Innovation Fund Feedback from our friends at Society Unlimited
Will was awarded the Innovation Fund to run a theatre project called Deeper Than Drugs (DTD) that was specifically designed for service users at Turning Point and CGL. The project aimed to provide an accessible complimentary arts activity for service users that was designed to strengthen individuals’ journey through recovery.
Will said that the project began in July 2019 with a recruitment drive across the tri-borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham and Westminster. He successfully set up information sessions at Turning Point (61 Munster Road, Fulham and at CGL (Edward Woods Community Centre, Shepherd’s Bush and at Lytton Hall, West Kensington).
From his recruitment drive, a total of 11 individuals completed the application, 8 attended the workshops and 6 completed the full 10-week programme as well as performing in front of an invited audience.
The theatre project began on 23rd September 2019 and lasted for 10 weeks in which Will ran a total of 9 workshops, 2 additional rehearsals, 1 live performance and 1 evaluation session. Will stated that the workshops gave the performers a chance to create original material for the performance, connect with others, discuss and reflect on the process of recovery, develop confidence and perform in front of an invited audience.
Throughout this process, weekly forms were completed for monitoring the progress of the group and participant feedback forms were completed to evaluate their experience of the project. The performance was also filmed by a professional film-maker in order to evidence the project, reflect the high artistic quality of the work and act as a trailer for future publicity and funding. The project finished on Monday 25th November with the evaluation session with a total of 16 residents being reached through the project.
Will said that he was pleased with the 6 participants who successfully completed the 10-week project in which they devised, wrote and performed completely new material, taking complete ownership of the project. Although they were not pressed to write about recovery, they decided to channel their experience of recovery into monologues.
They found it to be cathartic and revelatory, giving them the chance to gain perspective on experiences that before were perhaps too painful to face. The monologues and characters that were created gave them a safe device at which to objectively view their lived experience, see it at a distance and not identify themselves with it.
As a result, the audience that attended the performance also found the monologues to be incredibly authentic. The audience, who were exclusively in recovery themselves, felt the stories to be relatable and a true reflection on recovery. Many expressed that it was liberating and inspiring to see others who are working through recovery to express themselves with such clarity and artistry.
Will said that overall the project has been incredibly successful in terms of providing clients with a creative outlet to express their recovery, combat social isolation and depression, make friends and realise the potential for change, which is why all the participants wanted the project to continue running. Will said that he is looking for ways in which the work can be developed further and fully realised in order to help others that might not initially see the benefit of theatre on recovery. Will believe the project does not just serve as a one-off but has the potential to influence recovery on a much larger scale.
Will informed us that a major challenge with this project was managing expectations. Participants were aware that while the Monday workshops gave them a great sense of release, the project only has limited funds and cannot continue indefinitely.
Theatre can be beneficial in that it replaces artificial substance highs for natural ones in the form of performance. However, the sense of excitement, possibility and new-found confidence obtained during performance can often, understandably, produce an increased need for “more”. Will stated that due to his experience in this field, he anticipated this response and referred participants to Outside Edge Theatre in order for them to continue their artistic practise within a supportive environment.
Will fed back “that for many of the participants, the DTD project has been a life-line, to which they attribute more progress in their recovery than via confidential therapy, group meetings or key worker support and the participants would like to present the work again at different services across Turning Point and CGL at coffee mornings, meetings, socials etc”.
Will fed back “We believe that the work is important and enlightening for others in recovery and that it could be beneficial to take to the work to those that may have not received information about this project or mustered the energy to participate”.