Islington theatre company to help recovering addicts reclaim their voices

A theatre company in Islington will be running an applied theatre project to help recovering addicts reclaim their voices. 

Islington People’s Theatre is aiming to help people in recovery from substance abuse build confidence and rediscover their creative voice through drama with its upcoming Recoverist Theatre Project. 

The theatre’s founder Nicola Hollinshead created the project in 2017 and will be piloting the initiative in Islington after it proved effective in her hometown of Liverpool. 

She said: “I think there needs to be more attention given to the recovery process using the arts.

“Drama and theatre are unique because they give people who society doesn’t normally listen to the opportunity to voice their stories or create a character to tell their story.

“This can be transformational and life changing. As theatre involves things like writing and movement, it can open a lot of doors.”

Hollinshead created the project while studying for an MA in Applied Theatre, a process which involves working alongside groups with no previous acting experience.

Applied theatre usually takes place in non-traditional theatre settings and Hollinshead’s initiative was first run at The Brink in Liverpool, the UK’s first ‘dry bar’.

The project’s name is derived from the Recoverist Manifesto which frames the role of people in recovery as ‘recoverists‘, giving them an active role and destigmatising the shame surrounding addiction. 

Hollinshead, who believes addiction is a health issue exacerbated by social inequality, said: “Too often, society points fingers at people in recovery rather than helping them. There’s so much shame surrounding addiction.

“The feedback from the participants was quite amazing really. They said it was cathartic and healing and that it helped them to change their viewpoint on recovery.” 

The ten-week initiative will begin on Friday 29 April and will involve weekly applied theatre sessions.

It is open and free to anyone in Islington who is in recovery, with Hollinshead securing funding from Islington Council’s Community Chest in partnership with the Cripplegate Foundation.

The project will take place at St. Mary’s Community Centre on Upper Street in conjunction with Eagle Recovery in Islington and Better Lives.

Hollinshead was introduced to drama at Liverpool’s Everyman Youth Theatre during a period of financial difficulty in the city called ‘managed decline’ which resulted in mass unemployment.

She said: “It was a fantastic time to be involved in theatre as it was sort of like a creative revolution against what we were having to deal with in Liverpool.

“Being from a working-class background myself, this really influenced me and it still does. 

“The basis of the company using theatre as a platform for social change was inspired by this.”

Hollinshead’s first professional television role was in the BBC’s BAFTA winning drama Boys from the Blackstuff and she performed in theatre for over 20 years.

To find out more about the Recoverist Theatre Project, visit Islington People’s Theatre’s website

Featured image credit: Islington People’s Theatre

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