Guardian Spotlight: Tinu

Tinuke CraigOne of the things I really wanted to do with my volunteering was try and bring the arts to as many people as possible.  I’m a theatre director by trade, and I’ve always marveled at the amount of people I speak to that immediately label themselves as ‘not creative’.  Wishy washy as it might sound, I really believe that every single person in the world is creative, and that unlocking creative potential is absolutely one of the most rewarding things a person can do.

Expressing yourself artistically when it’s not what you do every day is an amazing outlet. It gives you a connection to your inner child, a boost in confidence, a chance to challenge yourself, an opportunity to meet new people, and a space to tell your story. It’s also a great way of uniting communities.

A couple of years ago a friend and I set up a women’s choir in Brixton. With a tiny bit of musical knowledge and a big love of singing in groups, we set out to create a fun space where women of all ages could come for free and have a bit of a sing. Electric Belles (s named by a member) now consists of 50 singers. There are no auditions and no one has to be able to read music or have any musical experience at all. The group ranges from professional singers right through to complete novices. The benefits of singing in choirs have been talked about a lot and I can really testify to it. It’s proven to improve your mental health, increase a sense of community spirit and is great for your body too. Our singers come from all walks of life and I love being able to provide this for free.

Closer to home (Poplar) I’ve started volunteering with a company called All Stars London. All Stars are a company that originated in America and their focus is on young people in poor areas. The company believes that teaching children performance skills gives them much greater access to the world around them as they are able to take on and play up different aspects of their character and feel more at home in a variety of environments. The company is very grass roots and I’ve really enjoyed setting up talent shows in town halls, recruiting young families in Chrisp street market and organizing tours of theatres and museums during the school holidays.

Last month I had the privilege of being able to use my skills to volunteer for a company called Synergy, a theatre company who work throughout the criminal justice system. A group of five young offenders currently at Her Majesty’s Young Offenders’ Institute ISIS in Woolwich had been working on a playwriting project every week for an hour for ten weeks. The project was set up to improve the men’s literacy skills, allow them space to tell their stories, and to explore their creative potential through learning a new skill (scriptwriting). Once they had completed their scripts (averaging around 5-15 minutes long) they were sent to me, and I spent a few days rehearsing staged readings of the plays with professional actors. We then travelled to the prison and performed the plays for a group of over 100 prisoners including our five playwrights. It was an incredible experience and talking to the writers afterwards, you could really see the immediate impact the project had had on their self-esteem, willingness to talk and personal happiness. I can’t wait to work with the company again.

I’ve really loved being a property guardian for so many reasons but one of the main reasons is that it has afforded me the time to take my (sometimes very indulgent) career and use the skills I’ve acquired to bring a new aspect to the lives of people for whom the arts might not be immediately accessible by getting them in touch with their creativity and reaping the benefits.