Maya Khatun, Drama Worker 2017/18
Omg! I can’t believe it is the end of my foundation work at acta. The last 11 months I have learnt so much; running workshops and directing shows; how to operate lights and sound, “the technical side of things;” photoshop editing and making posters; fundraising and how to do outreach. I have grown in confidence so much. I started acting with acta so shy and low in confidence. Now I am able to speak out in company meetings and make my voice heard.
During my Foundation work I was running three groups. The Hannah More mums group was very successful, although a cast member did drop out at the last minute so I had to perform in the play. I have learnt how to make last minute arrangements without switching on the panic mode! My St.Pauls ladies group was successful in that they engaged in the workshops and got a lot out of it. They said that acta changed their lives. Some went off to get jobs and others went off to college. They mentioned that they had more confidence while attending job interviews and at college presentations. Even though they couldn’t do a show, I believe acta have done an amazing job in helping these ladies get back in the community. I had eight afterschool sessions with Hannah More Kids after the Hannah More Mums group ended. The kids were just as energetic and engaging as the parents. I was able to direct the show alongside my colleague, Rosalie. The kids loved it and even after the show they requested to do more drama workshops next year. I am hoping to run an after school club in the next academic year.
Before starting acta foundation as a drama worker, I participated in three of their shows: ‘Fatima & Sumaya,’ ‘It’s My Life,’ and ‘Dream On’. During my foundation work I thought I would miss participating as a cast member. But I guess I didn’t have to worry, because I was offered the chance to participate in ‘Dream On’ again at the React festival in March and ‘The Woman Next Door’ in July.
The best week at acta was the React festival. I LOVED IT! I met so many people from different backgrounds. I was able to make new links to help me progress with my next step e.g. the Rethink group in London who offer training to teach Esol through drama.
Before leaving, I was able to re-introduce acta to an Asian elderly women’s group Awaz Utaoh. I will not be working for acta in the next academic year, but I will continue to do outreach for any groups they are running. I am planning to introduce the Bangladeshi women’s association to acta next year.
In July, we ran a play worker workshop at Hannah More for the lunchtime staff. It was a success and the ladies requested more workshops! So even though I will have completed acta foundation, I am looking forward to participating in the acta drama lunchtime workshops.
My journey with acta has been amazing. I started as a Participant in 2015 and now a Drama foundation worker. I thank you all for giving me this opportunity. Acta have welcomed me with love. I really appreciate it. I know the doors will always be open for me xxx … looking forward to attending all your open CPD workshops and upcoming shows.
Aqeel Abdulla, Drama Worker 2017/18
My name is Aqeel Abdulla, and I joined acta foundation as a part-time drama worker. I live in Exeter with my wife, my 4 year old son, and my 6 month old daughter, and I can’t wait to invite them to the shows I will be involved in!
I have a PhD in drama from Exeter, and I am currently in the process of applying for a postdoctoral research project on refugee theatre. I am from Syria myself, and I am very keen on using my knowledge and skills in theatre to helping the vulnerable groups of people, especially refugees, use theatre as an outlet and as means to deal with difficult situations, and that’s why I joined acta and also why I am pursuing further research on refugee theatre.
June 2018 update
Neil, acta’s artistic director, says that if in a session you haven’t had laughter, then something’s gone wrong. This sounds very simple at first, but now that I have completed nine months with acta, I have witnessed how this in fact summarizes acta’s work philosophy, and this goes beyond simply leading a couple of fun games in each session that make people laugh, but is really about creating a sense of ease, comfort, safety and trust within which participants can let their guard down, forget about any troubles they have in their daily life, and enjoy the session without fear of judgement or certain fixed expectations. The thing is, let’s be honest, theatre can be pretentious sometimes, and some theatre practitioners are notorious for complicating things for the purpose of sounding sophisticated, which can scare people who don’t have a first-hand experience with theatre. acta has been actively going in the opposite direction, and advocating for, and showing the beauty and the power of simplicity and down-to-earth quality of its approach to theatre.
On a personal note, I too had apprehensions when I first joined acta as a drama worker in September 2017. These apprehensions were because my involvement with theatre had been almost entirely theoretical and academic, so I was worried that I will stick out like a sore thumb in a creative team. However, everyone at acta, especially Ingrid, my mentor, made me feel as part of the team very quickly, and helped me bring out and utilize whatever skills and expertise I have in the running of drama sessions, and the devising of plays. So, I now understand a key component of acta’s success in making participants happy and engaged and eager for more, which is that a harmonious work environment that is full of respect and a sense of togetherness reflects naturally on the work that this team does with participants and partners.
