Five (and a bit) Questions with…Alton Letto
The most personal projects are about clashes of cultures, failure of understanding, and feelings of being different.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Alton Letto. First and foremost, I’m an actor who writes. I’ve been lucky enough to work in Theatre and TV and feel comfortable in both these mediums. I told my mum that I wanted to be an actor when I was 3 years old and basically just stuck with it since. I’ve always felt very lucky in that respect; I was never one of those people who didn’t know what they wanted to do.
2. Do you think an artist has a particular role or responsibility in the world?
It’s very easy to say that art is frivolous, extra, and of no real value or contribution to the world. This is reflected in how arts subjects are treated in education and how many career paths are not explored or encouraged. I kept the fact I wanted to be an actor a secret at school because I mentioned it once in an advice session and was laughed at, actually laughed at! I think now more than ever artists have an important responsibility in the world. Art is the only medium in which we explore the human condition and our relation to one another. An artist should always aim to bridge the gap of understanding and inspire empathy for others.
3. How do you see your role?
I’m from a mixed-race background, and being half Turkish, I am always struck at the kind of language that is used around descriptions of people from the Muslim world. The discourse often seems to strip people’s humanity away from them, somehow making their needs seem different from people here in ‘the West’. It’s a falsehood that I would love to break down – people’s mothers and fathers are the same, their love for their grandparents, nieces and nephews are all the same. Straddling two cultures, it is easy for me to see this. If I could impart this tiny bit of wisdom to a wide audience, I would in a heartbeat.
4. Does identity play a role in your creative craft, and if so how?
Identity definitely has a great impact on my craft. The most personal projects are about clashes of cultures, failure of understanding, and feelings of being different. My major influences are probably not what most people expect. I love great artistry and am drawn to work that focuses on strong relatable characters, such as pieces by Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Lean – glorious directors who knew how to paint beautiful images but fundamentally respected the stories they were trying to tell.
5. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given over the course of your career?
The best bit of advice I ever got was that you should learn how to take criticism, but recognise that everyone has their own opinion. People won’t always understand what you are trying to achieve and you have to stay true to your vision.
A bit more…
Where’s your favourite place to see art?
Somewhere organic. I’m not a fan of museums. The most powerful pieces of art are those found in some kind of context related to their surroundings. A sculpture in a park or somewhere unexpected, theatre that is happening in a place that compliments its surroundings – these are interesting to me. I was once involved in a production that used an overgrown nature reserve with an abandoned chapel and it was magical.
Alton was part of our Amal teaser video along with several other artists. You can find out more about them here:
Alia Al Zougbi – www.aliaalzougbi.com
George Butler – www.georgebutler.org
Batool Abbas – www.cargocollective.com/batoolabbas
Sanaa Hamid – www.ronakbahaar.com
Nasreen Raja – www.instagram.com/nasreenraja
Ruh Al Alam – www.ruhalalam.com
Mohammed Yahya – www.facebook.com/MohammedYahya
May Robertson – www.mayrobertson.co.uk
Salahuddin Mazhary – www.instagram.com/adventuresinfashionistan
Alton Letto – www.twitter.com/altonletto
Thahmina Haseen – www.goldentiffin.co
Maab Adams – www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK_G-h1uep8