The shows Julia devised in her early years as a playwright were influenced by her interest in politics and social justice, concentrating on the theme of female empowerment. Julia’s earliest plays explore women’s sexuality and autonomy over their bodies in addition to adolescence and motherhood. An important strand in her writing featured women gaining confidence to be agents of their own actions. As she told writer Avril Deane for an interview in The Journal published in June 1989: ‘I’m not interested in attacking men, more of extolling women and their strengths.’
Support was given to Julia at the age of 30, in April 1987, by Newcastle City Council and Northern Arts when she was appointed writer-in-residence for the city, based at Kenton Youth and Community Centre. It was a six-month residency working with community groups, which received local press attention. Julia was quoted in the City News as saying: ‘By using the natural capacity for expression in Geordie dialect, previously suppressed by education, and allowing the ability that North Easterners have for wit and humour, whole areas of life can be redefined and discussed.’
The residency helped establish Julia, who at this time had two very young daughters, as a professional writer based in Newcastle. One of her earliest plays Victory Harvest, is set during World War II.