Celebrating 30 years of staging plays
Community projects & workshops
Community outreach work has always been at the heart of Alfie's work. It's where he started his career and where he laid his foundational beliefs and formed his creative vision. He has witnessed first hand how powerful performance techniques can be as a tool on supporting vulnerable people, educating, raising awareness of social issues and supporting positive social change. This is why community theatre work still plays a vital role in his work and he is always looking out for new opportunities to develop new projects which apply performance techniques in different situations to support others.
His working practice
Much of his working practice and ideals have been formed through his past experiences and the influence other artists have made upon him. Working with Unscene Suffolk; a theatre project set up to support the visually impaired played a big role in securing his roots as a theatre practitioner.
"Working with great practitioners like Jenni Elbourne, the Puppet Soup Theatre Company, History off the page and Pat Whymark has been such a God- send. They've taught me the importance of how to engage, inspire people and to bring together peoples skills and experiences to give ownership and to ensure a positive experience for everyone involved. I am always incredible grateful for what they have taught me."
Developing people's confidence and making people feel valued is at the core of any community setting. It's the starting point of any community theatre setting and puts people at ease so they're not terrified of making mistakes. Performance is about exploration and play. Its how we can then open discussion and learn more about ourselves and the wider community around us.
Alfie has since created several successful projects and has built strong relationships with project partners, funding bodies, felllow artists and community organisations.
The Black Dog Theatre Creation
With a core aim to "use performance techniques to develop people's confidence and to support the reduction of isolation," the project has become a wonderful success. Now in its sixth year, it has become securely embedded within the community in Essex and Camden, London working in partnership with the West Euston Partnership and Colchester Borough Council. The project runs weekly workshops developing performance skills, confidence, self-esteem and working towards regular performances. The project has taught Alfie a great deal about leading a community group, engaging with people whom are harder to reach and working alongside partnerships. Creatively, it's made Alfie more aware of finding ways to adapt to people's individual needs e.g. choosing the right venue, timing and accessibility needs, developing performances which do not rely upon mass line learning, audience sizes, costumes. The feedback from both participants and their families has been extremely positive. The project has really changed lives and given people a purpose and the encouragement to reconnect with society.
The Story Box Community Theatre Project
Working with older members of the community has always been a favourite of Alfie's. Older people are great to work with as they have so much to give and have so much to learn from. There's always been a common misconception that once you reach a certain age you become fragile and too frail to do anything and are often forgotten about. Alfie believes that they have so much more to give. We never stop learning and the Story Box Theatre Project does just that. The project runs weekly workshops exploring oral storytelling, work with puppets and masks and work towards producing regular performances. It's taught Alfie a lot about how to make the arts more accessible in terms of both the venues, space and activities. He's been amazed by the quality of the performances produced and the energy applied by the participants. The project also uses performances to explore and raise awareness of issues affecting older people such as loneliness, fears of ill health, accessibility, money issues and the constant changes to technology.
The Acoustic Lounge
The Acoustic Lounge Project was a three-year project which originated from the Colchester Arts Centre after they asked Alfie to put on a regular music gig to raise money to support the centre. The project aimed to support the development of local song writing. Alfie ran monthly gigs in a range of local venues giving artists the opportunity to try out and promote their new or developing material. It also became a popular way for artists to network and Alfie encouraged possibilities for artists to collaborate. It was a wonderful atmosphere created by Alfie. The project also ran a yearly song writing competition where Alfie had enlisted local recording studios and radio stations to offer recording packages as prizes. Each year would end with a showcase one day festival bringing together some 30 artist at one time.
The Legacy Theatre and Heritage Project
Alfie's Legacy project was inspired by his work with The History off the page and Colne Valley Victorian Railway experience. Its aim is to use theatre and performance to inspire people to learn about the past and to bring history alive. Alfie worked for three years alongside the Gateways to the First World War team to produce three successful projects in commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War. He was the only person in the UK to have received funding and to have produced three successful projects. All three performances were produced at London venues and one was even transferred to the West-End twice. The three performances were based upon sharing what we had learnt and brought to life real stories from the past. Education packages were shared with schools. Alfie was guest speaker at the Gateways First World War Festival.in Cardiff where he shared his experiences in leading the projects. He was also invited to attend as a special guest at the 100th Remembrance Day Service attended by the Queen. The projects gave Alfie the opportunity to develop new partnerships with museums and historians and develop new ways of applying theatre skills to bring historical enquiry skills to life.
"Congratulations on completing your first world war project. It was clear the project was a big success and it was particularly good to read about the strong community engagement, as well as the partnerships you have built"
(Rebecca Jenkins Heritage Lottery Fund)
Still in its first year, The Women Unscene project has already made a big impact - particularly during the lockdown. The project was set up to support local women and stay at home mums with the hope of reducing isolation and creating opportunities for them to share and develop new skills. Our first project focused upon working with the Puppet Soup Theatre Company learning how to use puppets on stage. We then used this to create a performance of Red Riding Hood using puppets for young audiences at the Loughton Library. Since the lockdown the participants have met regularly via zoom to record audio plays retelling children's stories and sharing these via facebook and you tube. Their stories have already captured the attention of the British Blind Association whom have been sharing our stories with their members.
Beyond the Edge Project
One of Alfie's first projects was the Beyond the Edge project. The 18 month project was designed to use performance techniques to support vulnerable adults with complex needs to develop confidence and independence. He worked with local his local homeless shelter, the Open Road, Fresh beginnings and Mind. He worked with over 150 people using workshops, day trips, activities and found that all the participants went on to reconnect with society through volunteering, further education or employment opportunities. The project was very difficult due to the complexity of many of the participants, but proved to be a fantastic learning opportunity. Alfie learnt how to adapt activities spontaneously to support individual needs and situations and gave him a greater empathy and understanding of the problems which some people face and the support mechanisms available.
Theatre for all
Alfie has a strong belief that theatre should be for all. He has developed the Theatre for All project which is committed to exploring ways to make performances (and his work) accessible to all. All of his projects are fully accessible regardless of disabilities, gender, sexuality, ethnic or cultural background or social class and financial situation. He continues to make his performances accessible, ensuring he works with venues which are accessible and tickets are avoidable. He has been commended upon for his commitment to promoting accessibility and diversity.
-Working with community organisations, artists.
-Working with participants
-Directing and performing in plays
-Marketing projects and attending/organizing public engagement opportunities
-Organising technical elements for performances
-Managing box office and front of house duties.
-Welcoming audience members before and after performances.
My role as a Project Leader
As a Project Leader my role has included (but not limited to:
-Planning and leading workshops
-Evaluating workshops, activities and projects
-Liasing with staff, volunteers, stakeholders, Trustees.
-Training staff and volunteers
-Applying for funding.
-Writing development plans and timetables.
-Attending training courses
Alfie James is always looking at developing new projects, collaborating and finding new ways of using performance techniques to support people and local communities. He has a particular interest in developing projects in the following areas:
-Supporting older people
-The LGBTQ community
-Ethnic minority groups
-Those with disabilities
-Mental Health issues
If you have an idea for a project or need a project Leader and are interested in working with Alfie then please get in touch.
Other workshops and support available by Alfie James:
-Acting for beginnings workshops for adults
-1:1 Acting coaching for adults
-Creative Writing workshops
-Every picture tells a story workshop
-Creating a character on stage workshop
-Improvising with confidence workshop
-Creating and managing your own community theatre project Workshop
-Using performance techniques to develop confidence and self-esteem
Please get in touch about any of the above workshops or support.