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“I was a shy, lonely kid. Didn’t fit in at school. Broken home. Moved about a lot. Ran away a lot. To cut a long story short, at 13 I joined the People’s Youth Theatre. I remember doing my first-ever improvisation. I was sitting on a bench and had to react to the music playing. It was David Bowie’s Life on Mars. In that moment, I was the girl with the mousey hair. I was transported to a cinema screen with all these clowns and sailors dancing around me (No I wasn’t on drugs!) When the track finished, the room was quiet, then everyone clapped. I felt like I belonged. I made friends for the first time in my life, met the love of my life, found my life-long vocation, and became an ardent Bowie fan! My life has been rich with experiences because of the arts.”


Bev Fox

Co-founder, Boho Arts

Producer, Director, Performer, Teacher


From being little, you provided me a safe haven to go to when all felt wrong. From skipping PE in school, to hanging about in a room where I finally felt that I could belong. It was in a theatre when I first said openly and out loud the words ‘I am Gay’ … Said in general conversational way, and guess what 17 year old Connor… it was OK

I’m a comedian not a poet (give me a break!) I went from a child to an adolescent, and now a 21 year old man. Thank you for the childhood, the coming of age story, the friendships and that relationship, and the career I’m so great full to have. You’ve been a constant in my life, my strength an stay, you're truly a national treasure … (no it’s not about the Queen).

Thank you to the Arts!

But remember it’s not just for the Gays!


Connor Read

Comedian, Performer, Theatre Facilitator


Life began at 40 - late starter but worth the wait! Seduced by poetry performance, then a ‘ménage a trois’ with stand-up comedy. A larger orgy of lurve ensued where I met my other ‘life partner’ and performed full length spoken word shows touring the region. I soon coveted the heady thrill of improvisation comedy which provided skills for life. Attracted to ‘straight acting’ in community plays I whacked 6 off the belt. Talk about bondage – we formed an amazingly supportive clan. After 21 years of IT at BA, I flew by the seat of my pants and left to do MA Creative Industries Management and carve a freelance career. Nominated for a board position I whimpered, ‘What have I got to offer?’ They replied, ‘You are YOU!’ It seemed enough for my imposter syndrome. Well being via the Arts! This passionate love affair implanted me firmly into the very heart of the creative communities of the North East.

Viv Wiggins


Drama Facilitator, Actor, Role-player, Voice Over, Presenter, Singer.


“My first dipped toe into acting was when my mum put me up for a part in a short film for Channel 4 when I was 6. I was such a small thing and everyone thought I was just super cute.

I was quite shy ... and the director told me I had to stick my two fingers up at the camera which is obvs super naughty for a 6 year old .... and I properly loved it. I was only allowed to watch it when I was a bit older as it had nakey boobies in it.

That was nearly 20 years ago (ewww) and since then the profession has taken me all over the world .. a real privilege... I wouldn't change it for a million dollah!”


Lewis Jobson

Actor, Theatre maker

and Boho Arts Volunteer


"Dear arts, thank you for bringing me books and stories so I could whisk myself away to far off places and adventures.

When I was 4 I watched Jurassic Park and I wanted to be a Palaeontologist..? And every film I watched after? I wanted to be in it, I wanted to be those characters! One day It occurred to me if I was an actor I could do all those things. (Can’t believe it took nearly 30 years to realise I had ADHD all this time). Being from a working class background, there were no drama clubs or theatres near me, my parents couldn’t afford big theatre tickets, or performance classes so there wasn’t much for me starting apart from the odd panto put on locally. Drama wasn’t there at A Levels either so I left school and went to Newcastle College which was a 6am bus ride every morning! Ouch. My love of you kept me going. Everywhere I look there you are inspiring others to dream, believe, and create more, spreading the love of art and dreaming. Without you, the world would feel nothing."

Michelle Bayly

Actor, Voice over, Motion Capture Performer


“Art was an escape for me, you didn't have to be good at it, it just had to include a piece of you. It taught me how to open up and share my stories, it became an outlet and became my life. Whenever I want to take some time for myself, my camera is right there, like a best friend. I don't have to post the photos but just knowing I created something lights up a fire in me. It reminds me of the power I have as a Black and queer person, that my voice is important and I can create something magical. Now I can pass this on and that feeling to others like me, so they know that art has a place for them to find themselves and find comfort. That's the most amazing thing ever.”

Dami Fawehinmi

Trustee, Boho Arts. Photographer, Art and Culture Blogger


"I spent more than a little time in the corridor at school. Couldn’t sit through a lesson. I never got sent out of drama though.

One maths teacher once told me (screamed at me as I was leaving the room) “you’ll never get through life just being you Rachel” and she was right. I needed the arts. I needed that little dilapidated black box theatre at school to make it ok to be me, I needed that drama teacher to recognise I had something to offer the world. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without it!"


Rachel Glover. Theatre maker


“Dear my beloved arts. How pleased am I that you exist? I have been lost many times over the years but each time I reach out to you, you build me up and send me on my way to do things I'd never thought I would. My disabilities are not something I'm ashamed of, but they do hold me back from many things, socially and physically, but you, my best puppy, you hold me close, push me, and delight me through each step. From poetry to community theatre, a little bit of improv, painting, and even a degree in the arts, you increase my confidence with each of our dalliances. And now, my sweet potato, I'm working with a delectable team of people, writing my own pieces, editing submissions, and coming up with creative ideas to further our venture. You brought me that joy and I want to thank you every day. Take care, my precious little dust jacket of love.”


Shandy Marbles


"I’m from a former mining town where the notion of pursuing a career in the arts was nothing like Billy Elliot. It just wasn’t on the table or even discussed. Once school ended, so did my engagement with the arts. This created a deep hurt internally. We were schooled as factory fodder, and at the age of 16 I started an apprenticeship as a printer. By the time I was 25 this denial of access to the arts drove me mad and life went off the rails.