I have recently organized a Play in a Day event for kids in Exeter, where I live, and three wonderful members of the acta team came all the way from Bristol to run it with me: Rosalie, Maya, and Sara. We also had the support from two amazing volunteers, Sophie Yarde-Buller, and Kate Fox, and the drama department were generous enough to allow us to use one of their studios for free. The main reason I wanted to this project was to have the experience of organizing and running a play in a day, but another very important reason for me is that there is no theatre company in Exeter that does the work that acta does, in which everyone is welcome, no one is auditioned, and the story comes from the participants rather than imposed on them by the practitioners. I really wanted to share acta’s ethos and message in Exeter, so that was a starting point, and I will make sure a lot more will come in the near future! The day was a success at all levels; 18 kids took part, everyone was happy and grateful, most parents emailed me afterwards to thank us for doing this, and asking for more, and the kids performed a mad play about pirates, volcanos, scientists, and zombies for an audience of family and friends (40-50 people).
When I speak about my work at acta and say things like ‘we at acta,’ or ‘for us as acta’ I really feel that sense of ‘we,’ and ‘us’, and now that I am few weeks away from finishing my contract with them, I know that I will be part of the team for many years to come, even if not in an official capacity. The team have, in a very short time, made me feel at home, and that I’m not just doing a ‘gig’ for this year, or a side job, or just here to learn the tricks of the trade. I have made a network of collaborators in Bristol, and through them a bigger network all over the UK and Europe, but most importantly, I found a family in the acta team that I feel I belong to for life, and that’s priceless.
Sara Snook, Director’s Assistant 2017/18
I’m Sara Snook, the new Director’s Assistant on the foundation programme. I’ve been working in Bristol as a freelance facilitator for the last 18 months, mainly with under 12s so I’m really looking forward to meeting all the wonderful people of all ages that acta has the privilege of working with.
I’m having a lovely first week here at acta.
After a gentle couple of days of induction, my first acta session was with the Malcolm X Elders and what an introduction it was! The session was filled with laughter and joy and though we only have five rehearsals before the public performances of Moonshine Nights, the ladies remember it really well so we’re all set. I already cannot wait to see them again next Monday.
Tuesday was all about Making Time, as it’s a new combined group we were open to how it would go, how many participants we’d have and how we’d run it together. I think it was a real success, we had 18 participants who all had a lovely time; after a hearty lunch we set about making and decorating a bird puppet. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the participants and it was exciting to have a few newbies trying it out for the first time.
I have also got my three youth theatres at the beginning of the week, so have had a lovely time working with Deb and Geenie respectively on Bedminster Youth Theatre. On Monday I had Bedminster Youth Theatre (yr6 + 7) which we’ve been calling the BedMids and on Tuesday it was Bedminster Youth Theatre (yr8 – 11). In order to meet the requirements of our funders we have been having individual meetings with each of our participants in order to set goals for the coming term and be able to track their progress through the year. This was surprisingly a really lovely activity as it meant I got to have a ‘one to one’ with each participant about why they do drama and what they are hoping to gain through participating, so as well as ticking our funders’ boxes it was a great ‘getting to know you’ exercise!
This afternoon, after a playful morning of CPD and the company meeting, I’ll be working with Tracey and meeting the Bedminster Kids group, followed by my first go at acta community choir. After all that, I’m even looking forward to having two days to focus on fundraising, just to have some quiet time to read and plan.
I hope that gives you a picture of my first week at acta, I’m sure I will blog again to keep you up to speed on the wonderful year ahead!
Jody Cook, Drama Worker 2016/17
Can’t quite believe a whole year has passed. Working for acta has been the most inspiring, rewarding and enjoyable year!
I joined acta back in September, and I remember walking through the doors with a belly full of nerves and anticipation. I was welcomed with open arms, and as I sat down with the team at the meeting table, I knew that this was exactly where I wanted to be.
