In the summer of 2007, our founder, Lauren Pouchly, attended a prayer meeting for Hope 08 in the centre of Manchester. A week or so later she was invited out with a band from Message Trust who were performing on the streets of the city specifically for those who get food from the food vans that go out most evenings. She went reluctantly. But it was an evening that has changed her life. She met and talked at length to people who had been living rough or in hostels on and off for years. She was inspired by their rich and varied stories.
On the way home from that gig, Lauren decided what her contribution would be to Hope 08. She would make a short film telling a story typical of life on the streets and she would try to get people who were or had been homeless to be the actors. The idea was born. By the following day she had written the script and she contacted her church, Altrincham Baptist Church, with her idea. They were supportive and set aside funding for room hire in the centre of Manchester where acting workshops and rehearsals could begin. She made contact with another Christian charity, City Centre Ministries who run a sandwich van in Manchester 2 days a week. They were also very supportive and publicised the project to all who came to the van on a Wednesday and Saturday night. Steve Brown, who runs City Centre Ministries also came along to the workshops. Between 10 and 15 people attended the workshops at Kings Church in Manchester. Lauren gave the company of actors the name, ‘Acting on Impulse’.
This was to be a steep learning curve for Lauren. She trained at the Birmingham School of Acting and so knew how to run a workshop. However, film making was another proposition. She had had a part in a commercial movie which had given her some experience of the process. However, she was now to be teacher, producer, director and performer in her first short film. She was ably mentored by one of the crew from the feature film and he turned up on set over the weekend of filming to be 1st AD. A full film crew was hired, many other friends and volunteers came along to help for the three and a half days of filming.
Next it was into an editing suit for the first time and over a couple of weeks hours of footage were turned into a 15 minute film, ‘Humanitas’. This was premiered to audiences totalling more than 200 in the Cornerhouse arts cinema in Manchester. There was a standing ovation for the actors as they went up on stage to take a bow at the end of the screening. A short trailer of the film was shown at a Hope 08 campaign meeting in Manchester Cathedral in July 2008.
Acting on Impulse was born and there was every incentive to continue. We are now a registered charity and run a season of workshops every year. Each year we have a major performance – so far our productions have been:
2008 – Short film, ‘Humanitas’
2009 – Short film, ‘Under the Tracks’
2010 – Stage show, ‘Dream on the Streets’
2011 – Short film, ‘The Invitation’
2012 – Stage show, ‘Deep Within’
2013 – Music video, ‘Street Life’
2014 – A 4 part mockumentary, ‘Life after Street Life’. A tongue in cheek follow up of all the characters one year on after achieving fame and fortune.
Each of these have been performed or shown at a major city centre venue to audiences of over 200. This year we have had over 30 people from the homeless and marginalised community of Manchester attend our main workshops. We have also extended our impact by running 5 short series of workshops in hostels, day centres and supported housing trust centres in the city. These reach people who are unable to come along to our main workshops. Each workshop series makes a short film which is screened at the agency and given as a DVD to the performers. In this way during the last year we will have had around 60 people participating in a life enhancing project bringing purpose and wellbeing to their normally aimless lives.
The work of the charity was recognised in 2013 when we won the best small charity award at Social Impact Awards held in Manchester. Our policy is to treat all our clients as actors. They are part of a team and they see Acting on Impulse as their community. Some are ex-offenders, some have broken relationships, some have addictions. Most speak of how, being involved with Acting on Impulse has helped them move on in their journey. Last year we carried out an analysis of the personal outcomes. We looked at 16 aspects and in every one at least 75% said there had been a positive impact. The following 5 examples of the project’s impact relate to general transferable skills and wellbeing:
- It has had a positive impact on my life – 95% agree
- It has enabled me to work better in a team – 100% agree
- It has enabled me to handle nerves and pressure better – 90% agree
- It has enabled me to listen and follow instructions better – 100% agree
- It has given me confidence to get involved with other activities – 95% agree
We are convinced of the amazing value of these innovative projects. We believe we have a team of people uniquely placed to deliver this very encouraging work which expresses the love of God to a very neglected group in society. It includes a strong team of volunteers totally committed to every aspect of what we are doing. We are excited by our plans to continue to develop the work.
We have developed another aspect of our work, which is to change people’s perceptions about homelessness. Because of the time we have spent with people who are or have been homeless we are able to give people a much better understanding of the issues that lead people to be homeless or marginalised. We have a particular desire to communicate and discuss these issues with young students in schools and youth groups (particularly church youth groups). We have developed schools material aimed at the PHSE and the media studies curricula. We have successfully run some workshops with students and also RS staff dealing with these issues. We are well placed to deliver these objectives with a faith perspective and have the special benefit of the short films we make as effective and powerful resource material. We would love any opportunity to develop this aspect of our work.
None of us could have anticipated where God was leading us nearly eight years ago. It has been an amazing journey and we are thankful for the clear signs that he has had his hand on this project from day 1.
Chair of Trustees
Company number: 07400347 Charity commission number: 1142502