How this group of Burnley playwrights are using the power of theatre to fight their demons

Writer Rowena Scurlock is hosting playwright sessions to help Burnley people improve their well-being.
Writer Rowena Scurlock is hosting playwright sessions to help Burnley people improve their well-being.
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They’re using the power of theatre in the fight against their demons.

James Roberts, of Burnley, is one of a group of people staging original plays at the Vanguard Centre. Performances will take place on Saturday from 7-30 to 10pm.

James Roberts has written black comedy, The Miraculous Conception of Lifes Ups and Downs.

James Roberts has written black comedy, The Miraculous Conception of Lifes Ups and Downs.

The group has been attending creative writing sessions organised by writer Rowena Scurlock (pictured) and Stage Fright Community Group to improve their well-being.

James (pictured) said: “This is the first time I’ve really done any writing and I’ve found it therapeutic.

“I get a sense of achievement from the sessions and I’ve loved learning something new. It’s boosted my confidence and takes my problems away for a bit.”

James was in for a surprise when he penned The Miraculous Conception of Life’s Ups and Downs and discovered a love for writing black comedy. His hilarious tale is set in a coffee shop and follows a range of good and sinister characters.

“I didn’t really know this humour was in me and I’ve probably come up with the characters subconsciously,” he added.

“Not all of the story is based around stuff going on for me so it’s been a bit of an escape.”

Actress and writer Rowena was first inspired to tackle mental illness through theatre following her own battle with postnatal depression after having children.

Her play, Modern Living, which she wrote and performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, highlights the devastating impact of postpartum psychosis.

Symptoms of this rare but serious illness can include hallucinations, delusions, mania, depression and loss of inhibitions.

Producing the show, which was supported by mental health charity Time For Change Wales, transformed Rowena’s life and motivated her to apply for £500 in BRiC funding to set up six classes.

“I hoped by sharing my experiences I could help other people struggling with similar issues,” she said.

“Theatre is a powerful tool for change as it can help bring emotions out and allow people to express themselves. It’s a cathartic process.

“It feels amazing to help people achieve something and see what they’re capable of. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time.”

Saturday night’s showcase will comprise eight or nine plays and poetry readings, including comedies and dramas.

“Most of the class have never produced plays before but they’ve all done really well and some of the pieces are outrageously funny,” Rowena added.

“There are two people in particular who were very shy and lacked confidence but their ideas were absolutely amazing.”

The event, which takes place on Saturday at Vanguard Community Centre, Bevington Close, Burnley, is open to the public and entry is free but donations will be welcome.

The drama sessions will restart on Thursdays in September from 1 - 2pm. New members are welcome.

Rowena will also start her own creative writing practice at Boo Theatre in Waterfoot on Tuesday, August 13th from 1-3pm and link up with the PH7 Wellbeing Centre in Burnley, with a focus on well-being.

For more information about these activities and how to join the next block of sessions, please call Rowena on 07555 478497.