Lockdown was no doubt a challenging time for many. However, for professional actors Aryana Ramkhalowan and Vicky Wild, it was a chance to take stock and further a writing ambition.
As Aryana states, “the pandemic really slowed us down, enabling us to put pen to paper and start to write things and enter competitions”. Gradually, the pair began to make links triggering the desire to write a script based around Cleethorpes, focusing on a school. Vicky adds that this approach started virtually, instigated by the pandemic but this in essence provided the digital space/lack of geographical boundaries/time to make this happen. The perfect storm was coupled with the launch of Spark Grimsby via Grimsby Creates to provide one-to-one support and workshops for creative practitioners in North East Lincolnshire, giving this work an opportunity to develop.
With Spark Grimsby support, Grimsby Creates launched their Development Fund. For Aryana and Vicky, this acted as a significant platform to be the providers of learning and development opportunities for young people wishing to get into acting and associated roles such as production, directing or writing, whilst also acting as an opportunity to work on research and development for the script.
Central to this was the requirement to hear from the voices of local young people via Cleethorpes based Pauline Quirke Academy, so a real two-way process. The engagement enabled Aryana and Vicky to finalise the draft of the short film script, ahead of production. When reflecting upon the experience, Vicky points out that it was interesting to compare the experiences of young ambitious people growing up in North East Lincolnshire with that of their own, stating that the workshop “enabled us to make those connections with the young people and provided an opportunity to add twists and turns to the script”. In doing so this established a cohesion between the professional actors and directors involved, Aryana and Vicky themselves and the young people, creating a “ready-made network”.
The script itself centres around a young teenager, with a mixed ethnic background, sitting an exam, focusing on exam pressure, breaking free from the system and associated consequences. Saying more would potentially give the game away at this stage. For Aryana, it was just great to finally get everyone together in a room at a mutually beneficial time, “you could see the young people and actors interacting really well and subsequently you could really see them coming out of their shell”. In fact by the end of the process, everyone wanted to stay and continue with the project. For Vicky, what was particularly interesting was to see role reversals in performances with young people playing teachers and parents and adults playing the young people. “This enabled people to perhaps see through a different perspective of how they were perceived through their eyes” and also gain an understanding of similarities and differences between when the adults were at school and present day such as different “Acts of Rebellion”.
For Aryana and Vicky, a highlight was the sheer level of collaboration involved which in turn stemmed the learning for all parties. Young people were able to gain an understanding of what the industry is like, the many roles and how they work together from a broader perspective. This is exemplified by Aryana and Vicky’s reminiscence of “acts of rebellion” at school from their days in the classroom to those today. Vicky smiles at recalling acts of rebellion at school being somewhat more extreme historically, such as releasing chickens in the classroom, whereas nowadays acts appear to be much tamer, such as walking the wrong way around one-way systems in corridors!
So where are things going to be taken from here? Well, a draft has been finalised. Discussions are also taking place with the director and producer and funding routes are being explored. It is hoped that a short film will get the go-ahead in the autumn. Aryana and Vicky have also recently produced their first radio play ‘Hotdogs and Hashtags’, on BBC Radio 4 Extra commissioned by BBC New Creatives. They have also contributed as writers and performers to an audio trail delivered by Magna Vitae. Additionally, Vicky’s writing is published in ‘Common’, showcasing working class monologues. Finally, Aryana is currently performing in Exodus with The National Theatre in Scotland and plays Maya Ali in Dead Canny which has been recently aired on TV channel Dave.