I already had lots of experience working with children running the drama sessions within my local school, but not having any formal qualification, I thought I would be unable to run drama sessions anywhere else. Then along comes acta and they offer me a year foundation, where I could work with a youth theatre and with adult groups. They would work with the skills I already had and teach me so much more, to give me the confidence to run adult groups. We did this by meeting every Wednesday for CPD sessions, where the team would get together and we would play lots of drama games and learn how to facilitate groups. We also covered lots of other areas such as shadow puppetry, film & image editing, production and much more! All the skills learnt within this time were great for me to then implement in my groups. Wednesday was also time for us to talk through any issues that had cropped up in our groups during the week.
I had two groups in Lockleaze which was fantastic, as this is where I live, and I could finally share my passion for drama in my community; also I know what a great impact drama has on your well being. When my Lockleaze groups performed on stage, I was so proud of them as for most of them it was the first time they had ever performed, and to hear how they felt after the show was one of the greatest moments, which will be embedded in my memory forever.
My other group was in Redcliffe, working with a “diversity” group of parents from the local children’s centre. This group was like riding a roller coaster! Some weeks we had up to 8 ladies, other weeks just 4 of them, and at one point we thought we had only one! But we stayed positive throughout, as the story of the devised piece had such a powerful message and it was one that just had to be told. We had a final cast of 5 who performed in the show in July. The play was called Dream On, and it was about a lady from Sudan who wanted to become a teacher, and the boundaries she faced. Would I ride this roller coaster again? Yes over and over!
My time at acta and working in Community Theatre has not come to an end. It has only just begun!
Donna Thompson, Finance & Data Assistant
Before I joined acta in 2016, I remember being sat in a meeting one day and experiencing an overwhelming realisation that I’d lost my sense of purpose with my job. I had studied Fashion Design at University and graduated in 2008. I’d had a little bit of success over the years, working as a designer for a small boutique in London, followed by an attempt to set up a small clothing business of my own. Despite working very hard, things never really took off in the way I’d hoped and increasing financial demands, meant that my part-time admin role very slowly grew into a full-time role and all of a sudden I was wondering ‘How did I end up here?’
Eight years after graduation, it was time to refocus. I’d built up a fair amount of experience in Financial & Administrative roles, and really enjoyed the planning, organisation and analytical aspects of this type of work. But there was something missing, I was in need of a deeper sense of purpose and connection to my work and wondered if I could continue in a financial & administrative role but with a different end goal.
Here’s where acta comes in, when I read the job description for the finance and data post, I felt as though it had been written for me; an arts organisation and theatre (Creative/Costume Design), a community charity (supporting and helping people), finance and data (good with numbers and enjoy planning, organising and analysing). Perfect! I was hoping to learn about the practical aspects of working for a charity and the day-to-day running of a theatre. I was curious to know how the different ‘departments’ worked together to create shows.
Two weeks in, and what a culture shock! I was so used to working in commercial environments, where tasks and products were prioritised over individuals and relationships. And now here I was, on a new path of learning, where I was being mentored and supported and really listened to.
During the first few months my learning centred mainly on practical tasks; I have successfully set up a database to record participant details and attendances and have been learning how to create charts and statistics to interpret the data collected from weekly workshops. I am currently looking forward to some additional excel training; this has been set up to help me to learn about reports and more efficient ways of analysing data. I have spent some time looking at annual budgets with Helen, which is something I have not been previously involved in.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to assist Tessa, the Costume Designer on our Christmas show ‘Bizarre Bazaar’. It was great to be able to make use of my sewing skills and work directly with the cast by supporting them on show nights, and being on standby in case of any costume malfunctions. I have also enjoyed working on the box office at acta shows and speaking to audience members about their experience.
The real highlight of 2016 though was helping Katie, acta’s Production Manager, to create a giant Octopus for ‘Bizarre Bazaar’ and subsequently hearing members of the audience gasp as he suddenly appeared from behind a screen in the middle of the show!
Already, four months after joining, I feel like a part of the acta family. My self-confidence has grown and I feel more able to step forward and take on new challenges that previously would have sent my anxiety levels sky high. This is mainly due to feeling so supported and encouraged through my weekly mentoring sessions with Helen. My planning and organisational skills have improved infinitely and I am amazed at acta’s ability to programme such a varied timetable of events and activities throughout the year.
An unexpected part of my learning has been more social in nature. My communication and listening skills have improved so much that it has had a positive effect on relationships both inside and outside of work. And with acta being so close to where I live, I really feel like I’m making a positive contribution to my local community.
Update (September 2017)
What is acta? A question often asked.
