ALâ was established in 2004 as a fully inclusive, not for profit, community-run, project with Charitable Status in the Ballybane area of Galway. It was founded to provide people with the opportunity to develop their acting, technical and facilitation skills.
The founders recognised that there was little opportunity for many people in communities to participate in theatre without developing such skills. They decided to set up, not a theatre company, but a group that allowed anyone to join and bring their own original stories to create improvisations. This gave people the opportunity to learn skills and get experience in a fun, nurturing environment.
The arts can have a powerful and positive influence in many aspects of our lives in terms of the personal, community and social development while being a lot of fun. Art and artistic expression defines how we see ourselves, and helps us understand who we are. It expresses our hopes aspirations and vision of what we might become. Through challenging our members to be the best they can be as actors, it increases not alone their artistic ability but also their confidence and self-esteem. In this respect it is rewarding to see many of our previous members progress to mainstream theatre, film and other aspects of performing arts.
The importance of establishing community led rather than artist led projects is stressed by ALâ. In the first instance they are owned by the community rather than externally. Community led projects are, more likely to be, sustainable as “Artist in the Community” type schemes generally last only as long as the funding for those projects is available, often leaving no lasting benefit to the community.
On the other hand participatory arts projects are, in many cases, largely funded by the community. ALâ raise over 50% of its income through its own efforts and contract artists to facilitate their chosen projects. In this way the arts activity responds to the perceived needs of the community rather than what the arts sector think they need. ALâ has since 2004 continuously expanded. So much so ALâ has established two divisions, Community Workshop and Outreach & Training each with its own committee and coordinator reporting to the Managing Committee.
ALâ have developed links with a number of organizations in Europe, Brazil, India, America and Australia. They have attended meetings in Barcelona and Lisbon, with the intention of being part of an EU drama project in 2017. This is preparatory work for hosting of an International Theatre for Change festival in 2020.
In recognition of their work ALâ won the AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, and STAR award last year, for excellence in community education, adding to many other previous awards including the Galway City Mayors award 2010.