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.

Nature and green spaces in Leeds with Leep1

#ConnectWithNature #metalhealthawarenessweek

This week to celebrate mental health awareness week the members at Leep1 got close to nature.

How do you feel when you walk through a forest or woods? Relaxed, calm and peaceful?

Visiting green spaces and being with nature is good for both your mental health and physical health. It has been found that living in areas where there are more trees and grass has been linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

A recent study found that people who spent at least two hours a week with nature were more likely to report higher levels of health and well-being – so nature really is good for you!

1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health difficulty at some point in their lives. Life these days seem to get busier and more hectic as each year passes. The effects of the pandemic have also taken it’s toll with many more people feeling anxious, worried and stressed. Visiting green spaces and parks is a great way of feeling an escape and getting away, a chance to walk, do some excercise and share social experiences with friends – which are all good for our mental health and wellbeing.

Making some time just for yourself is extremely important to keep a good healthy balance and good mental health.

Roundhay Park Leeds

Leeds is lucky enough to have one of the biggest city parks in Europe. Roundhay Park is not far from our offices at Leep1 and it is a popular destination for our out and about trips with our members. The park covers more than 700acres – that’s the same as 700 football fields! With woodlands, lakes and streams, grasslands, formal gardens and mansion to name a few of its attractions.

We spent this week going for lots of walks at Roundhay park. Everyone really enjoyed the good weather and one of the highlights was spotting the baby signets with it’s mother by the lake – as well as Annette trying to exericse while eating an ice cream!

Urban Green Spaces

Most cities have green havens in and among all it’s tall buildings. These spaces break up the all the grey and adds a breath of fresh air for visitors and people who work nearby. We took our members to Leeds city centre to explore some nature in the heart of the city which included an impressive 30ft planted wall at Leeds City College!

Learning Disability Community Disco

It’s been nearly a year since we hosted one of our club nights at Pryzm Nightclub in Leeds. These evenings were one of the highlights of everyone’s month with around 200 people attending from the Learning Disabled Community. We are all desperate to be able to get together soon and can’t wait until we can host another event at Pryzm in the near future.

To try make up for this we’ve been running virtual DJ nights on our Facebook Group throughout the pandemic. Listening to some great tunes, we dance tnd chat online while the event is streamed live into our homes and kitchens!

The weekends start early at Leep1 with DJ nights running from Thursday to Saturday every week. Our members kindly volunteer to host these weekly events and they have learnt some amazing new DJ-ing skills along the way.

Thursday Nights

Thursday night is Ollie and Chris’s turn on the decks playing 80s and 90s hits. Chris and Ollie have both invested in some fantastic equipment to enhance their shows: from UV backdrops to professional DJ lights and mixing software.

Friday Night

Vicky loves to play classic club dance hits to get the weekend really started but loves taking requests too.

Saturday Night

Dj Sapphire has learnt some great skills along the way and invested in some Professional DJ Decks during the first lockdown. She loves to play a real mixture of music from reggae, dub, dance and pop.

More information about how to join our Facebook Group which is a safe and supportive space for adults with learning disabilities can be found here: