Bravo 22 Company is a recovery and wellbeing through the arts programme for the Armed Forces Community that puts a spotlight on the positive impact creativity can have on our wellbeing.
The unique arts programme, whose patron is actor Ray Winstone, is made possible by The Royal British Legion and The Drive Project. It was created by theatre producer Alice Driver who wanted to use performance as a vehicle for recovery in 2011.
The initial project brought together 30 wounded, injured and sick service personnel to write, produce and perform their own play - 'The Two Worlds of Charlie F' - which was written by Owen Sheers and directed by Stephen Rayne on a West End stage.
But what is it doing now a decade after its launch and how can people get involved?
Bravo 22 aims to give service personnel and veterans new skills and experiences while improving confidence, self-awareness and motivation to support an individual’s recovery and the transition into civilian life.
Having hosted numerous critically acclaimed theatre and art projects across the country since for the past decade, like the rest of the world from March 2020 up to July 2021 Bravo 22 Company took their entire programme online.
During this uncertain time, Bravo 22 Company delivered an extraordinary 633 creative opportunities, 19 wellbeing sessions, and 42 skills course sessions to the military community, hosted by a pool of 34 professional creatives.
BFBS the Forces Station broadcaster Hal Stewart speaks to actor Stella von Koskull and military spouse Lorna Hunter about the newly launched Bravo 22 scriptwriting competition.
These workshops focused on an enormous array of creative skills including photography, painting, comedy sketch writing, storytelling, tea tasting, movement and much more.
The Bravo 22 online Festival of Discovery, which took place in July 2021, offered a final flourish of online creative, wellbeing and social events.
It hosted 14 sessions over 12 days and was launched by Bravo 22's patron Ray Winstone whose next role sees him playing MCU villain Dreykov in Marvel Studios' 2021 film 'Black Widow' starring actress Scarlett Johansson.
The summer also brought members of Bravo 22 Company into the rehearsal rooms of the National Theatre to take part in some workshops with poet, novelist and playwright Kae Tempest's new play ‘Paradise’, directed by Ian Rickson.
But what do these workshops do for the people who take part and why is Bravo 22 Company's work so unique and important?
Hundreds of veterans have experienced Bravo 22 Company's programmes both online and in person and 100 percent of participants over the last year have stated they would like to come back for more. One participant, who took part in the 'Comedy In Drama' course run by comedian Tom Crowley earlier this year, spoke of the impact the course has had on their life, saying:
"Bravo 22 gave me the confidence, the feeling of being valued and part of a family."
The eight-week comedy skills course gave a group of 15 participants the opportunity to come together twice a week via video calls to learn how to structure short comedic scenes, perform and film them and most importantly, enjoy the cathartic process of group laughter, something we were all missing during the long periods of lockdown. Another participant who took part in the painting art skills course was full of praise, saying:
"To have had Bravo 22 during the pandemic has been a life saver. Literally."
Having never picked up a paintbrush before, this Bravo 22 Company member went on to say:
"Since 2007 I have had many physiological and psychiatrist evaluations, and all of them are asking me to talk to strangers about my inner dark evil and the atrocities in my head.
"Then suddenly I pick up a paintbrush and try something different.
"Bravo has been the best six weeks treatment I have ever had. It has really helped me."
This sense of hope, belonging and camaraderie discovered through creativity, motivated Bravo 22 members to create small art ‘workshops’ in the corners of their homes, determined to make self-expression and artistry a new part of their lives.
With COVID-19 restrictions now lifted across the UK, Bravo 22 Company have launched a new hybrid programme of both face-to-face and online workshops and courses.
Bravo 22 members can once again look forward to meeting up in rehearsal rooms and artist studios, free of video call lags and the constant interference of phrases such as "you’re on mute".
This season's varied programme includes the first residential storytelling course taking place at the Battle Back Centre in Lilleshall near Telford in late November.
Led by Debs Newbold, an award-winning theatre artist who works closely with Shakespeare's Globe and The Royal Opera House, Bravo 22 will be focussing on the art of storytelling, just as they did back in 2007 when it all began.
In addition, Bravo 22 will be introducing a two-day Art Cultural trip this season, combining a gallery visit with a workshop, enabling members to learn how to critique artwork and use this skill to develop their creativity.
Whether it is through drawing, stand-up comedy or sculpture - Bravo 22 centres around sharing personal stories via creative channels to allow for catharsis, reflection and self-expression to take place safely among like-minded participants.
Bravo 22's alternative approach to more traditional recovery pathways and the impact on members could not be more clear or more hopeful. In the words of a member:
"I had lost all hope and faith, and then suddenly Bravo 22 came into my life and so much has changed."
Whether you are currently reading about Bravo 22 for the first time or are familiar with their work, there is plenty in their new programme for you to get involved with.
Places on the residential storytelling workshop in Lilleshall remain, as do places on their art cultural trip to Manchester in December.
You can join Bravo 22 Company for their online get-together, 'Have A Brew With Bravo 22'. Every other month, the virtual chat gives newcomers the chance to meet the team and hear more about what is to come.
If you are part of the military community and are interested in joining Bravo 22 Company, contact them by emailing [email protected]