Norwich group gains grant to help profoundly disabled people enjoy the theatre

March 22, 2016

Adults and young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) will be able to experience a new and highly interactive theatre experience thanks to a grant from the Care UK wellbeing foundation.

The £2,000 grant will enable the Norwich-based Frozen Light Theatre to produce a new interactive, sensory show in association with the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich.

Artistic director Amber Gregory explained: “People with PMLD are among the most excluded in society. Where people with mild learning disabilities may be taken to the theatre to see a pantomime or concert, people with PMLD are rarely taken to the theatre as carers and organisations find it challenging and productions are not aimed at them.

“I met a 50-year-old man at one of our performances the other day who had never been to the theatre before but he loved the sensory performance and he was completely engaged in the experience.”

The cheque for Frozen Light was handed over at one of Care UK’s newest care homes – Cavell Court – which is in Cringleford, near Norwich. Home manager Anita O’Neill and resident Betty Flowerdew were delighted to hear first-hand about the plans for the new show.

Home manager Anita O’Neill, Cavell Court resident Betty Flowerdew and Frozen Light’s Artistic director Amber Gregory with one of the leafy props from the new show.

Home manager Anita O’Neill, Cavell Court resident Betty Flowerdew and Frozen Light’s Artistic director Amber Gregory with one of the leafy props from the new show.

Anita said: “Amber came along in one of the costumes and bought some of the woodland props from the upcoming show for us to see. It certainly sounds like it will be an imaginative and inspiring show. We use sensory activities in many of our care homes to communicate with people with advanced dementia and we know the joy that lights, colour, music and movement can bring. For their family members, it can give an invaluable and magical opportunity to explore and understand the world experienced by the person they care for.”

The Care UK wellbeing foundation was established as a way for Care UK to give back to the communities where it provides health and social care services.

During the next year it has over £25,000 available for grants to support charities which promote wellbeing through the arts. Fundraisers from other local charities who think their project might be eligible for a similar grant can find out more and download an application form.

The Frozen Light Theatre grant will be used to commission a designer to make the set for the new production as interactive as possible. Amber said: “Each performance is unique because, although the storyline and props remain the same, the way each audience responds is different and we hope this grant will help us to create a set that has boundless possibilities for them to communicate through.”

Rehearsals began at the Ipswich theatre in January and it’s hoped that it’ll be performed in around 30 more theatres and halls nationwide as it goes on tour. Each performance is limited to six people with PMLD, six carers and 12 friends and family in order to maximise the interactive nature of the production.

Care UK’s assistant company secretary and foundation board member, Rosemary Harvey, said: “We were delighted to support the Frozen Light Theatre’s newest production as it helps people, who have very limited chances to enjoy art, to come into a theatre and join in a production.”

Grants have also been given to the Red Rose Theatre in Ipswich.