THE BIG INTERVIEW: Venue hunt’s been no trapeze-y task
TRAPEZE artist and businessman Lee Williams, 32, hopes to turn the vacant Maxwell Street gym into a training space for circus and dance acts and other artists. He lives in Kingshill...
FOR a violin-playing, ballet dancing circus performer who’s also a businessman and a qualified diesel loco driver, Lee Williams is remarkably modest. For example, he puts much of his performing career down to a glitched VCR.
“It must have been Christmas 2002 or 2003. I was recording a film one night and for some reason the video machine recorded the wrong programme on the wrong channel at completely the wrong time. “But what it did get was part of a performance by the American Ballet Theatre of The Nutcracker.
“I got curious and recorded another programme that I found in the Radio Times, which was The Firebird done by, I think, the Kirov Ballet, which was very impressive.
“After that Christmas I decided I’d eaten far too much chocolate, and having a desk job wasn’t really doing much for my health. I thought I’d have to get some exercise but pumping iron in the gym didn’t appeal.”
Lee took private lessons with famed Swindon dance teacher Mollie Tanner and appeared in a couple of Tanwood shows.
He found himself pleasantly surprised at his ability, especially as he’d started dancing late at about 21.
A couple of years later he was an extra with the English National Ballet, and danced with various other companies until recently. And the circus skills? “That started in 2008.
It came about mainly because there was a limit to what I could do with classical dance.
“I wasn’t going to get any professional dancing roles because I was basically too old, and I started casting around for other things to do.
“One of the things I enjoy most is performing on stage, telling a story and doing all the stuff with the costumes, the lights and the effects.
I looked at circus arts...” Lee is originally from Portsmouth, where his parents were community workers.
At the turn of the 1990s they moved to Swindon. His father then worked for the organisation which became Voluntary Action and later moved into IT. His mother is a family mediator and trainer of mediators.
A younger brother is finishing a Masters in particle physics. Lee attended Robert Le Kyng, Commonweal and Greendown Schools before heading for Swindon College and then railways, where his ambition was to be a driver.
“Just before I managed to get into the railways it was all privatised and the whole industry pretty much changed overnight – became a not very enjoyable place to work.”
Lee left and eventually set up his own business, Arthuro Creative Services, which assists firms with a range of functions including administration. In his spare time he retains his interest in railways, and qualified as both a guard and a driver while volunteering with the Swindon and Cricklade railway.
Lee first discovered a love of performing while an infant. He remembers playing a few notes on the violin he’d just started learning during a school Christmas play when he was four.
He would eventually reach a Grade Six rating. His search for a Swindon training venue has been fraught with complications.
“It was difficult to find a venue that had the height and structural requirements – or anywhere that was available,” he said.
“There are a lot of performers and small groups at the moment who all seem to be fighting for space and to keep going because nobody’s getting any funding.
“I decided that what was needed was for me to fill that gap and create a venue where artists of any kind – not just performing artists – could come along and hire the space for a little bit.”
Anybody with an interest in the search for a new arts venue can contact him at lee.williams@ arthuro.co.uk