Theatre for the Fabulous
A story by Artlink
Theatre for the Fabulous is a theatre group in Midlothian we supported 27 unpaid parent carers to take a break from caring for their adult children over the period of a year whilst providing creative engagement for 15 adults with a learning disability passionate about performance and drama.
What Theatre for the Fabulous did
Theatre for the Fabulous offered 27 unpaid lifelong carers a short break for one day a week over thirty-six weeks of the year. This year the focus was on supporting additional adults with learning disabilities through outreach workshops for wider community participation. The venue was easily accessible and on a main bus route. Led by an artist with over twenty years experience, the group provided a creative environment for adults to access a range of drama and theatre techniques in the safety of a supportive group.
Participants used their physicality, voice and imagination to engage with each other to develop critical reflection skills and support personal development. This Mutually Beneficial creative and safe environment allowed carers time to relax, meet with family and friends, do house chores, work or get round to painting the garden fence.
We hosted four community outreach workshops to engage other local adults with learning disabilities. These workshops were in collaboration with Artlink’s contacts Local Area Coordination, Midlothian Social Work and parent supportive projects Neighbourhood Networks, Pasda and Vocal who referred our original core group and new participants.
The group is Personalised to individual's needs and interests and specifically Targeted for parent carers who have little or no breaks elsewhere. Theatre for the Fabulous participated in theatre-based workshops, post-show discussions and backstage tours with enhanced levels of access in collaboration with theatre companies including the Lyceum, The Traverse Theatre and Edinburgh Festival Theatre.
These visits Add Value by inspiring engagement and critical reflection as well as providing cultural and social experiences whilst providing additional rare evening breaks for carers. This year we recruited an assistant to support the growing group and a volunteer from Edinburgh University who shared music skills. We have developed our Knowledge and Understanding of how to involve carers in the development and delivery of the project through talking, texting and emailing. This is a Mutually Beneficial project that boosts quality of life and mental wellbeing for all involved.
What Artlink has learned
Targeting families most in need of support
These families have little or no other support from family, friends or social welfare so for most of our carers, this is the only break they get. Families are on low income and local councils have cut travel funds for adults with learning disabilities. This means carers are spending more time travelling by bus or car with their adult child. A local project is essential for them. Most of the carers are single parents or elderly and in need of respite.
Reaching out to and engaging with new families
We created four community outreach workshops in local venues and reached out to our contacts in Local Area Coordination, Social Work, Neighbourhood Networks, PASDA and Vocal to engage with other local adults with learning disabilities. During these sessions we reached more carers who needed a short break and who have signed up for next year’s regular Theatre for the Fabulous group.
Developing new short breaks activities
This year we included bespoke theatre-based workshops, post-show discussions and back stage tours in collaboration with Edinburgh theatre companies. These short break activities gave cared for adults unique cultural opportunities to expand their knowledge about theatre and develop their drama skills. These sessions meant carers enjoyed rare short breaks during the evenings and weekends.
How Artlink has benefitted from the funding
Our organisation benefitted from Creative Breaks funding because we developed new links with Social Workers and Local Area Coordination thus gaining referrals for more carers. Our outreach workshops and the new venue expanded our services to a wider group with more people joining over the year. Our organisation’s reputation has been strengthened throughout Midlothian as being the only theatre group in the area for adults with Learning Disabilities so carers, who have adult children with a passion for drama, now have somewhere to come to gain a short break.
27 carers will tell us that they enjoyed a life outside of their caring role through conversations asking them about the activities they’ve enjoyed during their short break. Regular ‘check ins’ with families by WhatsApp, text and email and end of project case study consultation.
This project outcome was achieved for 27 parent carers on a regular basis for 36 weeks on Thursdays in Mayfield Community Centre which is a central location in Midlothian and easily accessible with public transport. Retention and attendance sits at 100%. The length of the break has increased for some carers as their adult children with learning disabilities gain confidence to independently travel with our support. We spend time planning bus routes with participants, go with them to bus stops and are contactable by phone during these journeys for emotional support. Parent carers then don’t need to travel or “taxi” their children thus increasing their respite time. Four community outreach satellite workshops invited and engaged other local adults with learning disabilities extending the number of carers and respite time. A total of 52 carers gained a break during these workshops.