Well. In a way. acta (or being involved with acta) is kind of like… Crowd Surfing!?
Imagine Crowd surfing at a gig by your favourite band. And all your mates are there. The band are playing your favourite song and you feel so alive! It’s both scary and exhilarating at the same time! An endless sea of hands working closely together to support you. Lifting you up and holding you high. Friends and strangers standing shoulder to shoulder and closing the gaps, ensuring you don’t fall. And the best bit? Is that everyone gets their turn.
It’s hard to look back on this year without the fondest of memories. It has been challenging and difficult at times, yes, but being around such a supportive team gives you a sense that you can achieve anything your heart desires. It has opened up a new world for me, and helped me understand the real benefits that come from connecting with people, trusting others and sharing. I don’t think I fully appreciated these fundamental things before I came to acta.
I have gained so much confidence throughout the year, and even planned, marketed and delivered my own sewing workshop in July ‘17. I have planned another four sewing workshops to deliver between now and the end of the year which I am very much looking forward to.
Part of my decision to apply to acta in 2016, was to find a sense of purpose and contribute to an organisation which shared similar values to my own. Well, acta was certainly the right move and I wish I could stay forever, but sadly this is not to be. It’s the end of my 1 year foundation contract and I’ve had the time of my life. My heart has been reignited, my faith in humanity restored, but now it’s someone else’s turn.
Tracey Harvey, Drama Worker
Tracey has been an acta participant for the past five years, performing in numerous shows during that time including Gas Girls, Sisters, Selfies, Redcliffe Stories and The Crossroads. With the opening of the extended actacentre in September 15, Tracey was appointed as the Theatre Bar Assistant, to welcome people into the building each day for tea and cake, and to engage new participants and audiences in the acta programme. In September 2016, Tracey joined the artistic staff team as one of two new acta foundation drama workers…
Well, what a term! Can’t quite believe I’m three months into my foundation post and Christmas is almost upon us.
There have been highs and lows and a whole lot of learning in between. It’s quite a peculiar experience being in a group and not being a participant!
I’ve been lucky enough to spend 12 weeks working with 19 children in years 5 & 6, getting to know them and creating three pieces of theatre in a short space of time which they showed to their parents at the end of November. It has been lots of fun, sometimes stressful and certainly challenging but I was immensely proud of what the children achieved and I felt a great sense of accomplishment when it was all over.
One of the toughest and also most rewarding aspects of my role so far has been engaging people to join new groups. I have attended Neighbourhood Forum meetings, been a guest speaker at a lunch club and even pounded the streets of Hartcliffe handing out flyers and spreading the good word of acta!! I have spent many weeks going to Avonmouth to sit in the community centre hoping and praying people would turn up only to leave feeling very disappointed. Finally, after 7 weeks, we had a new member and the group is now growing. I can’t tell you the pure elation I felt to know that all the hard work was worthwhile.
After watching the remarkable and hilarious performance of Fatima and Sumaya earlier this year and being totally blown away by this fantastic group of mothers from Hannah More Primary School, I am now lucky enough to be working with them to create their next show. They are such a vibrant group and I can’t wait to get them back on the stage.
During the last three months I have developed many new skills and my confidence has grown. I now feel able to command a group of 20 children, where previously I felt a quivering wreck at the prospect. I have even been able to call myself a Director!
I know that the next six months are going to fly by and I don’t want this experience to end. I’m planning on making the most of every second of it. Exciting times lie ahead, more groups, more shows, more incredible experiences. I feel hugely honoured to be working alongside and learning from such talented people. I am one especially lucky lady to have been given the opportunity to do my dream job for my dream organisation. THANK YOU ACTA!
Aiden Connor, Production Assistant, 2015/16
What a year. I have been acta’s Foundation Production Assistant since September -my first foundation blog from 3 months in is just below; but so many different things have happened at acta since then, and I’ve been involved in so many amazing projects and have had such a fantastic experience since then that there’s just so much more to talk about. So, here we go!
