There is something rather extraordinary about the 15-25 age bracket that Boundless work with. I distinctly remember being 15 and wishing time would go twice as fast so that I could reach the part of my life when I would gain control, responsibility and adventure. Now as I write this article, less than a year from turning 25, I find myself wishing for exactly the opposite. I wish time would move slower so that I could better appreciate and take advantage of what it’s like to have all of these amazing elements of your life even as I reflect on the fact that being a young adult has never felt quite as complicated.
In a way, this feeling of immense ennui parallels my sentiments about this September when I celebrated five years as a Boundless Theatre Advisory Group member. It was early September 2016 when former Company of Angels Executive Producer Zoe Lally contacted me out of the blue to invite me to join their Advisory Group set-up as part of new artistic director Rob Drummer’s overhaul of the organisation. I didn’t know what an Advisory Group was and to be honest, I had never heard of Company of Angels before that moment but I was about to start my second year of University and I was of the mind that any experience in the sector was a good one.
I still have a picture from the very first time I engaged with the company in a conference room at HighTide Festival Theatre’s office near Farringdon. […] It was exciting. None of us had seen “Boundless” but already we were taking what Rob had given us and run with it, quickly finding ourselves feeling the sensation of where this project was going.
I still have a picture from the very first time I engaged with the company in a conference room at HighTide Festival Theatre’s office near Farringdon. We laid a number of pictures out on the table and in collaboration with the staff team selected the images that best aligned with our vision of what “Boundless” as a concept was. It was exciting. None of us had seen “Boundless” but already we were taking what Rob had given us and run with it, quickly finding ourselves feeling the sensation of where this project was going.
We did an Advisory Group photoshoot on a surprisingly chilly autumn day in the Biscuit Factory Car Park in Bermondsey. The group assembled and were able to appreciate the excitement of being part of the magical six selected to pilot this project. Amusingly, the classic lasting image of that day was one in which I had thrown my head back in laughter at a joke somebody had made but it seems to have stood the test of time well.
From there, it’s amazing to reflect on how much of a blur it’s been. I remember the entire process of ‘Natives’ as if it were only yesterday from receiving the script to attending the R&D read-through to being shown proposals for the set and branding to attending the premiere at Southwark Playhouse. I remember reading the script for ‘Confidence’ and attending a rehearsal a couple of weeks before the performance. Intermittently in between these moments, I also remember Rob making the time for Advisory Group-dedicated activity from a Pizza meeting at the Biscuit Factory as a means of picking our brains to taking the group on dedicated theatre trips and even a summer picnic in Hyde Park. I was even once invited to speak at a fundraising event on behalf of Boundless and had the privilege of speaking both to staff of other major London-based theatre companies and potential funders.
Throughout that period members have come and members have gone but the ethos and identity of the group has remained the same throughout, we came from many different backgrounds but we were dedicated to using our experience as a means of serving Boundless and in return, Rob and the Boundless team supported each of us not only as young theatre professionals coming green into the sector but as young adults coming into a crazy world. I left London to work at Chichester Festival Theatre in September 2019 but despite this, I was kept in the loop on Boundless activity, made to feel like I was part of the Boundless family by both staff and fellow Advisory Group members and Rob even visited me at the theatre.
The moment when the Advisory Group really took off though was in March 2020 when COVID gave everybody across the UK a sharp, sudden shock. By this point, I had moved to Edinburgh and become a freelance arts worker but like many in my situation, the pandemic quickly and immediately shut down all my avenues of income with no clear pathway for how I’d be able to cover my rent and bills. My first ever Zoom call was Rob assembling the group to check in with everybody and ask for advice and support on where the company should go next. Many of us didn’t know each other but every week we made the time to check in, chat about what we’d been up to and talk about how Boundless were responding to the situation. This space although possibly not the most productive use of Rob’s valuable time was a lifeline for all of us as we navigated a once in a lifetime global pandemic and got through it because we were there for each other.
I feel immense pride as I look at the incredible group of people now entrusted with carrying on the legacy of the Boundless Advisory Group, especially the younger members who can look forward to spending even longer growing the potential of what this group can achieve than I have in my 5 year term.
And the more we came together, the more we felt comfortable engaging with each other beyond the context of meetings. Since those initial Zoom calls, a selection of the group have worked to put together a Digital Happening as part of Boundless’ online arts offering, a means of adapting to the circumstances. We were a vital part of the process of selecting the new chair of the Boundless board. I even facilitated a Board/Staff/Advisory Group/Freelancers Zoom quiz, giving members of the Boundless family from different strands the opportunity to meet and engage with each other. The connection between us was so strong in fact, that we didn’t hesitate to take a lead on the process of recruiting new Advisory Group members, expanding the group from its initial 6 members to 12 and now 21.
As I write this article, I am aware that my time on the Boundless Advisory Group is slowly coming to an end. As part of our process of recruiting new members, we worked to establish some clear-cut ground rules including the fact that we aren’t able to be Advisory Group members past the age of 25. In realising this, I have reflected a lot not only on the state that I’m leaving the Advisory Group in as a senior member but on the legacy of being a founder member of the Boundless Advisory Group on me. Whilst part of the group, I was asked to scout out fellow Advisory Groups to learn how they were different and similar to us and what we could potentially learn from them. This in turn allowed me to speak from an informed perspective on the benefits of Youth Advisory Groups when speaking to Chichester Festival Theatre, allowing me to be a key part in the establishment of their group. I am currently in the process of establishing a Youth Advisory Board for Capital Theatres in Edinburgh, one that I will set up alongside the staff, help with recruitment, chair for its initial 12 month period and then graduate to being a member of the main board when a seat next opens up.
I feel immense pride that my being part of this group and being entrusted with delivering on Rob’s vision for the Boundless structure has allowed me to have experiences and knowhow that has in turn benefitted my career and I owe so much to Rob and the Boundless team for that. I also feel immense pride as I look at the incredible group of people now entrusted with carrying on the legacy of the Boundless Advisory Group, especially the younger members who can look forward to spending even longer growing the potential of what this group can achieve than I have in my 5 year term. Despite the bleakness of Brexit, the climate crisis and COVID recovery, there has never been a better time to be a member of team Boundless, working to support 15-25 year olds not only by telling stories that speak to their reality but helping them to grow and develop into extraordinary human beings inspired to go out and change the world. I only wish time would move a little slower so that I can experience the magic of this group for just a little longer.