In The Spotlight: James Rose

Our editor Donald Hutera meets a performer, all-round creative being and, until recently, long-time Winchester resident with plenty of get-up-and-go.

Under The Vaulted Sky Photography by Hudo Glendinning
Under The Vaulted Sky Photography by Hugo Glendinning

James Rose is a most determined young man. Earlier this year the 29 year-old was hugely glad to be cast in Rosemary Lee’s latest outdoor venture, Under the Vaulted Sky. The piece is in essence, he says, a celebration of the Cathedral of Trees (a park based on the layout of Norwich Cathedral) and its immediate environment. Lee herself is a rightly esteemed British choreographer with an acute sensitivity for people and places, and especially how they connect and resonate.

The trouble is that Under the Vaulted Sky is being staged outdoors as one of the lynchpin productions of this year’s edition of IF: Milton Keynes International Festival. And, until about two weeks ago, James was for 18 years a resident of Winchester. It is, in total, a five-hour daily commute between the two cities. What made it even more problematic or, at the very least, expensive is that James has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair and, as a result, requires an assistant to travel with him.

The total cost for James to reach Milton Keynes on the train (26 return journeys at £120 each) was £3,120, with an additional £3,900 to cover the daily £150 needed by his assistant. Being an enterprising fellow, James put out a call for help via Wefund. It worked, too, netting him from between £5 to £1,000 in donations from 52 different people for a grand total of £3,005. In the online video James evinced a cheeky charm. ‘So give me your money,’ he said, ‘…and a kiss.’

James is plainly no slouch when it comes to either fiscal smarts or cultural pursuits. He’s been a member of a youth theatre group in nearby Eastleigh, made and edited films (one of which was broadcast on the community channel in 2011) and performed in three out of four Olympic ceremonies in 2012. And he’s got plans. ‘I’m currently writing a symphony,’ says James, adding, ‘I conduct music using my head. I’ve always been interested in dance, theatre and performance. I listened to a lot if Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals when I was younger, automatically imagining how they looked onstage. Even now, whenever I listen to music, I see the staging and design of the piece being performed. My intention for both my symphony and the musical I’m writing is to incorporate multiple art forms and media to make it accessible to non-traditional audiences.’ Performance, he feels, ‘is a powerful tool to convey different ideas and emotions which some of society may have lost touch with.’

James is currently interviewing with the BBC and a number of theatre companies regarding full-time employment. Although he no longer lives in Winchester, he’s quick to sing the praises of its promotion of the arts in many forms. The Theatre Royal has supported me in the past,’ he explains, ‘with an R&D project working around inclusive dance. The city has a good reputation for culture, being renowned on the street performance circuit as a receptive place to perform.’

James met Rosemary Lee, or Rosie as she’s commonly known, at a seminar in Eastleigh. He was impressed, enough so to jump at the chance to become involved with Under the Vaulted Sky when he heard about it. ‘The taster session for the project was fantastic,’ he enthuses. ‘Like the rest of her team, Rosie is a people person and this really shone through.’ James will be featured in two of the piece’s sections, one of which entails other cast members creating a dance around him. ‘I won’t say any more!’ says James, meaning you’ll just have to travel to Milton Keynes to see it and him. Performances are July 18-20.

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