What I’ve learnt
Since I started working here at acta, I have learnt so much I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn anywhere else; I’ve learnt how to best facilitate groups; how to design and operate lighting and sound; how to rig lights and design costumes and set and so much more that’s just uncountable. This all came to a head last week, when Katie was on annual leave and I was the production team for a Young Carers play in 3 days! Amazingly, thanks to everything I’ve learnt over the past year nothing caught fire and the show came out looking really good to boot, which was a really proud moment. Speaking of…
Quite easily my proudest moments were the Youth Theatre and Kid’s theatre’s annual productions, which I co-facilitated and directed. The culmination of months’ work both on their shows and with the group, those performance days were both immensely tense and rewarding. For me, the proudest thing about these performances was seeing the participants I’d worked with grow in confidence and in their skills as performers, and put on amazing shows as well. Seeing the massive amount of excitement and joy that they had doing their shows made all the tough work that came before all worth it.
There’s been a lot of tough work through the past year, with lots of hair-pulling, stress-tastic moments, though I have to say the toughest thing for me was learning how to properly balance all of the different projects going on at any one time, and giving them the appropriate amount of attention to make sure that they’re all done at the right time. This has been an ongoing struggle for me, but I feel it’s one I’ve improved on since starting at acta, and will continue to improve on in the future.
What I’ve accomplished
There’s so much I’ve accomplished while I’ve been here at acta, I really don’t know where to begin here. During the National Festival this June, I worked with lots of different community theatre companies from across the country, making sure that they had everything they needed and helping them out in any way I could- and even working in the Arnolfini with CAN from Manchester on my own! One of my biggest accomplishments has been the distance I have come since starting here- that in the space of a year I went from feeling nervous about running projections to being able to do most jobs under the sun without breaking a sweat. It’s something that I feel really proud of, and it feels like a real accomplishment.
What I’ll take with me
As I’m taking my next step into the big smoke to study technical theatre at RADA, there’s going to be a lot that I’ll take with me from acta. The first thing that I’ll be taking with me is the amazing care package and toolbox I was given by the team at acta filled with everything I’ll need as a tech student in London, from an adjustable spanner and some rigging gloves to a bottle of whisky and a hip flask. Of course, I’ll also be taking with me the knowledge I’ve gained; the memories I’ve made; the work ethics I’ve developed, and the values and beliefs that I hold so dear are all coming with me on my next step, and whatever the step after that may be. My time here at acta will stick with me forever, and that is something I am more than happy about.
I’m also gonna take a ton of stationery- just don’t tell Helen…
Original blog (after 3 months)
I have been a participant with acta for eight years, taking part in various amounts of youth and community theatres, and in the accompanying photo I’m the one on the left with his gob hanging open. I am acta’s new foundation production assistant, which involves both facilitating groups and helping on the production side of all shows. What that effectively means is that I help out Katie Delaney in the sound box, the workshop and anywhere else where production happens and also help to lead three groups: Making Time, Bedminster Youth theatre and Bedminster Kids theatre.
The easiest way to talk about what I’ve done and what I’m going to do would be to go through project by project, so I’ll start with my groups:
I co-run this group with Katie, and we work with over 55’s doing various arts and crafts and storytelling exercises with them. So far we have helped them with writing stories for children, making exciting bunting and making a full book out of one of their stories! One of the best parts of this group is just talking to the participants, as they are all such a lovely bunch of people that are so easy to get on with, it’s a real pleasure to have them every Monday morning.
Bedminster Youth Theatre
This group is led by myself and Ingrid Jones (Associate Director). We’re helping them put on their annual production sometime in April 2016, and also just making sure they have fun. They can be a quite a chatty lot, though their sense of humour and their creativity make them just an amazing group to work with. So far with them I have mostly been learning about the best methods of helping people reach their full potential, helping people along in sessions and what it takes to be a good facilitator. Overall, I really, really enjoy working with the Bedminster Youth Theatre.
Bedminster Kids’ Theatre
I co-run this group with Rosalie, a previous holder of a foundation position. Unfortunately, with the amount of people waiting to get into this group, the set of kids we’re working with will be completely new in January. In the space of three months, we have done a quick blitz of devising, scripting, directing and rehearsing for a showing of work in the start of December 2015. This was the first acta script I wrote, and I found it really interesting taking devised scenes and turning them into a structured script. They are a really enthusiastic group of kids who are so eager to sink their teeth into whatever they are given; I have complete faith in them that what they put on will be absolutely brilliant.
The other half of my role involves working on basically every show that acta puts on in some sort of backstage/production role, so I’ll also do a quick run through of the shows I’ve helped out with and what I’ve done on each of them:-
This was my first acta show as an employee rather than a participant, and I was buzzing to help out in any way. My main responsibilities for this show were running the projections on the show days, resetting the props and backstage the next day (as it turns out actors are really messy). Before the show, a lot of my time was taken up making props to be used in the show and hunting down possible props online or in local shops, all great fun!
