Raised Voices comes straight from the Homeless of Edinburgh. The Mumble caught up with the caring heart behind it all
Hello Blair, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from Shropshire but I’ve been living in Edinburgh for about 20 years. I moved out to Musselburgh last year.
When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
I’ve always loved writing and performing and have always been creative from a young age. As I’ve got older this has turned in to writing and performing in shows, which I really enjoy.
In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?
Theatre is so real, you can see and feel the emotion of the actors so much more than if you are watching them on a screen. It is also live and adds an air of excitement to the performance. Theatre is also anoccasion, you have to plan to go and actually leave the house and people usually make a day or night of it, which makes it feel that bit more special.
What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Spending time with my family, I have a young son which usually means an early start. I also like to watch sport, so if there’s football or a Grand Prix on I’ll try and watch that. Around this time of year I will be working on the Fringe show, there never seems to be a time when something is not waiting to be done.
Can you tell us about Raised Voices & your role?
I founded Raised Voices in 2013 to offer creative writing and drama classes to people who have experienced homelessness. As the charity has progressed we are also with people with mental health issues and other people who may find themselves isolated. It’s a really inclusive group we have and nowadays it is hard to define as much as it was previously. I call myself ‘Director’ but in reality I am a bit of everything. I do the finances, produce the shows and I’m also hands on in the running of the group.
You’re bringing a play to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; what are you bringing to the table?
I’m writing and directing along with my assistant Archie Gray. I also look after the production of the show and I’ll be doing the lights and sound when we are performing.
How have you found working with Archie Gray?
Archie was the first person to come to Raised Voices back in 2013 and I know him very well. A couple of year’s ago I asked if he wanted to become a trustee and assist me with the charity and he jumped at the chance. He is so dedicated and brilliant at what he does and the charity would be a lot poorer without him, as I’ve come to rely on him so much.
What materials were used during the research period?
I interviewed one of our members – Kevin. The show is about his life and how he became homeless. I took in a Dictaphone and spoke with him at length and then used his words to form the basis of the show. With the help of Archie and input from the cast, we have developed the script.
Can you tell us about the cast?
We have a core group of members that have been with us for years, they have all experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. We also have new members that have come on board that have not been homeless but have experienced or are experiencing some other issues in their life. All are not trained actors which brings a real rawness and energy to the performance.
What emotive responses do you expect from the audience?
I think the audience are going to be really moved by Kevin’s story. There are some parts of the play that will tough to watch but ultimately the play is uplifting and shows how he has come back from the brink to where he is today.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
This show is performed by people who have all had big challenges in their life and they have come together to bring you an amazing story of despair, hope and redemption that will leave you inspired.
What will you & Raised Voices be doing after the Fringe?
After a short break we will be moving on to starting to work on our Christmas Show. There have been mutterings of the group wanting to do a musical, which fills me with a certain amount of dread. Either way we will be working hard to produce a great show for the public.