A local comedian aims to help young people in a Merseyside find confidence through hosting the same comedy class that founded his success.
St Helens born Cameron Jones first benefited from The Comedy Trust’s work 13 years ago when his school enrolled him onto a comedy course.
He was signed up to a six-week course with the Merseyside-based trust in a bid to help increase the confidence that he lacked as a 14-year-old aspiring footballer.
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Cameron, who grew up in Parr, said that he was a ‘really unconfident’ teenager who would go to the extent of covering his face through his fringe and would generally shy away from attention.
He told the ECHO: “All I was told throughout life was that I was going to be a footballer and that’s all I wanted to do.
“I definitely did not want to be a performer at all – that didn’t even cross my mind – the course was to try and give me confidence and that was all.”
The course was hosted by popular comedian Sam Avery who has continued as the Artistic Director at The Comedy Trust and now works alongside Cameron to deliver those very same classes.
The trust was established in 2002 with the mission to create happier, healthier people through the power of laughter and comedy.
The now 26-year-old completed the six-week course and says in that time the experience ‘changed everything’ for him.
Cameron went on to gig at comedy events regularly for four years – including at Stand Out Comedian of the Year 2011 – and set out on a new career of stand-up comedy.
His pathway led him to study Acting at The University of Central Lancashire and complete a Masters in Filmmaking at Sheffield Hallam University and from there he landed himself a job with his former mentor Sam delivering the courses that allowed him the success he celebrates today.
Cameron said: “When I left uni I knew I wanted to do comedy but it’s an incredibly difficult career in the arts.
“I’m really passionate about community so I contacted Sam and asked if I could shadow him and on the first day I was supposed to shadow him he was late so I just delivered the session!
“He turned up towards the end and from there offered me a job – so I ended up just doing it straight away.”
Since teaching that first class as a Community Outreach Practitioner at The Comedy Trust Cameron has worked with patients at a psychiatric ward, stroke survivors at the Stroke Association and children at a special educational needs school working them towards a grand performance at the end of the course.
And while he labelled the rewarding experience as ‘amazing’ ,there remains one community which Cameron has been eager to work with.
He said: “I’ve delivered sessions with all different communities but not ever St Helens.”
Cameron, who moved back to St Helens earlier this year, speaks highly of his hometown and says he regularly incorporates it into his personal work and he is now eager to work with young people who walked the same streets he did as a shy teen.
He added: “I’m a performer first and foremost – my plan is to have my community projects that I do inline with my own career and a lot of what I write or perform about or create is based in my hometown of St Helens.
“I’m a big advocate for my hometown and put that into my work as I’m proud of St Helens.
“I’m hoping that we can create and build a community of more people who are proud of the town and creating culture.”
Cameron said that he feels the arts scene in St Helens is one that lacks in comparison with other neighbouring towns and cities and he considers bringing representation of the borough a personal project of his.
He wants to see more of St Helens people and culture represented on the TV or in film and music and says that ‘targeting young people is probably the best way to plant that seed’.
While previously he was only assisting in the delivery of classes Cameron will make his return to the borough next week with the new title as Project Manager of the Feeling Funny Youth project.
The Feeling Funny Youth Project is defined as ‘a mental health support programme with a twist’.
The company use comedy, laughter and humour as tools to help support and nurture young people’s emotional and social wellbeing – something Cameron says he particularly uses comedy for.
Talking about his situation when he was enrolled onto the six-week course 13 years ago he said: “I was lost. I had no idea what I was going to do.
“I was at the age of 14 when you realise that you’re not going to be a footballer.
“I needed something like this and I’m hoping I can do the same for other kids that might also be a bit lost or those who don’t know what their path is.”
Cameron’s project was recently awarded just under £10,000 in July thanks to National Lottery players who raise £36 million each week for good causes across the UK.
He said: “I want to create a little community for young people who feel safe to come into a room and have a laugh with each other.
“The aim is to have an accessible space for anyone between the age of 11 and 18 years old to come – we want to welcome a diverse group of young people to come and socialise with each other and make jokes together.”
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In the first six-eight weeks of the year long project the group will be working towards a performance but it is emphasised that those who are not too eager on that idea can still come along and benefit from the overall comedy experience.
While the Feeling Funny Youth project is hosted weekly – between 5-7pm every Tuesday – people are not obliged to attend each session and are instead invited to use the club in a way that works for them.
The money granted by the National Lottery Community Fund allows the trust to pilot the course for a year-long period but Cameron has bigger plans and hopes it can extend beyond the 12 month timeframe.
He said: “We have a year to pilot it with their fund which is great but we want to keep it going so we’re still looking for funding elsewhere.
“We don’t want it to be a sort of splash in the pan and want it to run like the Liverpool club does.
“The Comedy Trust is a unique thing, not many people can offer what it does .”
The project will be run from MD Creatives on Barrow Street in St Helens – an arts company who have supported the trust’s mission for many years.
Cameron continues to work on his solo performances alongside his community projects – in one of his upcoming endeavours he invites people to come and watch as he battles it out with his own Mum.
In a post promoting the event, he said: “10 years ago 16 year old me wrote stand up comedy to embarrass my mum.
“10 years later we’re roast battling live at The College of Deviants on the 22nd of November.
“Come and watch the woman who raised me cry live on stage.
More details for the Feeling Funny Youth Project can be found here.
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