Yusuf Can’t Talk
This was a very minimal play with only two props (a stool and a handful of leaflets) and no sound, though it was fairly reliant on videos for certain scenes, so I was operating the video mainly for this show.
Play in 3 Days: Ocean Waves
This was a really interesting one to work on. Before the cast came in on day one of three, we knew nothing about what the play was going to be like, except that we had given them a ship-looking stage. Katie was away on another show during this play, so I was their main production person for most of their devising, which gave me more of a head-on role than in other plays. So for this production, I designed and operated the sound, chose the costumes and helped find any props that were needed for this show. In the end, it turned out to be a great performance, and was easily on par with plays that haven taken months to put together.
It was for The Crossroads that I went to my first production meeting to discuss set, floorcloth and costumes for the preview and touring shows. However, at the first tech rehearsal I became part of the longstanding acta tradition of standing in for someone who wasn’t able to do the shows, by, er, standing in for someone who wasn’t able to do the shows. This was a much more familiar experience for me, having participated with acta for so long. As it was a very production-light show (when touring it will have no lights and minimal sound), a lot of my work for this play was before the actual show dates, building/finding props and finding odd bits of sound. This has been a really fun show to work on, and the reaction the audience full of kids gives is easily the highlight of working on it.
The Monkey King’s Lair
This is what I’m currently working on with Rosalie for the Kids’ theatre, and at time of writing, we will be showing this to their parents in little under a week! Working on this production has been like a quick-stop of all the different stages of producing a show, just micro-condensed down to the timeframe we have. So far on this project I have helped write the script, directed, designed the sound and found props for the final showing. When it comes to showing it to the parents, I will be manning the soundbox and running the lights and sound.
So, that’s a basic run through of my first three-or-so months at acta, and I have to say that I’ve absolutely loved every minute of it, and I look forward to every minute of my future with acta!
Rosalie Pordes, Director’s Assistant, 2013/14
Hello! I’m Rosalie and I am acta’s fourth foundation worker, but the first Director’s Assistant. This means that I am Neil’s (Artistic Director) right hand man, or as one of the Malcolm X Elders described, I am ‘the diamond on his crown’. My role is supposed to be half facilitating and half fundraising, but due to my eagerness to do every project going, it has meant that I have been slightly slacking in the fundraising department. However, from the Spring I have vowed to focus more on the fundraising side of things!
The easiest way to describe my experiences so far is to talk about it in terms of my weekly projects…
I start my week with the Making Time group which I facilitate with Katie (acta’s Production Manager). This project, funded by the Big Lottery, is for isolated older people living in Bedminster. Since September we’ve been working on a schools project, which has meant local primary school classes have been coming into acta to participate in a workshop delivered by the Making Time group. This has been a massive success with both children and elders embracing their time with each other. Straight after I’m off to St Pauls to work with the Malcolm X Elders, a group of African Caribbean older women. acta has been working with the group for the last 8 years and when I joined in September they were midway through their project Ticky Picky Boom Boom. This show is based on stories the elders were told by their grandparents when they were growing up in the West Indies. Throughout November we took this play on tour to different schools in Bristol who may not get access to theatre. Making theatre accessible is key to acta’s work (hence the acronym access creativity theatre arts); a belief I strongly share. This tour was an incredible experience, and I felt myself quite naturally taking on the role of pastoral care for the elders and ‘logistics operator for the tour’ (dealing with very unreliable taxi companies!)
On Tuesday I scoot off to Easton with Ingrid (Associate Director) to work with a group called Autism Independence. They are a new charity that works with Somali Mothers who have autistic children. There are high incidences of autism within the Somali culture however there is no word for it within their language. Nura (the founder) contacted acta as she wanted us to create a play to help raise awareness about autism and the struggles families faced. Nura originally wanted us to find actors to perform, however the acta belief is that the participants who share their stories should also perform. Ingrid and I have been working slowly and sensitively with these performers in the hope that they will perform. Only time can tell, but the opportunity to work with those who have never done drama before, will be an invaluable experience. In the evening I deliver Youth Theatre with Ingrid and Kat (foundation worker graduate) and we are currently devising their annual play, which will be performed in September.
