Ashley Smith-Hammond

Companies are breaking new ground when it comes to providing great theatre for people with learning disabilities.

Case Study: Home

The new Frozen Light theatre company production Home has captured headlines for its work in making theatre more accessible. A powerful piece of work, the creative show runs with themes of loss, separation, loneliness and hope throughout as we find its characters Scarlet and Olive facing challenges in a world they don’t understand.

To enhance the experience for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD), actors escort them from the foyer to the auditorium to allow adjustment to the theatre environment and they engage with audience members singing directly to them and allowing them to touch props.

As the performance finishes its tour of Scotland, Lucy Garland, Frozen Light’s co-artistic director commented on the motivation behind the piece as reported in the Falkirk Herald: “By putting accessible theatre into theatre venues rather than centres or homes we hope to increase the visibility of people with PMLD and create activities for them to access within their local community.”

In Scotland

Although there is not currently a company in Scotland producing professional touring performances for audiences with PMLD, there is good work out there. These companies are working with disabled artists to make their performances more inclusive:

  • Birds of Paradise theatre company in Glasgow have a fully inclusive cast of disabled artists creating world class performances.
  • Drake Music Scotland deliver a range of musical projects across Scottish schools helping pupils with learning disabilities to play by adapting instruments so that they are useable for musicians with a disability.
  • Limelight Music are the largest employer of disabled musicians in Scotland. The organisation is helping people with disabilities to gain employment within the performing arts.
  • Shape Arts and Artsadmin, through their delivery of the Unlimited Impact programme, which works across the UK to offer funding and support to emerging disabled artists to make their own mark in the arts.
  • The Royal Society is working with the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability, to support six Fellowship opportunities for people in Scotland with learning disabilities. Bringing greater awareness and endorsing the work of disabled artists. Meet the six fellows here.

Support is growing across the country. These are just a handful of organisations opening the doors to encourage future musicians, actors, producers and contributors of all kinds to get involved in the arts. Take time explore the work from companies and creative practitioners above.

This article was corrected and updated in November 2017 thanks to feedback from Ellie Griffiths. Thanks to her for taking the time to feed in. We are committed to continuing to learn and welcome feedback.

Main image credit: Photo from Home (rehearsals) by JMA Photography copyright Frozen Light Theatre