Charlotte completed her Legal Practice Course and then secured a two-year training contract with a law firm in Guildford.

“That was really difficult to get,” she says. “It’s really competitive to get a training contract and I applied for loads. I specialised in employment law and, once I qualified, I stayed working at law firms for a while, before taking a job at Universal. I had clients working in the theatre and media industries, so it was the ideal job for me. I fitted in perfectly because of my musical background and because I’m not your typical lawyer, so my down-to-earth and relatable approach was well received.”

The designer

So, how did a qualified solicitor with a stint as a performer under her belt discover her penchant and skill for interior design?

And how did that lead to her becoming a contestant on Interior Design Masters?

“I wouldn’t ever call myself an interior designer,” Charlotte says. “Maybe now I’ve done the show I feel more qualified to say that! But I loved doing up my own home. I was putting things together and, when friends came to visit, they would always compliment my style and started asking for advice. I never really stepped back to look at what I’d done and think it was any good, until I began getting endorsement from other people.

“My friend saw an advert for the show and suggested I applied. I sent in some photos, did some interviews, and never thought I’d be chosen. I was very surprised when I was! But you should never say no to any opportunity.”

Charlotte would have a week before each episode to source materials and prepare, and then the following week they’d film the show. Charlotte’s employers supported her throughout the process, so she was able to continue juggling work and filming.

Just as Charlotte started working on the show, she discovered she was pregnant.

“It was a whirlwind,” she says. “I had just got my dream legal job and then spent my first trimester filming for a TV show!”

Charlotte made it to the end of the third episode of Interior Design Masters – no mean feat, when you consider she was competing against several professional interior designers.

“I was gutted about leaving after the hotel room challenge,” she says. “I was criticised previously for not doing enough and in this challenge thought I’d done enough to impress the judge, Michelle. I did two big builds (the wardrobe and the desk/vanity station), upholstered headboards and chairs, sourced a vintage chaise longue, made the curtains and even a decorative dressmaker’s dummy, which I named Michelle! Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

“But I enjoyed my time on the show. I’ve previously only really done my own homes and our holiday home property in Cornwall, so it was great to be provided with a budget and brief to work with. I had a taste of being a professional designer and I loved it!”

The mother 

Charlotte’s little boy, Elton, was born on 3rd February, and he had a difficult time.

Elton has a condition called OA/TOF (Oesophageal Atresia and Tracheo-Oesophageal Fistula), which means that the top of his oesophagus hadn’t formed properly, and the bottom had joined his windpipe.

“When he was born, we didn’t know. He struggled to breath for an hour and a half after he was delivered. It was very traumatic, and he had to have major surgery straight away.

“He was in ICU for just over two weeks; it was so good to finally take him home.”

The northerner

Charlotte lives with her husband Sam in Ashtead, Surrey, but explains that she misses the North so much.

“My sister also moved south for work, so our parents followed us,’ she tells us. “I don’t get back up North now as much as I would like.”

“There’s nowhere down south like Yarm. It’s got everything. I miss the pubs – there are so many of them in Yarm, in such a small area. I really miss the chicken parmos, too! And the people. It’s a cliché, but the bus drivers are so much more friendly up north! If you ask them anything down south, they just don’t speak. Back home, I’ve had many a free bus ride for not having the right change!

“The main difference is the sense of humour. Northerners are always joking and aren’t easily offended. Down here, people are great, but it’s a different sense of humour. As soon as you speak to a northerner in the south it’s like they’re an old friend. You instantly connect. I still have my accent. My best friend is from South Africa, and he’s picked up my accent now – people think he’s northern! I want to always keep my accent, it’s what make me, me.”

The future

With so many very different strings to her bow, what is it that Charlotte wants to do next?

“I do love my job. I’m currently on maternity leave and am loving being a mum. I’d love to do some presenting, perhaps marry up my acting and interior design experience.

“And I’ll always sing. I’m part of an Amateur Dramatics Society and record music at home, too. I enjoy doing covers and have written some of my own songs. I never get bored. You shouldn’t have to just do one thing – do whatever comes your way. Life’s too short, so do whatever makes you happy!”

Charlotte’s interior design tips

  • Pinterest is your friend!

When we bought our first place in 2015, we moved in and the décor was awful so I had to sort it out straightaway! I discovered Pinterest for the first time and it’s a really good tool to use, with so many ideas. It’s like a free magazine!

  • It’s easy to save money…

We have a stunning oak fire surround in our current house which cost me £30 on eBay. It looks really expensive. Shop around and find items you can repurpose for next to nothing.

  • Read for inspiration…

Buy interiors magazines and look online. You can consciously absorb other people’s designs for inspiration.

  • Use a colour wheel…

Find one on the internet. Use colours on opposite ends of the colour wheel and they’ll work together. I have a dark teal lounge with bright pink accessories. If you don’t have a good eye for colour, you’ll find a colour wheel a godsend.

  • Don’t be afraid to do things yourself…

When I started decorating my own house, I’d never wallpapered before. But you learn as you go along. When people paint, they often think it looks patchy, but others don’t notice – it’s only because they’ve done it. And research good paint brands, they’re not necessarily the expensive ones.

To find out more about Charlotte’s work, visit her website

And for oodles of style inspo, follow Charlotte on Instagram

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