At 29, and with little working for me, I decided to give stand-up comedy a go. I excelled from the first time I got behind a microphone. Suddenly life was back on track. Now some 24 years later I’ve done a degree and a masters in drama and script writing. I teach, I write, and still perform.

My dad always said if I wanted to do such stuff, I would need a trade to fall back on. I do now have a trade to fall back on… it’s the arts. Just making things is more important than any money or plaudits. You don’t have to be good to join in. Come on in the water is warm. Boo to the gatekeepers and deniers."

John Scott, Comedian and Writer


“I was bullied badly at high school and never quite fit in. I remember really struggling with my mental health and everything that comes with being a teenager. One day, my Drama teacher, IW took me to one side and said...."Do you want to be in a play?" And from then on I was a regular in the school plays and I felt like I belonged in some way. My love for theatre started there. IW had this collection of Brecht that I used to take home and read, and we'd even get cheap tickets to see the RSC at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. Drama gave me a pathway to Uni and life I never imagined. The thing is, I'm not a very good actor and no-one ever told me that women like me, can be playwrights - so it wasn't until I was 26, after I'd given birth to my son that I realised... if I can have a baby, I can write a play, which I did and that's a whole other love story...”


JoJo Kirtley

Artistic Director, Workie Ticket Theatre


"Growing up in a council estate in Washington, my imagination conjured up stories in the shadows of the concrete prefabricated blocks that made up most of my village. Getting older, I had the feeling that the dream was over; time to grow up and lose the silly coloured feathers and nonsense-gibber of childhood. I felt my soul shrivel in the still breeze of job searches and practical chat. Then, aged 16, I joined a youth theatre. Full of oddballs, weirdos and drifters, I felt right at home. It’s no exaggeration to say that youth theatre changed my life. It allowed me to be me, to see other possibilities. I discovered my love of writing, acting and directing.

It was the first time I travelled on a plane, the first time I performed in a different country, in a different language; I made friends from all over the world, laughed so hard I don’t know how I’m not dead, it was the first time I ever drank Guinness (and I never stopped.) It was through studying theatre that I met my wife and mother of my kids. So, yes, youth theatre definitely changed my life!"


David Raynor

Writer, Director, Actor


“I was about 4 years old when a friend turned up at our house with a piano. The next thing I knew a lady with long hair, beads and bare feet would call round once a week to talk to the cats and teach me to play. I loved it. It was the best gift ever, from out of the blue. Long endless holidays would be spent at the piano with friends: making up songs, writing musicals, teaching ourselves pop songs, busking harmonies. And performing! Performing our musicals to anyone who’d indulge us. Friends, family, somehow we even talked our primary school teachers into taking our classmates out of lessons to come and watch our show in the school hall. That piano wheeling up the path and into my life aged 4 was the most wonderful thing that could have happened to me. I have made my life from playing the piano. From playing in restaurants and cabaret bars to touring Europe, playing in theatres across the country, as well as with orchestras and bands; working with most incredible actors and singers and theatre folk, and of course making friends for life. Happy Valentines Day, Piano!”


Jenni Winter

Musical Director, Performer, Teacher

and Boho Arts Volunteer


"The Arts was my first love. I was probably an insufferable show-off as a child but theatre was how this little weirdo got to be himself. Singing, acting, writing and performing sketches throughout my school days. I foolishly took the advice to go to university to get a degree "to fall back on" instead of pursuing the arts outright. I studied philosophy. It at least cemented the idea within me that the path to meaningful existence is in the act of creation. I returned to Newcastle, joined The People's Theatre and fell back in love with acting and "went pro" a few years later. I feel dead lucky about that, wish I'd done it sooner to be honest, because I can't imagine doing anything else."


Jake Wilson Craw




“Dear THE ARTS, Thanks. Thanks a million. Thanks for hanging out with me when I was the skint, hippy kid with long hair and hand-me-down clothes. Thanks for the youth theatre where suddenly weird was good. Thanks for uni, where I could at least spend a last few years in your presence before… what? Thanks for sticking by me for all these years, beckoning me on round the corners and through the dark bits and sad bits and boring bits. Thanks for bringing me here, where I’m happy and healthy and have so much more than I ever thought was possible. Ever dared to dream. Thanks for Beyonce. I know she’s a massive capitalist monster, but you can’t deny talent like that. And thanks for the kids doodles, and when they sing themselves to sleep. Thanks. Thanks a million.”


Jonluke McKie

Theatre maker, Director, Facilitator


"Theatre is, and always has been a lifeline for me. Growing up as a working class lass in Southwick, Sunderland, it was a way of making sense of the world around me. Skin and Bones Theatre Company came to my Primary School to do a play about the American Indians circa 1976/7. This was when TIE was valued. They transformed my school hall into a magical place and introduced me to a whole new culture and ways of thinking about the world. I remember thinking; when I grow up I want to be just like them: taking theatre to people and using it to educate and entertain: to give a voice to those who need it. 


Donna Tonkinson


Writer, director, performer, Participatory artist, teacher and trainee therapist

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“I was from a working-class family in Washington, where in the late ’70s there was little expectation for kids to succeed, or any real encouragement to dream beyond the factory or benefit system. But one teacher saw something in me and persuaded me to go to youth theatre. It changed my life and I’ve never looked back. I found my soul mate, learned tolerance, understanding, friendship and the true transformative power of the arts.

My perfect Valentine’s gift? The gift of gifting the arts back to the community, and to build a place to explore and grow as a person.”


Ian McLaughlin

Co-founder at Boho Arts

Director, Performer, Teacher

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