Two Falkirk veterans are taking part in an innovative theatre production as part of their recovery.
Veterans Jim Kettles and Billy McWilliam, both members of Help for Heroes’ Band of Brothers support network, are taking part in a drama and music production for veterans experiencing isolation which will be performed on Friday (23 February).
The production, which has been created during a project led by Macrobert Arts Centre in partnership with Alan Cameron of Stand Easy Productions and the Armed Services Advice Project, is based around the experiences of a 68 year old Naval Veteran who served in Aden. The project is also supported by Live Music Now with singer/songwriter Ainsley Hamill acting as Musical Director for the piece.
The focus of the three-week project, funded by Veterans Scotland, is on building confidence and reducing isolation and on having fun, talking, listening, and socialising in a creative, safe and supportive – but also challenging - environment.
The group worked with a small group of veterans, including the widow of a veteran, who took part alongside volunteer actors from Stirling University.
Macrobert Arts Centre has a commitment to engaging with new audiences and on working with those who might struggle to access the arts. This project builds on the legacy of outreach work done around Rosie Kay’s production of 5 Soldiers: The Body is the Frontline which toured to Macrobert in 2016.
Stand Easy uses theatre and drama as a means of recovery for wounded, injured and sick military personnel, building communication skills and positive mental health, raising self-confidence, motivation and self-esteem and giving participants more control over their lives and helping them make the transition from serving to civilian life.
The piece the veterans have created will be performed for an invited audience of friends and family on Friday 23 February at Macrobert Arts Centre.
Director Alan Cameron said: "The most difficult part of the whole process is always persuading veterans that this really is something they will enjoy and get a lot out of. This group – like all the veterans we work with – has been a joy.
“Over the past three weeks we have worked to bring the group together, teach drama, music and improvisation skills, devise the words for the play and one of the songs we are performing – and now we will perform the 30-minute play on Friday.
“The play is based on the stories of an Aden Veteran, and deals with the way that past events can hit a veteran later in life, and the difficulties that can ensue for the veteran and their families. The subject is of course serious, but, believe me, some of it has been hilarious in the making and this will come across as well.”
Hannah Uttley, Creative Learning Officer, Macrobert Arts Centre, said: “I am so pleased and excited to be working on this project, after only the first few days the participants were already speaking about the positive impact the project is having on them. It has been incredibly rewarding to see the participants grow over the last three weeks – I can’t wait to watch them perform on Friday!”
Veteran Billy McWilliam said: "This has been a great opportunity to do something that has been so comfortable and easy going. Doing something I never thought I could ever do. The people who have been involved have been a credit. And a big thanks to Alan, Ainsley and Hannah."
Jim Kettles, who took part in a Stand Easy production in Tayside last year, said: "This is the second time around for me and this time I've come on board as a mentor offering encouragement and support. This gives me great satisfaction in being able to give back a little something I gained from last time: a sense of belonging, letting them know and understand what Veterans like myself are going through."
Gerry McGregor, Help for Heroes Band of Brothers/Sisters Coordinator in Scotland, said: “We are delighted to support Stand Easy and their work in helping veterans gain confidence and escape isolation. It is such a moving, powerful performance.”