Kat – a place to “be yourself” for one night a week
ACTA is a community theatre company that works all the way across Bristol and the region helping people in local communities. They work particularly to support the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of the community to create theatre which builds confidence, relationships and – perhaps most importantly – tells their story.
“Getting involved in ACTA, getting involved in participatory theatre and making your own work actually has a really beneficial effect on people’s physical and emotional wellbeing and on developing better community cohesion”, says Neil Beddow, Artistic Director at ACTA.
“We work with people who have a huge variety of challenges”, says Neil. “That might be to do with where they’ve been brought up, with levels of poverty, mental health needs. We work a lot with people from different cultures, with older people who are lonely and isolated.”
Quartet has long supported ACTA’s ‘Young Carers’ project, which has been running for 17 years, giving young carers the opportunity to devise and perform original theatre, in a safe and exciting environment with other young people in similar situations.
For Kat Bray, this environment became an important outlet for her when she was young, helping her to feel less alone and giving her some protected time each week to have fun with other young people.
“I’ve always looked forward to it”, says Kat. “I couldn’t wait to get to ACTA. Everyone who attended were young carers. We all had issues at home, but when we came here we were allowed to let our hair down and have a break and be ourselves.”
The project is still going now. “One night a week”, says Neil, “they’re able to be not a young carer, but be a theatre maker.”
Neil explains that ACTA as part of its approach always encourages the participants of each project to write the plays through improvisation and discussion, working together as a group. It’s through that process that personal growth comes.
“There’s people who say to me, with great seriousness, that it’s completely changed their life”, says Neil. “There’s people who’ve said that it’s saved their life.”
The group made such an impact on Kat that – as an adult – she now works for the charity, supporting other people in the community to come together and grow through theatre, whatever challenges they may face at home.