Theatre for the Fabulous
A story by Artlink Edinburgh and the Lothians
Theatre for the Fabulous is a drama group for adults aged 21-50 years with learning disabilities in Midlothian.
It aims to give parents and carers a regular break from caring, targeting those carers who have little or no respite. It boosts the wellbeing of both carers and the individuals they care for.
What Theatre for the Fabulous did
Theatre for the Fabulous provided weekly inspiring participatory drama workshops for 13 adults with learning disability and autism at Mayfield Community Club, in Midlothian. The beneficiaries are interested in Drama and referred through social work, Local Area Coordination or self-referrals by family.
Workshops were once a week, from 10am-2.30pm, offering 24 unpaid lifelong carers a short break for one day a week for 36 weeks of the year. Carers used this time away from caring to see friends or take time to relax. The project successfully built on existing and new relationships with family members, theatre companies and industry professionals which we will develop going forward.
The project provided Mutual Benefits: enabling 24 parent carers a break from caring for their adult children, whilst providing imaginative, developmental learning opportunities for their adult child. Personalisation: this project was centred around the personal interests, skills and needs of the person with learning disability, as well as understanding the unique needs of their parent carers.
Targeted Support: The project gave parents carers of adults assessed with low to moderate need a regular break from caring, targeting those carers who due to the pandemics had little or no respite. Adding Value: This project created a bespoke drama and performance programme and developmental learning experiences for adults with learning disabilities. This project has developed our knowledge and understanding of the needs and ways of involving people with learning disability and their unpaid carers in the creation of individual respite care.
One success of the project was creating respite for parents' carers, carers have reported feeling better able to cope with the challenges and stresses of their caring responsibilities after this short break. It also boosted confidence, wellbeing and creative development opportunities for the beneficiaries enhancing mental wellbeing for everyone involved.
We moved the workshop to a new venue as the first venue turned out to be unsuitable. However, the changed venue has had really positive outcomes in terms of its location and increased community engagement
What Artlink Edinburgh and the Lothians has learned
The project has effectively developed my skills as the project coordinator, in both project planning and budgeting. It has created opportunities for short breaks for parent carers who due to the pandemic had little or no respite, and whose adult children had become increasingly isolated due to the pandemic.
The project has created further opportunities to reach out and engage with existing and new families to Artlink. Theatre for the Fabulous provides a drama school experience for people who experience barriers to creative further education, at a pace that is right for them, making any short break meaningful as well as needed by their parent carers.
Since the beginning of this programme, participants have been working with an industry professional to devise a new piece of theatre, was which was premiered in the summer of 2022. Alongside this process, we had hoped to work in partnership with QMUC students and the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh to expand the creative opportunities for participants.
However, the Omicron wave of Covid prevented this. We were able to turn this around by re-distributing resources to bring live musicians into our devising and performance process. This has provided the participants with the opportunity to work with new artists, part of the planned process in the previous partnerships, and diversified the artistic process for all involved. We maintain close links with partner organisations and plan to engage in the future.
How Artlink Edinburgh and the Lothians has benefitted from the funding
Artlink has hugely benefited from Creative Breaks funding. It has enabled us to develop existing and new partnership links with Edinburgh based theatre companies, industry professionals and artists, that has benefited the recipients of the project. This first year of the project has served as a practice-based research programme in identifying the long term needs of this community of people with learning disability and their family. We know these workshops needs to be easy to access, need to be regular respite, ideally needs to be for as many weeks a year as possible. We needed to move the project to a new venue, as the old venue was unsuitable, however, due to this change we have engaged with new recipients and families as a result. We also aim to further expand our engagement with new families and the local community going forward.
24 carers and the people they care for will say they feel more relaxed and less stressed as a result of being involved in Theatre for the Fabulous.
Theatre for the Fabulous parent carers have described feeling more relaxed after having time away from caring during Theatre for the Fabulous workshop's hours, and they have enjoyed reclaiming time for themselves. Theatre for the Fabulous participants have benefited from the enjoyment, confidence boost and feel-good factors of being involved in involved in a regular social, collaborative, developmental drama and theatre workshop.
One participant K suffers from anxiety and stress, the pandemic isolated them, they lost their voluntary job and don't see friends. The workshop has given them purpose, they're doing what they love, it's boosted self-confidence and feelings of enjoyment they haven't felt since after School drama club over a decade ago. "I worry about everything; drama is the only thing I don't worry about". K, Theatre for the Fabulous participant. K's parent carer describes how "K's buzzing before a workshop, it really lifts their mood". K's parent carer describes "knowing K's happy and fulfilled, makes her feel more relaxed and less stressed in the time I have to myself during workshop hours, I know Ks well supported and doing what he enjoys and that makes me happy too".
24 carers will say they have been able to enjoy a life outside of their caring role.
Theatre for the Fabulous allowed 24 carers time away from caring during the drama workshop hours. Parent carers have been able to use this time whilst not in their caring role to relax, have time to themselves, socalise with friends, go to work, or be creative themselves.
As an example, before the project, K's parent carer described how K came everywhere with her, in the house, to the shops, when she meets friends, she didn't have a minute to herself. K is assessed with low to moderate needs, so often slips through the net in relation to support provision, he has no day service or regular activity other than this weekly drama workshop. Theatre for the Fabulous has provided his mum the opportunity to reclaim valuable time for herself. K's mum has said she is able to relax knowing that K is enjoying himself, developing his interests and passion for drama and in a fun, supportive learning environment. "If I know he's safe and happy then I'm happy, I spend this time doing things for me, on my own, which feels good".
24 carers will feel better supported to sustain their caring role.
Theatre for the Fabulous has provided opportunities for parent carers from the project to get to know each other and connect, it has developed new support networks and friendships that had previously not existed. Both these new connections and the regular short breaks provided by Theatre for the Fabulous workshops enables parent carers to feel better able to cope with the demands of their caring role and supports to sustain it.
Parent carer Lynn described how before the project she didn’t have the same connections with parent carers as she does now. "It’s been great getting to know Gill; she's stepped in and helped out when I needed it, and I've helped her out too”. Gill described how having friendships with someone else who really understands the pressures and stresses of a parent caring role can be incredibly supportive and can help sustain their role as carer.
Additional project outcome
Performance artists with learning disability will have opportunity to showcase their skills to their community.
Before Theatre for the fabulous participant Audrey didn’t have the opportunities to learn and develop her interest and skills in performance locally. As a result of the project Audrey’s confidence has been boosted by the experience of performing publicly in her community to friends, family and wider community. "I loved it" Audrey, Theatre for Fabulous participant. After the show, parent carers spoke about their pride seeing their adult child perform confidently, learning lines, and ability to entertain audience. “I cried the whole way through, I’m so proud of him” Ben’s Mum.
Additional project outcome
The project has provided improved self-esteem and wellbeing for participants. Some participants who are able, have been supported to learn the skills to safe travel from home to the workshop increasing their independence and self-confidence, that was really knocked by the pandemic.
Before the project Audrey's self-confidence dropped massively due to pandemic, she had lost the confidence to self-travel on her own by bus and was becoming increasingly isolated. With the support from our experienced workshop support assistant to support Audrey to self-travel and the increased confidence she has gained from being a part of these drama sessions, Audrey is now independently getting herself to the drama workshops and back home again by public transport.