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Bright Sparks Theatre Arts and Leep1 drama group

Bright Sparks Theatre Arts meet our members every Wednesday morning for their Drama Group. The sessions are fun and inspiring with up to 30 members attending from various services across Leeds. But what do they get up to in Drama Group on a Wednesday? Carry on reading to find out more……

By Guest Blogger: Elaine Walton

One thing about drama is that we always enjoy it.  We have fun times and also serious times.  We have to be serious when we are rehearsing for a play but there is always the enjoyment and reward of creating a good show.  It builds people’s confidence and some, who have never performed in front of an audience before, start off a little scared but end up going onto the stage, facing the audience and acting as if they had always done it.  And at the end of the show every person comes off stage with a big grin on their faces, having done a great job.

This is the biggest audience we’ve have ever had.  It was scary for everyone on stage but once we started acting we just concentrated in getting the play right and forgot about the audience. At the end we invited them onto the stage for a last dance.

There is a lot of learning done and confidence built in the weeks before the show.  Some who are a bit shy don’t even want to do anything in front of us in the hall we use to rehearse in but, as they watch some of the others doing things, they just join in.  Within a few weeks it’s as if they hadn’t been shy at all.

The first thing we learn is that there is no right or wrong.  Of course, things have to be done right in the show but if someone makes a mistake, ends up in a different part of the stage than where they should be or says something different to what we rehearsed, it doesn’t matter.  We just carry on and no-one is blamed.  Everybody makes mistakes.  When anyone new comes along the members are keen to point out that if anything does go wrong it’s John (the director) who is to blame, not them.

Another of the first things we learn is that we have to listen to each other.  If it happens that a lot of people are talking at the same time someone just puts their hand on their head to show that there is too much talking and they don’t like it.  Someone sees it and does the same, then someone else and then, quite soon, everyone is stood quietly.  We have to listen because, if we don’t, our shows would not run smoothly.

In drama we also have to learn to concentrate and focus our minds.  We practice this by playing ‘Magic Mirror’.  Soft music is played and we copy what our partner is doing with their hands.  It also calms us down after our excitement of doing Magic Box. There is a lot of ‘magic’ in our drama sessions. We start our acting by walking through an imaginary park. Marc plays nature sounds and we have to react.  It can be sunny, with bird sounds, or raining, with rain and thunder sounds.  We have to act as if it is really happening.

In one of our shows we had to disobey the evil queen so had to rehearse looking that way. This is John and Bernadette trying it out. They’re pretty good I’d say!

We are always looking for new ideas and in what way we can explore them.  We all enjoy learning new things so when something called a tableau was introduced, everyone was keen to join in as much as possible (a tableau is sort of ‘still action’).  It is like stopping the action in a film; putting it on pause.  We have done this by trying to see what water and fire would be like if we froze the action.     We were asked to come into the middle of the room, one by one, thinking of the shape of what water would feel like to us and, when we got to the middle of the room we had to freeze that action.  We ended up with a group in the middle making a scene with ‘still action’ – a tableau.  And then we did the same with fire.

We also divide into two teams and choose a subject for our ‘still action’ and then decide who is going to play each part.  Then each one gets into place and freezes in the position they would have had if the scene was moving.  The other team has to try and guess what it is that is being frozen.

At the end of the day’s practices we usually finish with a good dance around to shake away all the thinking and plotting and acting we have done. ‘Grease Lightening’ is a firm favourite.

After a few weeks of these practices we usually start thinking about the actual show and start rehearsing for it.  There will be an idea already there but everyone is encouraged to put their own ideas forward. We also start using props fairly early in rehearsals so that the cast can get used to them such as James Bond guns and getting Freddie Mercury in full costume.

Eventually the rehearsing becomes more serious and there is usually a lot to learn in a short time. And then, suddenly, the time for the actual show arrives.  Nerves are high but we all cope well.  In the past, we have performed our shows two or three times at The Stage at Leeds University.  This year, as well as using The Stage, we also performed it in the foyer area at The Leeds Playhouse.

Performance at The Stage – Leeds University

Performance at West Yorkshire Playhouse

After the last show everyone was awarded a medal for their brilliant performances.

AND Clothing Joins Ebay for Change

AND Clothes is a not for profit clothing brand that was set up by Susan Hanley and some the members at Leep1 two years ago.

With funding from the People’s Health Trust we have been able to dedicate staff time and money into the project to see it grow.

ANDCLOTHING IS NOT JUST A CLOTHING COMPANY

Abilities Not Disabilities was set up to redefine the public’s negative perception of disability. The brand aims to end stigma that people with a learning disability face and showcase talent, skill and abilities.

The 8 AND entrepreneurs involved in the project are passionate and dedicated to giving themselves and other LD adults around the world a voice using our powerful #AbilitiesNotDisabilities message to end stigma, hate and inequality.

EBAY FOR CHANGE

Photo Credit Jan Wells

In 2021 the project was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Ebay For Change programme. Ebay for Change supports small social enterprises to be able to grow and develop, using Ebay as a online selling platform. ANDClothing is one of around 80 social enterprises from all over the world currently receiving support.

Ebay believes that business can be a powerful force for positive change and with the scale of their marketplace they have an important role to play in ensuring we can all help build a future economy that works for everyone. The programme aims to support social entrepreneurs and create jobs in vulnerable communities by supporting the growth of the social enterprise sector.

The support we have received has been fantastic. The Ebay team have tailor made their training sessions to suit us and our members. The group will be learning everything to help us make our Ebay store and our online selling venture a success.

Ebay specialists will be coaching and mentoring us in listing optimization, marketing and digital skills. The programme has also offered discounts on essential items such as postage costs, free listing fees and a professional shop front to our very own ANDClothing Ebay store.

AND Clothing launched their brand new Ebay store in January 2022 and over the next few months will be learning how to get a foothold in the massive Ebay marketplace.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The success of the AND project since it started last year and the interest we have had in it means we are trying to secure more funding to expand the current offer to three days a week. This way we will be able to support more adults with learning disabilities and offer more opportunities that will help build confidence, enhance skill set and create avenues into employment.

Friendship group tackles social isolation in adults with learning disabilities in Leeds

Back face to face

During the last 18 months and throughout the Covid pandemic the friendship group have met online every Wednesday. The sessions have included guest DJs, cooking a meal together, singing, quizzes and lots of fun and laughter.

We are really pleased to announce that our Friendship Group now meets in person every alternate week. Last week Helen and the group met at Cafe Leep for a special games night. It was so lovely to have everyone get together again playing their favourite board games.

For the time being the group will meet on zoom once a week, then in person the next.

If you would like to join in and meet new friends please get in touch! We’d love to have you be part of this fun, friendly and sociable group.

Please contact Mandy or Angie to find out more: manager@leep1.co.uk / angie@leep1.co.uk

Or call us on 243 9477