On Wednesdays I have my wonderful, but extremely hyperactive 7-8 year olds afterschool drama group. I facilitate these workshops with Geenie (another foundation worker graduate) and we are working towards their devised annual show What a Golden Day which they’ll perform in May.
On Thursday mornings Neil and I deliver a community theatre group, (which we’ve named the Thursdays), who are devising the acta annual Christmas show. They are an incredibly talented, yet supportive group and they are a delight to work with. I hate to say it… but I’m already excited for Christmas!
As you can see my first 7 months at acta have been jam-packed with a variety of different and diverse projects. However when I’m not facilitating workshops my time is filled with planning meetings and general administrative tasks.
Before I finish, I must mention that one of the most amazing things about working at acta is the amount of time all the staff have for you. It feels as if everyone in the office is juggling about twenty tasks at once however if you ask anyone for help/advice/support they will immediately drop everything to help you. Not only is this an amazingly supportive environment to work in for any employee, it’s the perfect setting to learn in, which makes acta the perfect place to be a foundation worker.
Kathryn Harris, Programme Assistant, 2012/13
Hello! My name is Kathryn and I am acta’s Programme Assistant (the first full time Foundation post). That’s me in the shiny blue dress in the picture to the left, which was taken during a performance here at acta. In addition to my many responsibilities as Programme Assistant, I am also a member of the acta Choir. It’s fantastic!
Since starting here back in October, I am continuing to learn great amounts about a variety of areas in acta. For the purpose of this blog, I have divided up my time so far into seasons and have written a little about what I got up to for each one.
I instantly felt very welcome here at acta. The team are experts in their fields and are ready to help whenever needed. In my first few weeks I assisted with our Malcolm X Elders group in their tour to schools around Bristol. They are an inspiring group of people, with buckets of passion and so many stories to tell.
The show was based around their real experiences of moving to Bristol from the Caribbean when they were young. They are a brilliant example of acta’s work. The children they performed to thoroughly enjoyed their work and learnt a great deal by listening to their stories, and the group themselves felt valued by being given the opportunity to share their experiences.
The big project I was given was to market the upcoming Christmas show, Goblin Silver. With 7 performances across Bristol, and my little experience in Marketing I was very keen to prove myself. I received a great deal of support and advice from the core team and best of all, permission to try out some of my own ideas! The show was a success and I was able to secure good audiences for each of the performances, including a few sell-outs! It was a fantastic experience and I got to know the participants and acta’s public very well.
After Christmas, the big projects kept coming! In January I learnt about acta’s accounts and payroll systems. I never thought I would enjoy this work as much as I do. Learning this was very methodical and calming after the energetic and very interactive work of Marketing the Christmas show.
Ofcourse, during this time I was also continuing my Marketing responisibilities for other shows, and learning more about the world of social-media.
In february, I was asked to do the design and typesetting for the COAST book. If you would like to know more about COAST click here. I was given special training in InDesign for this work and I am very happy with the end result! It was a great learning experience, especially since I am a bit of a bibliophile. I now use InDesign and Photoshop regularly to design print.
I am continuing to learn massive amounts. The highlights included completing First Aid at Work training, Child and Vulnerable Adults training (taught by Ingrid), Health and Safety/Risk Assessments (with Katie D).
I thoroughly enjoyed being involved with 1963 (see past events) as part of the choir. I feel like I have learnt a great deal about how people engage with acta and I believe the experience has also positively affected the choir as a unit, in the way that they work together and view themselves as part of the acta team. The choir also has some new members, some of whom decided to join the choir as a direct result of seeing 1963. This has also had a fantastic effect on the choir’s confidence!
I was able to assist Al, Katie and Geenie during the Open Circle event and also go to Avonmouth Primary to help support Al at the Open Circle workshop there. Both experiences have inspired me, the teams delivery of the work is so effective and the participants enjoyment is clear.
I assisted in the organisation of the Outdoor Arts and Gardening day which I worked on with Katie. We planned some great activities for the participants and I learnt a great deal about workshop organisation and planning for all situations. I was also able to play in a sand pit for a while!
I am continuing to create posters for shows/events and now feel that my work has coherence and that they create a type of “acta style” which can be reproduced easily. I also redesigned the outside display board to reflect this new style and I am very happy with it. I am very grateful to have had the time and freedom (guided) to do this and learn about what works best.
