My Story

I come from Johnstone but Paisley has been pivotal for me. When I was eight I joined PACE youth theatre and I haven’t looked back. Within a few weeks of joining I got my first acting job in a short film and I loved the experience. Being a part of PACE made me realise that I wanted to be an actor. Some of the best moments are in rehearsal. It’s such a free place to express yourself – there are no rights or wrongs.

 

At fifteen, I got the opportunity to work with Young Blood - run by Raindog TV and Film – and I had the chance to play characters that have been from the harder side of life, people who have had challenging upbringings and out-and-out baddies too. I love trying to understand the character’s mindset and get under their skin. So they involved knife crime, gangs and murder. I think it is important to realise life isn’t always that great and that there are lots of people who need a bit of support to turn their lives around.

I think that’s why I became involved in Street Cones. It’s a great Glasgow-based programme that works with various groups across Scotland with people who have been in care or the criminal justice system and we use theatre and film to engage with them and tell their stories.

One of those projects is working with prisoners in HMP Greenock. At first most of the guys aren’t that keen but you can see them come out of their shell and develop as a person through the programme. We get to hear their story and work with them to turn it into a script that can be used in theatre. This is a great way for these guys to have their voice heard. I love it and I know they get a lot out of it too.

We know Paisley also has its problems and a lot of that has to do with a feeling of hopelessness, that people have nothing to be proud of and nothing in their future. I truly believe that culture can change mindsets and getting involved is a truly powerful thing for most people. I think we should expand our youth theatres and give more people a chance to build their confidence at an early age. It certainly worked for me.

Being involved in Silver Threads is also a treat for me. I grew up in Johnstone and spent many times in Kilbarchan – another weaving spot nearby Paisley. Through PACE I was also involved in Sma’ Shot Day, so I feel really connected to this play. It’s also fabulous that it is in Paisley Arts Centre – that’s a magnificent building and Paisley is always a great crowd.

I would say that Paisley is on the right road now with culture. It can lift people up, give them hope and let them express themselves. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the town develops through culture and the Paisley 2021 bid.

Neil