Helen Whelehan is an Arts Projects Co-ordinator with Reach Inclusive Arts. Based on site at the Wyvern Theatre, Helen is responsible for supporting the Arts groups with the production and management of their multiple projects. We dropped in to the Reach office for a catch-up on their latest projects…
We’re thrilled to have Reach Inclusive Arts based here at the Wyvern Theatre week to week. How would you describe Reach and its work?
Reach Inclusive Arts provide meaningful activities for people living in Swindon who are disabled, have learning difficulties or have used mental health services.
We’re thrilled that our charity is based at the Wyvern Theatre. One of the most important aims of our work is for our project participants to feel integrated into the cultural life of Swindon. What better place is there for this to happen than by being based at the Wyvern?
Most of our activities take place in the studio spaces or on the main stage. Our projects never compromise on quality and deliver the highest results both artistically and therapeutically. All our artists strive for excellence – to be the best they can be through developing their skills and increasing their ambitions.
And what projects do you have on the go at the moment?
Reach supports a theatre company called ‘Partners’, a group of actors who all have either learning difficulties, sensory loss or who have used mental health services. The group meets weekly in Studio One upstairs at the Wyvern. Reach employ experienced arts professionals who facilitate the group to express their ideas and feelings authentically and creatively. They devise original shows which address current issues such as homophobia, family breakdown, bullying and bereavement. The shows tour schools and professional venues in the local area and regularly achieve audiences of over a thousand.
Our big Wyvern Theatre project called, ‘Making it ART’ involves young disabled people aged from 14 to 19 from local Swindon Schools. Arts workers employed by Reach spend six weeks in each of the schools helping these young people to devise and prepare a piece of drama that focuses on aspirations for identity and adult living. The show at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon involves each school performing their piece on the main stage to an invited audience. This attracts an audience of circa 400 friends, family, supporters and members of the public and is a free event to all comers.
This year the show is on 17th March 2016. Call 01793 520318 to book places.
We recently also ran a set of activities called ‘Workable Arts’ which supports people with disabilities to gain the skills and the confidence to consider looking for employment.
Another highly successful project is an art group which began in March 2011 as a 12 week pilot project working with Avon & Wiltshire NHS Trust.This is a community based scheme for older people, many have mental health problems. It offers the chance, using the arts, to feel confident enough to sustain their recovery and enjoy living at home in their community. This group has blossomed into a regular weekly activity that takes place in the blue room upstairs at the Wyvern. The participants have made this group their own and they call it ‘The Crafty Friends’.
“We are a very small organisation and we achieve a lot but we could not achieve this without the on-going support, generosity and help given by the Wyvern Theatre family.”
Do you have any favourite memories at the Wyvern Theatre, either professional and personal?
I think that some of our best memories from our life at the Wyvern are around how well we are supported by the Wyvern staff and volunteers. In all our project work we never cease to feel warmed by the sensitivity, professionalism and help we enjoy from those based at the theatre. We are a very small organisation and we achieve a lot but we could not achieve this without the on-going support, generosity and help given by the Wyvern Theatre family. The support in kind we gain from being able to use the theatre spaces for our project venues makes the world of difference to how many projects we can provide and for how long they can continue to run.
Who can get involved with Reach and how might they do so?
We would welcome people to get involved with Reach. This could be by volunteering to help deliver projects, join our board of trustees or through donations to help support the work of the charity. It’s really easy to do either, you can contact the Reach team about how to get involved and you can donate by visiting: www.reachinclusivearts.org.uk
Contact us via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
… Or, phone 01793 520318
… Or look us up on Facebook!