The COAST book is doing well and we have even sold a few copies to Blackwells in Exeter. I was also reliably informed that my account keeping hasn’t produced any horrid mistakes. (Hurray!)
The biggest practical learning I have been doing recently is how to best work on lots of things simultaneously, and I feel like I am now becoming able to prioritise better and work quicker (effectively).
Lucy, acta’s Development Officer, talked me through aspects of fundraising and also was able to give me the extensive file of helpful training documents that she has collected so that I can learn a bit more about this area. I am planning on following this discussion up by talking with Neil about fundraising. I have been realising how much of a crucial skill fundraising is and I feel some knowledge in the basics of it would really help me in the future.
I am gaining really valuable networking experience as I have represented acta at an Older Peoples conference and a What Next? meeting. I also had a meeting with an outreach person at the Tobacco Factory and a marketing ideas meeting with Bristol Refugee Rights. One moment I particularly enjoyed was going to drop off a copy of The Boy and the Slim Dog DVD to one of the older participants from St Catherine’s Court. I sat with her and chatted for a bit about her involvement with acta and it was really clear how much she had valued being a part of it. It also turns out that her grandchildren live around the corner from where I grew up! I think that is one of my favourite parts of acta, the relationships with the participants and how they feel valued (rightly so) and really appreciate being a part of the work.
I have recently found a freelance Junk Percussion workshop leader to work the Get Together festival day. I will be assisting in a Junk Percussion workshop myself with Katie earlier in the week as a type of warm up activity. I am very excited about this as I have a lot of experience of leading music workshops but have learnt so much from simply observing all the acta staff in sessions that I feel the way I would approach this workshop would be different to how I would usually do so.
My enjoyment of my continuing participation in the acta choir has also increased as I feel the choir have really become a solid team and has renewed enthusiasm for it. I’m teaching them a little Welsh for the festival and have even been helping Sarah teach harmonies by using Kodaly (something I learnt at music college).
I am very proud of the Get Together Festival leaflet I have created. I was a little worried at the beginning as it is such a large amount of material, but after Helen had come up with the framework of the leaflet, and Neil had suggested using the Sahra image as a main idea, I found the process simple and enjoyable! I also took more responsibility in talking to the printers and discussing different options with them.
I am also currently learning about report writing, as Helen is writing the end of year Get Together report for the lottery. This I find really interesting as I am getting a better understanding of the way the Get Together project has been building and how some aspects of work have been adapted to achieve the goals.
Lots of exciting things!
Kat Bray, freelance drama worker
Hiya, my name is Kat, I have been involved in acta for 15 years! I first joined when I was teenager in acta’s young carers group as I was a young carer, and have stayed ever since. I have performed in many performances with acta. I have enjoyed every minute of it.
I had the opportunity to join acta Advance group in 2006 and have since done 4 touring shows, & performed at such places like the Rotterdams Wijktheatre in Rotterdam, Barbican theatre in Plymouth, Bristol Old Vic and Bridgewater Arts Centre plus many more venues. Also have toured shows to area of Bristol that do not have the opportunity to do or see theatre which has been fantastic.
I have had a fantastic time over the years with acta. I have gained lots of confidence and self-esteem which I was lacking before I joined.
I was given the chance of working as an apprentice and completing a Gold Arts Award. Since then I have been working with groups and helping with shows, gaining lots of experience of theatre, but still I carried on performing with Advance. You may have seen me in the following Advance shows: The No-ones, Escape to This, Mother Iceheart and Goblin Silver; in the photo above, I am the one in the middle playing a Goblette (female goblin) named Sandie.
In September 2012 acta gave the chance to work for their Foundation scheme. This meant I had to work with another Foundation worker and run a completely new drama group for children age 9-11. I have really enjoyed doing this, gained a huge amount of experience in running sessions and putting on a show called Don’t go near them or they will…….. This is being performed on Tuesday 9th July, as part of the Get Together Festival week. The young people have worked very hard since we started last September. Today we have a tech rehearsal, and next Tuesday we have a tech and dress rehearsal; this means the young people will be rehearsing with full lights, set, costume and props for the first time, which will be very exciting for both them & me.
I have also been working with other acta workers on other projects for foundation such as, What if the Wicked Witch had Won? With year 7 & 8 pupils; The Little Boy and The Slim Dog, with year 2 children from Compass Point School. I had lots of fun working with these groups and have gained valuable experience.