Ones to Watch: Tom Ross-Williams
Published on 1st December 2016
Tom is an actor, theatre-maker and gender activist who is passionate about socially engaged arts. He advises creatives to never shy away from who you are, and not to buy into the saying that 'you only need to do one thing well' - as long as you're being creative, you're doing great.
Read on to learn more about what inspires Tom and his upcoming project at Battersea Arts Centre...
1) Congratulations on being featured as one of Hiive’s ‘Ones to Watch’! Can you introduce yourself and your creative work/interests?
I'm an actor, theatre-maker and Artistic Director of the political theatre company, Populace.
I am also involved in campaigning for LGBT+ rights and gender equality. I am a proud ambassador of Great Men for which I regularly facilitate feminist workshops with young men, a Changemaker with the Advocacy Academy, a recent graduate of Campaign Bootcamp and regular panellist at the Southbank Centre's Being a Man Festival.
Stage Credits include: THREE SISTERS (SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE), NEGRIL BEACH (Bush Theatre), THE FOREST & THE FEILD (Ovalhouse / UK tour, Chris Goode & Company), VIEUX CARRÉ (King's Head & West End), DUNSINANE (RSC), SHALOM BABY (Theatre Royal Stratford East), FASTBURN (Kneehigh), AMPHIBIANS (Offstage) and PRIME RESIDENT (Soho Theatre). Screen credits include: the award-winning feature film FIT (Peccadillo Films) directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair, FREE (Team Angelica), the independent feature FORGOTTEN MAN and the short film DOG (official selection for LSFF).
2) What are you currently working on?
I am currently developing a new piece of work in collaboration with Oonagh Murphy about toxic masculinity entitled GIVE ME YOUR SKIN produced by Xavier de Sousa.
There were recent work-in-progress performances at the Battersea Arts Centre and Camden People's Theatre as part of their festival, Calm Down Dear.
To find out more about the show, you can read the blog I wrote for Huffington Post here or a recent feature in XXY magazine here. The full production of Give Me Your Skin will be presented at the Battersea Arts Centre in summer 2017.
3) Who/what influences your work and where do you find inspiration?
I have been lucky enough to have some brilliant mentors along the way - in particular Rikki Beadle-Blair, Stella Duffy and Chris Goode. What I find particularly inspiring about them and their work is their fusion of politics and art and their refusal to stick to one medium, or a traditional career path. They've all been a huge influence on me and my work as well as being brilliant queer role models.
In terms of my inspiration, it often just comes from what makes me angry in society. And also dance. I try to go to a lot of dance. I don't really know why but there's something about the medium that really stimulates my creative juices.
4) What are your future creative ambitions?
I am always trying to find more ways to elide my artistic practice with my politics. Having recently become more actively involved in campaigning, I would like to take Populace in a new direction. I would love it to become a company that helps other artists fuse their practice with concrete social engagement - perhaps for artists who are less experienced with campaigning, we could provide a service that connects them to an established campaign or helps them create one around their work.
I would also love to do some more screen work. As someone whose passion is socially engaged arts, I'm drawn to it as a medium that has such a far reach. So as both an actor and a maker, it's something I would definitely like to delve into further.
I think like most artists, my creative ambition is really just to sustain and endure.
I love ambitions (and I'm really driven by mine) but I'm also tired of reading about so many artists who make me feel like I'm not doing enough, or not successful enough. So in the advent of being honest, I'm comfortable saying that I have some very practical ambitions, like having fewer temps jobs, sustaining myself better financially and taking holidays without feeling guilty (I'm getting a bit better at that last one!)
5) What advice would you give people aspiring to work in a similar creative field?
People often say as an actor you don't need to be open about your politics or your personal politics. But I am a big believer that being open about that things that matter to you is incredibly important to creativity. Being lefty, being queer - these are qualities that feel essential to my integrity as an artist. So I would say, never shy away from shouting about who you are.
And, inspired by Stella, Rikki and Chris, don't ever buy into that saying that 'you only need to do one thing well.' I still have family and friends that think I do my other lines of work because I'm not getting as much acting work as I would like - and to be honest, that's how I started exploring them - but I'm so grateful for that opportunity. There's no hierarchy in being artistic - as much as sometimes there feels there is - as long as you're being creative, you're doing great.
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