Mental Health Community Theatre Company - Arcola Theatre

With the generous grant from Foundation for Future London and Westfield East Bank Creative Futures fund, this project has been able to create multiple employment, creative, learning and early career support opportunities through the creation of a community theatre group for participants with experience of mental health issues.

Arcola Theatre invited adults with experience of poor mental health to join a 10 week creative theatre project to devise a performance together to perform at 4 outside locations across east London. The group will be performing in Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. See below for performance dates and details. 

The project has a two arm approach, the first being the creation of jobs, training and mentoring to three facilitators/community artists and a variety of volunteering opportunities. The second is the establishing of a community theatre company for adults who have experience of mental health issues. The weekly sessions will provide a safe space for participants to share their experiences of mental health issues, challenge the stigma around mental health, and collaboratively create a performance and improve their wellbeing.

We are very excited to share our work with you all, do come along to one of our free performances at one of the venues listed below.

Saturday 20th August – 10.30am Coronation Gardens, E10 5NG, Waltham Forest. Leyton Train Station

Saturday 20th August – 3pm Spitalfields City Farm, E1 5AR, Tower Hamlets. Whitechapel Station 10 min walk

Sunday 21st August – 2pm Forest Gate Community Garden, E7 9AR, Newham. Forest Gate Train Station, 3 min walk

Wednesday 24th August – 7.30pm Arcola Outside, E8 3DL, Hackney. Dalston Junction Overground Station 


Jessica McKenna – Lead Facilitator / Director

Jess (she/they) is a theatre maker from East London. They have worked with many communities across London, including young people, mental health service users, migrants, people in recovery from substance misuse, and individuals who have special educational needs. They are passionate about collaborative practices, and theatre’s intersections with advocacy and activism. They currently facilitate educational workshops for Tender, and have recently been commissioned by C&T to create digital applied theatre resources which celebrate LGBTQ+ identities. Jess has also worked with participation departments at the Almeida Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse. They are currently writing their MA dissertation at Central School of Speech and Drama on the ways in which applied theatre practices might support recovery communities.

Jess started attending the Arcola Mental Health Company first as a participant, then as an assistant, and began directing the group in 2019 with the Company’s production of The Pleasure of Your Bedlam. Jess credits the Arcola Mental Health Company for igniting their love of making theatre with communities, and is very excited to be working with the group again. The Mental Health company is a unique space where participants can be playful, explore their experiences, and form meaningful connections. After the events and isolations of the last few years, it is more important than ever to create the space for this to happen. 

Aoife Beaumont – Assistant Facilitator

Aoife is a freelance facilitator and actor from Ireland. She believes in the creative arts as a method for connection and expression. She’s delighted to be assisting Jess alongside Josh and working as part of the team for the AMHC project. Aoife is  grateful  to have the opportunity to further develop her practice through the mentor program at the Arcola until January 2023. Aoife has enjoyed being inspired by the participants courage weekly and feels both empowered and fortunate to be part of the process. 

Joshua Picton – Assistant Facilitator

Josh is a facilitator/actor, He has worked for multiple theatres as a facilitator; including the Park and the artsdepot. This has been the first mental health project that he’s done and is really grateful for it, as the arts have helped him so much in his own mental wellbeing. He believes that a creative output can be an incredibly cathartic experience and bring a moment of lightness and playfulness to the darkest of times. He is grateful for this experience and everyone involved in it.

Funded by Westfield East Bank Creative Futures Fund, supported by Westfield Stratford City and Foundation for Future London

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