At the beginning of 2023, I was contacted by the Local Area Coordination in Midlothian with a referral for a mum in her sixties and daughter in her thirties living in Midlothian. The daughter did not have any other activities on and the mum had no respite, support or breaks from her caring role. I met with them both and quickly found that the daughter loved musicals, singing, performing and the theatre. Since Covid, all her community groups had stopped and mum was finding her caring role take on more responsibility, she was keen for support. I told them both about the Theatre for the Fabulous theatre group and the weekly sessions and both were excited; the daughter about delving into her passion for drama and meeting new friends and mum about having this regular break for a few hours to catch up on chores, meet with friends or just put her feet up with a cuppa! For the past six months, mum has been enjoying this much needed break time which now extends outside of the drama sessions as her daughter has gained confidence to independently travel there and back, get dressed and ready in the morning herself and to meet with new friends she’s made: “Yeh, she loves it, she’s even all organised in the morning which is hard for her. Most of the time I have to get her up and motivated but on a Thursday I’ve not got any issues. She knows when a Thursday is coming, she doesn’t have anything else going on… I 100% don’t have to worry about her. She’s reconnecting with people again and her confidence is building already. I’ve now got time to do things, like paint my fence!” Theatre for the Fabulous participant’s mum/carer
27 carers will feel better supported to sustain their caring role by asking carers to help us develop key questions/ benchmarks to assess the impact of this project on their ability to sustain a caring role at mid point and end of project
To determine whether carers feel better supported to sustain their caring role, the main key is communicating with them. We developed personalised methods including formal consultations and informal chats via text, email, WhatsApp, calls, a focus group involving 6 carers and 15 1-1 conversations (Sept 2023) conducted by the project coordinator with surveys for quantitative evidence and voice recording quotations for qualitative evidence. From this information we found that carers felt supported to sustain their caring role when they: -knew their children were safe and happy thus having a positive effect on their own well-being -had support from other parent carers in the group for sharing lifts or for social interactions and meet-ups to share experiences -had support from staff to feedback to them -could rely on a regular weekly break from their caring role -The group is free of charge as the cost of living crisis is effecting -Local venue and on a bus route
Before the Theatre for the Fabulous one single parent carer was struggling to sustain her caring role for her son with a learning disability. She had to go work regularly, leaving her son at home and had no breaks or support from family, friends or social care. The son did not enjoy any groups he tried as he didn’t have an interest or a role in them. Since joining this group, the mum has explained that during this regular, dependable time she can have a much needed “stress-free” break to sustain her role as a carer: “Because he has a role within the drama group he takes pride in that. He’s tried going to other groups but he gets himself into a state and has to cancel. He’s got nothing else. I work all week, I can’t give up my work. He comes everywhere with me- even on holiday, even on a girl’s holiday because we don’t have anyone to help or respite. Without the project he would just have to sit in the house but when he goes to Theatre for the Fabulous I don’t worry about him. He comes home, goes to his room and writes scripts. He feels important. I’ve met new friends there too and now we’re close so I’ve got a circle of people I can call if needed.”
27 carers will feel they have improved wellbeing: Pre-project consultation with carers to determine pre-project parameters to measure the impact of Theatre for the Fabulous on ability to sustain a caring role. Mid-term and end of project case study consultation about the impact of this project.
Through surveys (Sept 2023) we gathered evidence from parent carers asking them how their children going to Theatre for the Fabulous effected their wellbeing. We found that: For 10 families, this group is the only respite they have from caring so it is a very welcomed and needed short break during the week. All parent carers felt the responsibility to organise and plan their adult child’s social life so they could have a break from planning and worrying. 70% of our carers are also carers for their own elderly parents and 30% of our participants also have caring responsibilities for their own parents so the project is a mutually beneficial break. -100% of carers said they rely on the time to catch up with friends, develop their own interests, go for a day out or go to work so is paramount to their well being. Parents told us that the pandemic left their adult children feeling anxious and socially isolated. 100% saw confidence increase so made them happy
The Theatre for the Fabulous is a mutually beneficial project improving the well being of both carers and their adult children they care for. Many parent carers have shared with us that knowing their children are safe, happy and developing their personal development skills like communication and working as a group, has a positive effect on their own wellbeing. To see their child gain confidence whilst learning theatrical skills makes them feel pride and gives them a break from worrying. Keith (adult cared for) says, “Yeh, it’s been good, I love it. It’s good that Suzie is training me because we both know a bit about acting and now I know more stuff, it’s good yeh!” Keith’s parent carer told us, “It helps us relax as we know he is happy.” Ben’s elderly parent carers told us that he has been asked to leave groups in the past due to his behaviour but Theatre for the Fabulous turned that around giving them both well needed respite, “Ben’s in good hands at Theatre for the Fabulous. I never worry about him and his behaviour because he knows the staff and he’s doing something that he enjoys; it’s active, he’s meeting friends, he’s socialising. He loves it, he loves going and loves the people.” For Jamie, the drama group is his only weekly social activity. During the session we set aside specific time for participants to socialise together over a cuppa. He told us, “I like the tea break.” This time improves his self-esteem and social confidence. He told us he now texts his new friends outside of the group. Jamie’s mum, another single parent, also cares for her daughter who is critically ill. To give her a break, she needs us to take of things like organising the sessions, supporting Jamie when he’s there and keeping her informed about how he’s getting on. Parents have shared with us that getting to know other local parent carers through the project has been a support network for them, “We’ve also got chatting to the other parents, which is really supportive and we’re now helping each other out with lift shares.”