Boxer’s journey from free school meals to acting career premiers on local stage

Oliver Sykes <i>(Image: STPR)</i>
Oliver Sykes (Image: STPR)

A theatre maker who was born into poverty and fought for success after his sporting dreams were shattered is premiering his one man show in Burnley.

Inspired by writer and performer Oliver Sykes' own experiences growing up without a mum and being coached as an amateur boxer by his dad, the one man show Alfie's First Fight is a story about love, loss, family, and boxing.

Oliver, 33, was born into poverty in rural Derbyshire. He and his five siblings were raised on s council estate on the breadline, receiving clothing donations from local charities, income support and free school meals.

His sporting dreams were shattered - along with his hand - after he was set upon by a bunch of teenagers in the park. Following his other passion instead, Oliver started out as a theatre producer (after being awarded a prestigious bursary) and is now the writer and performer of his first children's production.

Oliver said: "Alfie's First Fight is the kind of tale that you don't very often see on stage.

"It's a relatable, working class story about a loving and supportive non-traditional family who love boxing.

"Alfie's First Fight is a story about coming of age, fighting our fears and being who we always wanted to be.

"It will appeal to everyone who has ever felt like the underdog but has gone full throttle for the win regardless."

Oliver graduated with a first from Lancaster University. He then took on a paid internship at Contact theatre in Manchester and became a theatre and creative project producer through a bursaries scheme for high-achieving arts graduates from low-income families.

Heavily inspired by Oliver’s upbringing and the obstacles he encountered as a child, Alfie's First Fight tells the story of shy twelve-year-old Alfie.

When Alfie's older brother Jacob goes missing moments before the Golden Gloves Championship - the biggest boxing match of his life - he puts his fears aside and goes to investigate.

On the surface, it's a simple adventure story about goodies and baddies and the drama of the boxing ring. But Oliver says Alfie's First Fight is also about love, loss, family and learning how to fight for what you want.

Oliver Sykes' first touring children's theatre show Alfie's First Fight is playing at theatres, libraries, schools and boxing clubs around the UK from February, with its opening night at Burnley Youth Theatre on Saturday, February 11.

To buy tickets, visit Oliver Sykes' website.