Ex-homeless celebrate 30th Run with gritty play
On Thursday, 16 September - just three days before the 30th anniversary of the Great North Run –a group of previously homeless and vulnerable people will be performing ‘The Great North Rnu’.
The play explores the story of a group of people whose lives become intertwined through a series of brief encounters on the day of The Great North Run itself. The characters include:
- a recovered alcoholic running for charity
- two ‘likely lads’ on the make selling fake T shirts
- a runaway girl newly arrived in the City
- two friends from London taking part in the Run
- a homeless lad turning to prostitution – his romantic dreams having been dashed
- a pimp/dealer called Spider and
- an old woman who is used to living on the streets
The production is part of the Creative Progression project in which homeless and vulnerable people
take part in meaningful activity so helping to raise their self esteem and develop confidence and work-related skills. The project partners are The Cyrenians, Helix Arts, Crisis Skylight Newcastle and Newcastle City Council’s Working Neighbourhoods Fund.
The experience has had a profound impact on those taking part. Drew Foster, who previously suffered chronic alcoholism, explains:
"Being part of this theatre production has been an unbelievable experience, even more so the fact that we have had the opportunity to perform at Newcastle Theatre Royal. I am so proud of what we as a group have achieved and am thoroughly looking forward to the performance on the night.
"I’ve learned so many things through this project. Best for me is that I’ve learned that I don’t need alcohol now; I get a natural high from my creative work.
"I’ve been helped in so many ways, I’ve enjoyed every minute and I’m optimistic about my future. I’m so grateful to everyone at Helix and The Cyrenians." Bridget Foley continued:
"I never thought I could act and it has really opened my eyes to the acting world. I would really like to continue to act as it really developed my confidence."
Chris Pemberton added:
"I’d never dreamt I’d stand up and speak in public. Thank you for giving me the chance to do it. I’ve really enjoyed it."
‘The Great North Rnu’ builds on a series of creative writing workshops held earlier this year which have already given rise to an anthology of poetry; ‘The Hidden City’.
The script has been developed by those taking part, steered by play writes Bob Beagrie and Andy Willoughby of Ek Zuban who have led a range of drama workshops including writing, improvisation, performance, physical theatre, acting and vocal training. A course of technical workshops in basic lighting, sound and set skills complementing these drama workshops has been held during August at Newcastle Theatre Royal. Toby Lowe, programme manager at Helix Arts explained:
"The Creative Progression programme has really delivered; it’s been a great success. Just regularly attending sessions and creating a portfolio of work are huge achievements in themselves for many of those who’ve taken part. It’s really helped them develop life skills which can lead to opportunities such as further training and education, volunteering and employment."
Neil Baird, Head of Service for Newcastle at The Cyrenians said:
"This play is fantastic. It has been truly engaging and inspirational to everyone taking part and is a brilliant tribute to the City of Newcastle leading up to one of its most celebrated days.
"Those who come to The Cyrenians for support are generally living a life of chaos and uncertainty. Their involvement in projects such as Creative Progression is invaluable in developing self-confidence and self-belief. All of the partners who have been involved, particularly Helix Arts, should be applauded for delivering such an innovative and effective programme."
June Grimes, Head of Crisis Skylight Newcastle, said:
"We know the importance that art and drama can play in helping people to rebuild their lives. Homelessness can be a terrible, isolating experience. Taking part in projects such as this can help people build relationships and eventually leave homelessness behind for good."
The Creative Progression drama group will be performing the play ‘The Great North Rnu’ at the Theatre Royal Learning Space, Newcastle, 7pm on Thursday 16 September 2010.