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We welcome Alex to Future Fires 2020

Future Fires is a programme that supports young artists to develop a socially-engaged art project in their own community.

Every day this week we are introducing  each member of our#FutureFires20 cohort who will be #SupportedByContact for the next 12 months to create a project that will use their artistic skills to make a difference in the community.


Hello there, I’m Alex Marrs and I am taking part in Future Fires in this strangest of years; 2020.

My Future Fire project idea is all to do with helping people in recovery from addiction, bringing them together, making connections with others, widening experiences and learning skills which will hopefully contribute to the long term recovery and wellbeing of each participant. The idea is to find an allotment or suitable patch of land and with the group of participants to grow fruit and veg. All the skills to do this will be passed on in workshops. The project will also involve bookbinding. Each participant will make their own book which will document and record their experiences throughout the project, using photography, printmaking, drawing, writing, gardening tips and recipes. Making the book at the end of the project will be a good way for each person to reflect on what they have achieved and learnt throughout the experience.

I hope that everyone involved will gain a sense of connection to others which will alleviate feelings of social isolation, something that most people can identify with in the current climate but which is often felt even more by people recovering from addiction and facing the mental health issues that come along with that. As well as connecting with others and widening social experiences, the project will provide more connection with nature and the food that we eat. Leading to more awareness of healthy and sustainable ways of living and an improvement in mental and physical wellbeing.

Working together to design and build a garden that everyone can share the benefits of will also provide a shared sense of identity, purpose and community. Each participant, by sharing their experiences and learning from each other will have an impact on and benefit from the experience.

The mediums of photography, bookbinding and growing require that you slow down and consider your surroundings and actions leading to more time being mindful and aware. I hope that these activities as well as the space in which participants can socialise and connect with others will provide a place for everyone to learn and grow together.

Although people in recovery from addiction will be the initial target demographic, I believe that in future the project could be widened to include people suffering from mental health issues, elderly isolated people, school children and other groups in society that I think would benefit from a project like this.

If you had to sum up your project in five words, what would they be?

Grow, connect, learn, create and community.

What motivated you to start your project?

I was motivated to start the project because I started to grow fruit and veg last year during the start of my recovery from addiction. It really helped me to slow down my thoughts and have something to focus on. I did this alone throughout the last year and felt quite isolated as I had just returned from living in Vietnam for five years and started my recovery. My old social group had grown apart over the years because of various problems with addiction. Feeling isolated and seeing the benefits that art practice and growing veg can have were really the main motivations in wanting to turn this into a project that will bring people together to socialise, learn and grow.

Becoming involved in Reform Radio and talking to the guys there about my idea of teaching people about growing fruit and veg was really the start of doing something with my idea.

The social connection I felt by taking part in the programme at Reform Radio really helped with my own recovery and mental health and helped me realise how important making those connections are. It was by talking to Adam at Reform that I became aware of Future Fires and he encouraged me to come along to the application workshop. The rest, as they say, ‘is history’.

How are you finding the Future Fires programme so far?

Being part of this project really has been and is an amazing, inspirational experience for me. I’m not sure about the other participants but this is the first time I have done anything like this and it has helped me to realise the brilliant people and schemes that are out there to help individuals and communities. I think it is programmes like this that will see communities through times like we are facing at the moment. Being around all these amazing, creative, helpful people is really inspiring and I hope that I can do them all justice by making this project into something that can help others to achieve the things they want to.

Okay so here are the really pressing questions!

You are locked in Contact for a week with ONE person, who would you choose and why?

On a different, more isolation-ey note, if I were to be locked in contact theatre for a week with anyone it would have to be, Alan Titchmarsh!

Joking! I would much rather be locked in there with Jim Moir otherwise known by his stage name; Vic Reeves of Vic & Bob fame. As well as being incredibly funny and interesting he is also a brilliant visual artist and I think we could while away the hours by sharing our different artistic practices. If Jim Moir wasn’t available my next choice would be the Bard of Salford himself; John Cooper Clarke. He is another very interesting, funny human being.

Favourite place to eat?

My favourite place to eat would have to be a roadside phở restaurant in Ha Noi, Vietnam. A truly amazing city and country which I was lucky enough to live in for five years and which I still miss every day. The food is really special in Vietnam and there are so many different dishes I could have chosen but it has to be a delicious, aromatic bowl of phở bò (beef pho). There’s a particularly good one that is 24 hour at Tống Duy Tân street in Hanoi, you can choose the cut of beef and can get a separate egg yolk to put in the broth at your leisure, delicious!

Favourite quote or motto?

I don’t really have the sort of brain that can recall quotes etc on demand but I do particularly enjoy the wisdom espoused in William Blake’s ‘The Proverbs of Hell’, most famous of which is; ‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom’. Shaun Ryder, feted by some, including me, as a genius on par with some of our greatest poets has also come up with some pearls in his time. I could write pages on the way he uses words but I won’t bore you with that now, just go and listen to the Happy Mondays and Black Grape.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Just about how buzzing I am to be part of Future Fires, it really is great to be part of such a brilliant project and to be around such amazing, creative people even after Corona has caused havoc with the project and the world. Stay safe people.

Visit our Future Fires page to learn more about the project as a whole.