Access All Areas for Hackney community theatre programme

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Access All Areas

A Hackney-based theatre company is giving learning disabled adults a voice, helping them get creative and boosting their wellbeing thanks to new funding.

Access All Areas, which operates from a base in Kingsland Road, Hoxton, was founded in 1976 as the Rainbow Theatre Company and today stages professional performances at venues around the country.

The company’s community-based Take Part programme, co-led by learning disabled professionals, will include drama workshops, creative wellbeing sessions and multi-sensory work.

The programme, aimed at people with learning disabilities and autism, is being funded with a £58,400 grant from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

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City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said:

“In its previous incarnation, Access All Areas was something of a pioneer in providing regular drama sessions for people with learning disabilities in the mid-1970s, and it’s gone from strength to strength over the last four decades.

“The Take Part programme will put learning disabled adults front and centre, helping them improve their health and wellbeing, promoting inclusivity and giving them a voice at the heart of the community.”

Activities running as part of the Take Part programme include the Black Cab Company, a community drama programme in which participants take part in creative workshops and stage an annual show.

It also includes a creative wellbeing programme which uses drama to help participants address issues such as the return to normal life post-Covid, and multi-sensory work for adults with more complex needs.

Access All Areas Executive Director Patrick Collier said:

“There are still a lot of stereotypes about learning disabled and autistic people – the idea that they have something wrong with them – whereas we believe they are people who have a different way of acting and communicating.

“A lot of learning disabled people don’t feel welcome in creative spaces and don’t feel like they are allowed to own their own creative voice because of how they are treated by society.

“We empower people to see themselves as creative and valued members of the community with something to say, enabling people to express their creative voice in a way that suits them.”

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