A Night at the Theatre: The Culture of Stoke-on-Trent

It was a huge honour to be asked to work with the Hope for Abbey Project, at St. Johns’ Welcome Centre, for a second time! Resulting from the success of the previous ‘Confidence through Drama’ project, we were asked to develop another unique performance with the community of Abbey Hulton, this time focussing on the ‘culture of Stoke-on-Trent.’

The leading group for this performance were service users of the St John’s Day Service (a service for adults with an array of learning disabilities). They developed all aspects of the performance – from the theme of a ‘Night at the Theatre’, to the song choices, routines and so much more. Their ideas and instinctive reactions through out the development process were truly incredible, and all were incorporated .

The performance became an exploration of Stoke-on-Trent’s cultural offerings, at a time when the  City was bidding to become the next UK City of Culture, performed through songs from a variety of musicals.

The shows development saw a local community come together, with the community supporting in always possible e.g. costume making , help during rehearsals, and performing with the group. Other examples of community engagement included, thirty year five students from the local primary school, Carmountside Primary Academy,  rehearsing and performing several songs and dance routines with the group. Eleven young people from YMCA’s NCS programme, supporting to deliver several activities, participating in rehearsals, and taking over Kreative Foundations social media for the day. Additionally, students from the local college directed and filmed the show itself.

All those who participated were incredible and definitely proved that stereotypes of particular groups, are just that… stereotypes! All those involved showed that disabilities should be celebrated and never underestimated, that young people are helpful and inspirational, that opposing generations can come together and work in a truly positive way, and so much more! Additionally the project helped to reduce isolation, increased confidence, and broke down boundaries to develop a united community.

The attendance numbers to the final performances were beyond belief. The atmosphere was powerful, with a united community celebrating its city together.