Tom England (class of 2007) writes about his career in the Arts over the last ten years since leaving Colston's
Tom England in "1972: The Future of Sex"
Tom England : From Colston’s to a career in the Arts
When I collected my A-level results way back in 2007 I had no idea what lay ahead of me. I had been active in every drama production that the school had put on, both on stage and behind the scenes; I had been encouraged to pursue a career in the arts by both Ali Chisnell and Stephen Pritchard, but I had no idea how things would unfold in the years to come.
Tom (second from the right) on A-level results day
As such, I took a gap year straight after school to work and spend time figuring out my next steps. As it turns out, the next step for me was to embark on a degree in Social Anthropology at King’s College, Cambridge. During my time at Cambridge I met some wonderful people and discovered a whole lot about myself and the world around me. I worked hard and achieved a First Class degree but didn’t spend as much time performing as I had thought I might. The theatre scene at Cambridge always seemed a little too high brow for me, too much Shakespeare and not enough creation of new work. I had a great time, and enjoyed touring the East Coast of America with Antony and Cleopatra in the Cambridge American Stage Tour (CAST), but I knew I wanted to pursue creating my own work more after I left.
Me and my Gran at my graduation
After graduating, therefore, I got back in touch with my old friends at the Wardrobe Ensemble and began collaborating with them once again- devising, creating, and playing like I had always been encouraged to do at Colston’s. The journey since then has been a process of growth and development, creating work that reflects our collective lived experience and is relevant to the world in which we find ourselves placed. We created ‘1972: The Future of Sex’ in 2014, in partnership with Shoreditch Town Hall, and took it up to Edinburgh during the summer of 2015. The show was received incredibly well and we went on to receive a Stage Award for Acting Excellence and a whole host of great reviews. Following Edinburgh we took the show on tour around the UK, establishing good relationships with venues and audiences alike. As a result, by the time we created our most recent show ‘Education, Education, Education’ we had amassed quite a following. After winning yet another Stage Award for Acting Excellence at the 2017 Fringe, alongside a Fringe First Award for new writing, we booked a tour of mid-scale regional theatres that saw us perform at the Bristol Old Vic in November of 2017 to a sell-out audience every night, as well as numerous other regional theatres across the UK. In fact, the show has been received so well that we will be returning to the Bristol Old Vic in Spring 2018 and touring extensively across the UK once again. Why not check out the Wardrobe Ensemble website here to grab yourself a ticket!
Tom performing in "1972:The Future of Sex"
Not only have I been incredibly fortunate over the last few years as a deviser, writer and performer of new work, performing in some incredible venues, I have also been able to expand my skillset as a project coordinator on a number of creative projects that seek to positively impact communities with little artistic engagement. In 2012, I started working with the Imperial War Museum North, up in Manchester, running a programme called ‘Serving Stories’, which took former service veterans in to schools and colleges in order to encourage intergenerational understanding. The project was so popular that it was extended for 3 years and ended up reaching over 500 young people across the region. Off the back of that project I began working as a Project Animateur for a project in Birmingham called the Griot Elders Project, which aimed to engage elderly people from predominantly Afro-Caribbean backgrounds now living in a deprived part of North Birmingham, through a programme of artistic activity.
Looking forward, I am incredibly excited about what the future holds. As I have already mentioned, I will be touring ‘Education, Education, Education’ throughout 2018, and will be developing a number of different projects alongside of that. The Wardrobe Ensemble are also excited to have been made Associate Artists of Complicite Theatre Company, one of the most well respected and established theatre companies in the UK and across Europe, and will be developing a project with them in 2018. On top of that, outside of theatre, I have been working on an independent film for a number of years as a lead role in ‘COSMOS’, which will be released sometime in mid-2018. I have also been awarded a Feeney Fellowship by the John Feeney Charitable Trust to develop my craft as a performer and artist in the West Midlands, where I am now living, and will be working with diverse actors and artists across the region throughout the year.
The Wardrobe Ensemble after having received our second Stage Award
Needless to say, the last few years have been an incredible journey and I have no doubt that the coming months and years will be no different. I have a lot to push forward towards both professionally and personally. I am now a married man, having tied the knot in July of this year to a beautiful, strong, capable, and talented woman (if I do say so myself) called Grace.
Since our wedding we have established ourselves in Birmingham, with Grace now leading the development of a Social Investment fund in Birmingham and the Black Country, after having created a similar fund in Bristol, investing in socially focused businesses across the city, such as BearPit Bristol.
Tom and Grace at their wedding
As an artist, life can be tumultuous, you don’t know what lies around the corner and it can be a test of your nerve to stick with it at times, but the last few years are a testament to the fact that there is so much to be gained by sticking to your guns and pursuing that which you feel called to. I don’t know exactly what lies ahead, but I am bolstering my skillset, surrounding myself with love and support, and moving towards the future with energy and passion. I know that all of the teachers and staff that put so much faith in me as a student at Colston’s would expect nothing less.
For anyone interested in having a chat or catch up, have a sneaky look at my website and drop me a message, I’d love to hear from you.
We are sorry to report that OC Brian Smith has passed away at the age of 81
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