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18 June, 2024

What has Vita Nova done for me? Dudley Temple

18 June, 2024

I clearly remember the date October 2015, when I first met Sharon – I was in treatment and was doing drama therapy on Friday mornings, and was really enjoying it. I’d had a previous interest in drama and one afternoon after therapy had finished, I went to Vita Nova for the first time. Not long after that I did my first performance of The Nest (I was ‘Pride’) which got me involved in lots of other things, from singing to a bit of Shakespeare and even some comedy. But my interest always returned to community theatre.

Just before the lockdown, Vita Nova had started to pick up again but as everything closed down, I unfortunately relapsed. But with the help of AA meetings online I found a much stronger recovery, Vita began to reemerge after a period of inactivity: we sorted out the office and developed ‘Gallery View’, which was a brilliantly funny  production but an emotional one for me given how isolated I had felt during Covid. This really cemented my interest again as we got The Nest back into more schools and by September 2022, I was a trustee! People in recovery need a programme and a commitment to the 12 steps but something like Vita Nova working alongside this makes things that bit easier to get you back to or maintaining sobriety.

When Vita was approached about the Common Health Assets project and Tawa and I were given the opportunity to join the ‘Lived experience panel’, I saw it as an important opportunity for both the charity and for myself. Some two years later and having now travelled to London, Belfast and Glasgow, it has been such an eye-opener to see how other people benefit from community led organisations, but also how many of us are struggling throughout the UK. Much of that is due to funding withdrawal but an opportunity to see what the offer is and the benefit to their community in places like The Annexe in Glasgow, a former primary school and now a community centre offering loads of different services, and the amazing Bromley by Bow centre in the east end of London, has been a really rewarding experience.

Our role on the panel is a watching brief and ‘sense-checker’ on some of the methodologies being used for the research (e.g. the structure of questionnaires), offering some steer and sharing community knowledge: the longitudinal research project is  led by Glasgow Caledonian University with support from Bournemouth University and funded by the National Institute Health and Care Research. Final outcomes will be due at the end of this year.  I really hope what they publish is listened to – you can see what is being achieved by all of these organisations and from the perspective of being a Vita Nova Trustee, it has afforded me the view of how local authorities need to channel their resources for real change to take place in communities such as ours.