Launch of Youth Theatre for children with physical and learning disabilities

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds is set to introduce new groups into its already successful Youth Theatre programme aimed specifically at children and young people with physical and learning disabilities.

Youth Theatre Inclusion is only possible with the funding which is being provided by St Edmunds Trust for year one and the GeeWizz Charitable Foundation for years two, three and four.

Theatre Royal’s Artistic Director Owen Calvert-Lyons is excited about the positive impact these groups will have.

He said: “We will be the only professional theatre company offering provision of this kind in West Suffolk. The new groups will enrich the lives of children and young people using theatre and performing arts techniques designed specifically with them and their needs in mind.

“Youth Theatre Inclusion will support our young participants in building self-esteem, increasing confidence and developing a positive sense of who they are and what they can achieve. By being able to create quality art, reflecting and celebrating their unique creativity, they can explore theatre making in an inclusive and responsive environment.”

Support for year one is being provided by St Edmunds Trust.  The Trust was set up in 1997 with the funds remaining from an appeal committee launched in 1976 to convert The Square House Hotel, in Bury St Edmunds, to a private hospital.

The appeal was closed with more than 800 contributors and the St Edmunds Hospital was opened in February 1981. By 1997 major development was required and the hospital was sold to the Nuffield Trust (another charitable organisation) and is now run by BMI. As the original money had been raised by local appeal it was considered important that any remaining money should be retained for local use. £2.25m was left after the sale, which is the origin of the funds of the St Edmunds Trust.

The GeeWizz Charitable Foundation, who are providing support for years two, three and four, is a very special charity based just outside Bury St Edmunds.

The charity focuses on supporting children and young adults in Suffolk and Norfolk who suffer from life-threatening conditions, a disability or cancer. Their work aims to help fund the provision of equipment for children with physical disabilities, support potential developments in care for children affected by cancer and support education and research into cancer treatment and care.

Theatre Royal Youth Theatre Inclusion will provide new youth theatre groups for children and young people aged eight to 18 with a range of physical and learning disabilities.

These groups will explore a variety of theatrical mediums through non-verbal delivery. Through ongoing training Theatre Royal will develop the programme with leading theatre companies creating work with, and for, young people with disabilities.

The support provided by St Edmunds Trust and GeeWizz Charitable Foundation will provide specialised training (delivered by leading Young People with Learning Disabilities theatre company Open Theatre) for Theatre Royal Youth Theatre practitioners to enable them to tailor the groups specifically to the needs of the children and young people.

Youth Theatre Inclusion hopes to welcome its first participants in September of this year, Covid restrictions permitting.

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