Bravo 22 is a recovery through the arts programme that gives veterans, Serving personnel, and those from Armed Forces families the chance to tell their stories. It aims to give people the chance to learn new skills, but more importantly to get their confidence back.
The latest project, called Wor Stories, is a collection of true life tales shared by the performers, taking the audience all the way from the recruiting office, to the battlefield and back to civvy street.
We caught up with the cast as they were preparing for the opening night.
From the streets to the stage
Phil Web will be appearing in Wor Stories in the Theatre Royal.
Phil Web, 58, was a gunner in the 4th Field Regiment between 1975 and 1979 before being discharged, ‘Service no longer required’. After finding himself homeless in 2012 he contacted The Legion for help.
“I was on the streets in Carlisle and I was homeless and I was cold, and a lad tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Have you phoned the British Legion?’ I said, ‘What for?’ and he says, ‘Well, that’s what they’re there for. They’re there to help people, ex-soldiers like you, who are homeless, to get in somewhere.’
“I feel as though, by doing Bravo 22, I’m putting something back in.”
“That started the ball rolling and I got into a place called SHAID, which is near Durham, and I’ve been in there since just before Christmas last year. I heard about this play because it’s a complex of veterans and the manager told us what it was and who they wanted to work with. I feel as though, by doing Bravo 22, I’m putting something back in.
Phil Web during rehearsals.
And I’m loving it! It’s something to get up for in the morning. I get myself down here on the bus – it takes an hour and a half to get here, but it’s well worth it. I just love it. After the very first session, I felt as though I’d achieved something.”
Back on the stage after 50 years
Mick Carroll in the Theatre Royal in Newcastle.
Mick Carroll, 63, served 37 years in the RAF and retired in 2000. Married with three children and two grandchildren, his only previous theatrical experience was almost 50 years ago when he appeared in Peer Gynt at school.
“Everyone has a story.”
“I first found out about this project through Twitter, and to be honest, I didn’t think I had a story because I had a great career in the RAF and I came out of it pretty unscathed. But they said everyone has a story and I’m glad I decided to get involved.
“Being part of Bravo 22 has been a very positive experience and I have enjoyed learning new skills and working with my fellow company members.”
Shining a light on PTSD
Linda Shaw during the rehearsals for Wor Stories.
Linda Shaw, 53, is the wife of ex-Service man Dave Shaw, who will also be in the play. She’s a part-time coach driver in the North East.
“A friend mentioned this project to me and I thought I’d come along and see what it’s like. I’m a veteran’s wife – for 10 years my husband was suffering from PTSD without being diagnosed.
“I didn’t really think about what I’d get out of it before I came. In fact, if they had said to me at the beginning, ‘It’ll be three hours a day, every day’, I wouldn’t have bothered! But since I came on the first Wednesday I’ve been every day since – for three hours either in the morning or the evening.
“It’s something that I’m interested in doing because even with close friends I don’t talk about my life situation.”
“I like that we talk about our experience and aren’t being judged. I’m the only partner of a Service man here. A lot of people don’t understand PTSD and I thought it would be good to have my input of what it’s like living with someone with the condition.
Linda Shaw in the Theatre Royal in Newcastle.
“I haven’t been on the stage for years! It’s something that I’m interested in doing because even with close friends I don’t talk about my life situation – my problems are my problems. I think more partners should come and do it really. You’re not pressured into saying or doing anything that you don’t want to do – it’s just a good laugh.”