The Vodka Hunters

Writers from the recovery community Jane Cartwright, Gary Pierre, Cecelia Gail and Scott Lavene

The Vodka Hunters: 3 Wickham Road, Boscombe (Thursday 27th April, 2018)

The poor, battered borough of Boscombe has a terrible reputation.  

Believe all you read and you’d never set foot in the place.

Drugs, booze, crime, homelessness, poverty… it sounds desperately bleak and of course, for those trapped in a self-destructive spiral, it certainly is. But guess what? There’s a very real upside. Some of the people marginalised by society, beaten into near submission by alcohol, substance abuse and circumstance are extraordinarily talented writers, thinkers and musicians.

So it is truly refreshing to see the Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe, which opened yesterday (Friday), providing a platform that positively shouts about the creativity that exists in the much maligned recovery community.

The Vodka Hunters, a powerful site-specific performance piece, is staged in a near-derelict former medical supplies depot in the Boscombe back streets.  It features four writers - Gary Pierre, Jane Cartwright, Cecelia Gail and Scott Lavene - who all originally honed their talents after arriving in Bournemouth for rehab. Veterans of the Vita Nova writing programme led by award-winning playwright Nell Leyshon, they have each turned their lives around or at least are in the process of doing so.

 Reunited with Leyshon as lead writer and director, these recovering drug and alcohol addicts each delivered a personal story, all the more poignant for being beautifully written and performed.

There were terrible tales of blackouts, near-death experiences, violence, prison, partners lost to suicide and children taken into care. Yet there was an element of humour and a running thread about parenting which ended with great hope as the final performer Scott Lavene, accompanying himself on piano, related his story of discovering that a new girlfriend was pregnant. It could have ended so badly. Apparently her parents were none too pleased when they discovered that the father of their daughter’s baby was a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. But people are amazing and they can change. Or as Jane Cartwright put it: “We are born many times and each time there is hope and a chance to begin again…to write a new ending.”

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022