Blog: Focus on Arts Award: My Arts Award experience

12 June 2017

Blog: Focus on Arts Award: My Arts Award experience

By Andrew Walker

I completed Explore, Bronze and Gold Arts Award over a three year period at The Customs House. My art forms included acting, assistant directing and facilitating. I didn’t really go to the theatre that much when I was younger but to contribute to my Arts Award I tried to go and see as much as possible.

Looking back, Jim Carrey is the actor who inspired me to do literally any form of comedy work I could. Because I’m such a fan of comedy, when I began Explore, my arts hero was an actor called Robert Sheehan. He was my first real inspiration because he not only was a great dramatic actor but he also nailed comedy roles. It was my first time really researching into an actor’s history and it’s something I still do now. If I like an actor’s work I try to find out their previous work, where they’re from and where they trained.

I also completed a one week acting residency with a local theatre company, The Letter Room, at The Customs House. It was a chance to meet a new bunch of people who were aiming for the same things as I was. It was also the start of learning a whole load of facilitating games and devising exercises which I could use myself at a later date. The Letter Room is an awesome company, one whose work I still like to keep up with and it was great to form a relationship with them through Arts Award.

Being given the opportunity to be assistant director and to facilitate are probably two of the most important roles I was given through Arts Award. I began assistant directing our youth theatre’s play ‘Hearts’ in 2014, which was a part of the National Theatre Connections Festival. It was actually a really daunting prospect because I’d only ever really had experience being directed prior to that. I actually went on to assistant direct the next three Connections plays, which our youth theatre did over the following years. It has really sparked just more and more of an interest to pursue directing in the future.

I did a year’s facilitation work with ‘Drama Bairns’, a drama and movement class for children aged 3-7 at The Customs House. For one hour each week I would assist the sessions working around a different theme each term. Until then I only had experience working with people my own age so it took some adjusting and getting used to.

Since completing my Arts Award I’ve managed to continue acting, directing and facilitating. In July 2016 I was cast in ‘Broken Biscuits’, a brand new comedy musical by Tom Wells, working with Paines Plough. It is an amazing company that aims to take new writing to as many places as they can, especially to places that aren’t as fortunate to have good theatre on their doorstep, which is great. It was the best experience to work with them and Tom too, who is such a brilliant writer. The play ran at Live Theatre in Newcastle throughout October 2016 and we toured to Plymouth, Hull, Scarborough, Sheffield, Bristol and Birmingham following the Newcastle run.

Now, I’m currently on the lookout for more acting work and it’s something I can see myself (hopefully) doing for a long time to come. Arts Award has most importantly given me the skills of facilitating. I have been assistant facilitator at The Customs House for two years now. Facilitation is such a really useful skill for me to have, as when I’m not acting, I have a way to make money but still stay within a performance environment.

Arts Award really transformed my practice and I think it’s a great thing to get involved in.