Over the course of the 2023/24 season we will hear from a wide range of local people who have benefitted from Arsenal in the Community projects. Here we find out more about how Abdul, 35 and from London, has gone from the football pitch to the theatre stage thanks to a link-up between Arsenal in the Community’s Adult Learning Disability Football group and Islington’s Almeida Theatre.
Project: Arsenal Adult Learning Disability Football
Weekly participants: 40
Sessions: Every Thursday at The Arsenal Hub
Arsenal in the Community and the Almeida Theatre in Islington have been working together for the second time, bringing together the combined strength of Arsenal’s community outreach and Almeida’s artistic expertise to offer local young people, many of whom have not previously been involved in theatre, the opportunity to experience an exciting part of the community which is completely new to them.
Over the summer holidays, members of Arsenal’s weekly adult learning disability project have been taking part in workshops with director Jack Nurse and Almeida’s Participation Team to prepare them for a role in a play called 24 (Day): The Measure of My Dreams. Written by Annie Jenkins, 24 (Day) was the first in a trilogy of plays bringing together local artists, community performers and professional creatives to explore what it means to live, work, love, pray, celebrate and mourn in Islington.
Abdul tells us about his participation in the scheme and the many benefits he has gained from the experience…
“I heard about the scheme through Arsenal in the Community because I take part in football projects. I also assist as a coach for an after-school club for children with special educational needs.
“When I heard about the theatre project, it was something I really wanted to do – it’s great to be part of a project like this. I hadn’t even been to the Almeida Theatre before, so I was really excited to get involved as it was something that was new to me.
“Getting on stage to act as a referee and as an Arsenal fan was so enjoyable because I’m both already!
It wasn’t just being on stage, it was the people involved with every aspect of the project and I’ve made lots of friends, which is important because we all needed to support each other when we were acting on stage. It’s similar to how we all support each other when we’re on the football pitch and all the staff at the Almeida helped ease our nerves and built our confidence when we took to the stage.
“Taking part has made me see things in a different light and reflect on what I do. For example, even when you are coaching you need to show different emotions and personalities, and it was the same when I was acting. It has definitely made me feel more confident in general and I’ve been able to use the confidence when I’m coaching at Arsenal in the Community sessions too. I’m more confident to try new things.
What’s really surprised me about being part of this project is that I enjoy acting a lot more now! That’s why it’s important to try new things because you may actually begin to like it.
“Overall, being a part of Arsenal is special. Given that I’m a fan, it’s fantastic to be a part of this amazing club. Arsenal does great work in the community and has created opportunities for me to achieve my full potential and I’m forever grateful. That could be the same for other people too – if you get an opportunity like this, go for it! If you don’t try things, you will never know if you’ll like them or not.”
It’s happened again!
The first collaboration between Arsenal and the Almeida came in 2016, when the theatre put on a play called Boy, focusing on inner-city experiences. Alongside the production, thanks to a grant from the Arsenal Foundation, the theatre’s playwrights worked with Arsenal in the Community project participants to develop a series of monologues and short plays based on their own real-life experiences. These were then presented by professional directors and actors on stage at the Almeida Theatre with many participants playing small acting roles in it too.
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