In this regular Sunday feature, we ask people for 10 things that changed their life. This week, actor, director and musician Cora Bissett.

1. Johnny Cash at Glastonbury

The National:

I DIDN’T have a ticket but I got in under a hole under a fence. I had imagined this moss-covered corrugatediron tunnel, but no, we met this guy who took our money and led us to this hole about 50 centimetres deep.

You had to lie down on your belly. It was like a dog had dug it up. It was a Sunday morning and I had lost all my pals. I was in my wee tent and thought: “Oh well, I guess I will just have to make the most of it on my own.”

It was a gorgeous, sunny Sunday morning and it was almost like a religious thing.

My mum had always loved country music and I was aware of the greats and I knew of the enormity of being in the presence of the man.

I was at the top of this hill and could see people who were into every genre, every faction of people had gathered.

All the crusties, the shaven-heads, the Goths, the indie kids, the rockers, they were all there. I remember this huge mass of people. There was this one enormous figure of a man who had the power to unite them all.

2. Scream Tall by Hugo Largo

The National:

HUGO Largo were a New York post-punk band. They only ever released two exquisite albums. They were a band who said “quiet could be punk and punk could be quiet”. I remember hearing the singer Mimi Goese’s voice. It was strong and haunting. You might call her voice ethereal but it was brittle too, and she had this incredible range.

I got it, this was how I sounded in my head. Their songs had this ambling chord structure, it was unexpected. It was a pretty unusual band set-up too. I think it was two bass guitars, a guitar and a violin.

They were punk but not by force of volume and aggression.

They were punk by attitude, of thinking they didn’t have to obey anything laid down in the laws of music. Their song Scream Tall used to send shivers up my spine – it still does. When everything went tits up with my indie band Darlingheart, which the show What Girls Are Made Of is based around, I was desperate to spread my wings, creatively and imaginatively.

I wanted to go out and explore and bite into everything. With my new band, Swelling Meg, I was really inspired by them.

3. An Exhibition By Judy Watson

The National:

I FOUND this exhibition in Brisbane which was by women artists, some were Indigenous people and some were white Australians. It blew me away, especially Judy Watson’s work which focused on the experience of her grandmother who was tortured by colonialists. She managed to escape by running to a river and weighing herself down with stones. She breathed through the reed of a plant. That was why she survived and why Judy is here.

Judy had these wax casts of real human ears pinned to the wall. She had found out that in the local police station where her grandmother was from that the police used to pin up the ears of Indigenous people as trophies on the wall.

They could kill with impunity.

The exhibition wasn’t for shock value but it was very painful. I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved by an art show.

4. Room by Emma Donoghue

The National:

I BOUGHT it in an airport and by the end of the flight I was in shreds, having felt like I’d lived in its strange world for the whole flight. I got to my hotel room and almost feverishly started writing down ideas for a way in which to bring it to stage.

I started writing songs for it and within a week was writing to its author asking if we could make it into a play.

I approached the incredible Kathryn Joseph and asked her to write songs for it. She just about fainted as it was her favourite book of all time.

Despite it being set in a horrific, horrendous predicament, there is a beauty to the story. It’s through the mother’s love that she creates this alternate reality for her son. She was able to surmount her own pain to make that world alive for him because of her love.

Emma and I worked very closely together in the creation of Room the play.

I love how a person can send a creation out into the world and all these serendipitous events can connect it with another and another and before you know it you have this joint incredible creation.

5. Teatr Biuro Prodrozy’s Carmen Funebre

The National:

THEY are a legendary Polish theatre company and I saw it as a drama student in Edinburgh quads way back in the late 1990s. The audience were seated outside and I saw these search lights at one end of the quad.

I couldn’t see who was carrying them until they got closer and it was these characters on really high stilts, about the first floor of a tenement block. They had these hangman’s masks and they were cracking whips around the quads.

They would point into the audience with searchlights and picked out people in the crowd. It was terrifying. It was based on the Bosnian conflict but it could be about any war at any time, it was so universal.

There was a rape scene of a woman being spun by four of these characters by ropes, almost like she was a little wooden doll.

It was unbelievably sexually violent.

Going back to watching it again, I didn’t realise how naturalist I was going to become in a lot of my style. Their work reminds me of the huge power of visuals, of physicality, of music, aspects which have always been a massive part of what I’ve done.

6. Living with the Lights On By Mark Lockyer

The National:

I SAW Mark Lockyer’s brilliant autobiographical solo show about his own mental health decline as part of the Scottish Mental Health Festival at the Citizens’ little studio theatre. He was a Royal Shakespeare Company actor who became really unwell and lost everything.

There wasn’t one lighting cue or a sound effect or a prop. Just a body. A human. An actor. It was just a bloke talking, but what a bloke. He was extraordinary, an amazing artist and consummate performer.

It was one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen and I think gave me huge confidence to forge ahead with What Girls Are Of.

I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a one-woman show, how I would tell the story and whether I should even tell this story. Would people be interested?

To watch someone tell a very personal story which wasn’t remotely self-indulgent – there was a real reason for Mark to tell his story – I’m so glad he did. He helped me understand a different aspect of mental health and he encapsulated the journey of a mind in a way with was totally with no self-pity.

7. The birth of my daughter

I HAD her at 41. I was finally blessed with something I had wanted for a long time.

There’s a lot of judgment about women in their late 30s, discussions where people talk about women who have a career and then “just turn around and want a child and expect it to happen”.

Who are they talking about? Everyone’s story is far more complex. Whether it’s the body not doing it, not finding the right person, finding the right person and them not wanting kids.

Getting those pieces of the jigsaw in place isn’t easy. When she came, I felt very blessed. Every day, three years on, I can’t believe she’s here. She’s brought an immeasurable amount of joy – and challenge – to my life.

8. Opening my flat to women seeking asylum

IT was around 2008 and I was working with a charity where you offer your home to people whose claims for asylum had fallen at the first hurdle.

While they were appealing the decision, they had no recourse to support or a place to live.

I had a number of women stay with me and one told me her story. She had been sex trafficked to Scotland. It knocked me between the eyes. I knew it was going on in the UK but in Glasgow?

It was a massive wake-up call. It can only happen if men in this country are paying for it.

So it’s our problem. I completely protected her anonymity in Roadkill, the play I made in 2012.

9. Horses By Patti Smith

The National:

HEARING Patti Smith for the first time was a really distinctive moment, and it’s in my play What Girls Are Made Of.

It made me want to sing in a band.

I was 15, and it was my mate Marcus who introduced me to her. In the play I introduce him as the quirkiest kid in school. He would put bizarre Captain Beefheart graffiti around the tuck shop walls.

He had a really eclectic taste.

I remember him playing me Patti Smith’s Horses album because I remember saying to him: “Who is SHE?”

That voice, that rawness, the scowl in her voice, I’d never heard anything like it.

That record has a tension throughout it, such attitude and I just loved it.

10. Performing Patti Smith’s poem Piss Factory

WHEN I was blown away by Horses, I started to read all Patti Smith’s poetry. At drama college there was a module where you had to perform a poem. I went for this.

I hadn’t heard her perform it, I only knew it from the page. The rage is so visceral. It spoke to me at a place and time where I knew I didn’t want to go backwards and settle for just being OK.

There was a defiance and fearlessness about Patti’s work that was about grabbing life by both hands. About not caring what the rules are, how you might measure up and whether you might look stupid. If you’re honest and brave and fearless, you might just create something brilliant.