Outside Edge Theatre Company's Coronavirus Appeal
Outside Edge Theatre Company is the UK’s only theatre company and participatory arts charity that focuses on addiction. For over 20 years our unique drama activities have supported at-risk and recovering addicts, their families, carers and champions to lead happier, healthier lives in some of London’s most deprived areas. The physiological and psychological responses felt by engaging in an arts-based activity, including the reduction of stress hormones, enhanced self-worth and feelings of achievement means that 97% of beneficiaries say that engaging with our work helps them to support their recovery.
However, during this unprecedented time, more people than ever before are reaching out to us for help. With funds from this campaign, we can continue to offer our free, award-winning services to these vulnerable individuals facing uncertainty and isolation.
Our beneficiaries need your help
During lockdown, the vulnerable people we support have experienced acute loneliness, boredom and depression, which often trigger relapse. With increased threat of domestic violence and deterioration of health and wellbeing our beneficiaries and their families face the significant collateral effects of Covid-19. Our unique form of arts-based intervention is a vital social and mental boost for our participants, and a chance to build confidence and strengthen their recovery.
With our free, weekly recovery maintenance activities now available online, we saw a 40% increase in attendance and need from our participants, as more people sought support and wellbeing from our unique drama activities. It is essential that we diversify and expand our services as soon as possible. With your help we can make a significant difference to those still facing new, unexpected barriers and hardship due to Coronavirus, and continue our life changing work of the past 20 years.
How you can help
In talking with beneficiaries, Service User Representatives and other local service providers, we have identified the need to invest in additional training and supervision to support our volunteers and staff during this crisis. In line with an increase in our number of activities, funding will allow us to implement essential befriending services, and provide extra online safeguarding training and Mental Health First Aid training to those people delivering our front line services.
Many of our participants are digitally excluded. Since 33% of beneficiaries have an underlying health condition, we expect that over the next 6 to12 months there will be a significant need for them to continue to join our recovery maintenance activities from home. While we have ensured they can connect by non-smart phone (i.e., like a telephone conference call), we are also fundraising to provide digitally excluded participants with tablets and mobile WiFi devices.
We are redesigning service delivery to accommodate combining online and in-person work. Investing in laptops, mobile WiFi devices and video conferencing equipment with a wide enough lens to view an entire rehearsal room will ensure we can work with both in-person and remote participants, and meet government venue capacity guidelines.
Our beneficiaries co-designed our Covid-19 response activities, which, with additional funding we will be able to continue to deliver:
- Theatre Club: Participants nominate an online play each week for us to watch together, after which we hold a Q&A with a cast or creative team member. So far, special guests joining us have included stars from the National Theatre, and the artistic directors of Shakespeare’s Globe and the Royal Court.
- Peer-led Check-in: Participants lead the delivery of this group focusing on wellbeing and peer recovery maintenance support
- Ballet at Home: We will partner with Fallen Angels Dance Theatre to deliver a new online group that provides exercise through dance and creative movement, lead by a dancer with lived experience.
- Southwark Drop-In Drama: A new branch of our highly successful informal introductory drama sessions offered to anyone affected by addiction, with no previous experience necessary.
Two full-time staff members have continued to meet a much increased need for pastoral care, signposting beneficiaries to clinical treatment providers, providing recovery maintenance coaching and navigating local services. More one-to-one care has been needed to help vulnerable people access food delivery, digital technology and critical befriending services. Therefore we invested in mobile phones to double the amount of pastoral care calls made throughout the day. Funding is critical to keep these lifelines in service, with dedicated mobiles significantly helping us to reach more people, when so many voice messages left on our unmanned landlines went unheard.
Our thank you
By making a donation, you will be transforming the lives of our beneficiaries, and ensuring our life-changing work can continue at its best. Your support will be acknowledged across our platforms, and as a further thank you we will extend invitations to Outside Edge socials, events and productions, giving you the opportunity to see the impact of your donation in person.
The impact of your donation
With increased self-esteem and self-confidence, our participants feel in greater control of their lives and recovery. As well as drama sessions we support community bonding by organising social events, such as free theatre trips throughout the year. We also encourage participants to use Outside Edge opportunities as a pathway to employment. We offer training to become Volunteer Peer Mentors and/or Volunteer Support Facilitators in taster sessions and drama groups, which leads to offers of employment with Outside Edge.
Our activities also benefit members of the community, including local audience members and neighbours, encouraging community integration and helping to destigmatize substance misuse and recovery.
We coached participants for professional productions throughout the year and helped one service user successfully audition for one of the UK’s most prestigious drama schools.
We support the next generation of practitioners through academic partnerships with Applied Theatre programmes, hosting 6 student placements from the University of Kingston, Central School of Speech and Drama and University of Gloucestershire.
In 2019, our innovative work was honoured by the National Campaign for the Arts with a 2020 Hearts for the Arts Award (Best Arts, Health and Wellbeing Project).
“Full marks in every category for this extraordinary company that doesn’t just improve lives but saves them. Far-reaching and ambitious in its remit, it has transformed the lives of people living with addiction and the subsequent poor mental health beyond measure. I wish every town, city, community in the country could offer what they do.” - Julie Hesmondhalgh, Hearts for the Arts Award
Impact in numbers
What we do
Before Covid-19 we offered service users weekly drop-in groups including drama and script writing led by an ex-service user who is now an acclaimed playwright, and a female-only drama group (the only of its kind in London). We took drama taster sessions into treatment facilities to demonstrate to beneficiaries how theatre can act as an activity to support recovery maintenance.
The games and role-playing provide opportunities to relearn group social skills and have fun in a relaxed, safe space. We help participants build confidence, self-esteem and the skills required to lead productive, healthy lives, free from harmful behaviours.
Our more advanced drama groups include Edge Two, facilitated by an ex-service user who is a veteran West End performer, and The Company whose productions raise awareness about addiction and recovery.
Throughout we provide formal pastoral care for our beneficiaries who, besides the tough journey to abstinence, almost all face significant other complex needs.
Stella started attending Outside Edge’s Women’s Drama Group when she was in her early 50’s. Many years of active heroin addiction had left her anxious, with low self-esteem and feeling terrified of other people. As a consequence she had become extremely isolated and felt suicidal. But over the past 4 years, Stella has progressed from our drop-in activities to attend Edge Two and The Company. She has now performed in 12 public performances, including in front of thousands of viewers on the BBC, and started to volunteer as a Peer Support Facilitator for Taster Sessions. During the Covid-19 crisis, Stella co-facilitated our weekly Peer-led Check-in.
“Participating in OETC activities has changed my life beyond measure. It is a safe, creative space with so many things to do and explore; you can just show up and take part or be more involved and committed to projects that involve achieving larger goals. Everyone is treated equally with opportunities to forget about the stresses of life and be creative in a healthy, safe manner.
I have made new connections with people in the drama groups and have hopefully made friends for life. I can give back to others struggling with addiction with compassion and, most importantly, I have compassion for myself too. OETC has given me back the voice I had lost."