Cultural Learning Alliance

When you live with degradation depleting your resources, the magical artistic experience becomes a source of hope; a vision beyond the despair, an indication of how bad could be transformed into better

Camila Batmangelidjh
Founder and Director, Kids Company

Practice

Shape Articulate Conference at Sadler's Wells Theatre

In May 2010, 15 young learning disabled people aged 15 to 26, from London, Bristol and Oxford, participated in a three-day event at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London.

At ‘Articulate’, young people with learning difficulties participated in a range of creative learning activities aiming to encourage self-expression and social interaction, and to use alternative methods to articulate and express needs, important for many with non-verbal communication, using a range of communication aids.

The overall aim was to assist young people to articulate their career aspirations, training, and real experiences of accessing services to employment and training providers, colleges, potential employers and community and other local organisations who can assist them in having their say – such as Youth Parliament.

“Shape knows that cultural learning can make a big difference to a young person’s life experience – by using creative approaches we have been able to engage young people in thinking about their careers. Young learning disabled people have a high risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) and Articulate is just one of Shape’s interventions that can support this group to move away from NEET and closer to the job market.” Jenny Taylor, Shape’s Employment Programme Manager

Drawing out career aspirations
Young people participated in a Snakes and Ladders board game designed to draw out their dreams and career aspirations. A large-scale game snakes and ladders board and die was laid on the floor - young people discussed the ‘snakes’ or barriers that prevent them from getting where they want to go to, and then the ‘ladders’ or support mechanisms that help them move forwards towards that goal. They also could work on a career action plan.

Using creative approaches to finding work
Young people took part in ‘Forum Theatre’ – using creative approaches explore an important central issue. The young people devised their own scripts based on their own experiences. They explored obstacles to finding work and their access requirements.

In the afternoon the young people performed to an audience of leaders from training providers, colleges, potential employers, etc. After an initial showing, the action was restarted, and whenever an audience member felt the character might have tried a different strategy, they stopped the action, took the actor’s place, and played out their idea.

Young learning-disabled people already in work act as role models
Zahra Hussen is a young learning-disabled woman in paid employment at ‘The Crime Academy’ in Hendon. Zahra’s job is to work with Police Officers on the best way to interview learning-disabled witnesses. Zahra's work changes perceptions and demonstrates that people with a learning-disability can make good witnesses. the conference also heard from Anne-Marie Hislop, a successful learning-disabled actress who has been on The Bill and Doctors.

Young learning-disabled people using interactive media to have a voice
Young people were able to use interactive media to voice their ideas and thoughts. A group of young learning-disabled journalists from Weekend Arts College (WAC) acted as ‘Roving Reporters', to create a journalistic record of the day. They used a web-based media, blogging, video and live interviews to report on events.

Young people were provided with a fun, accessible way of making concepts around transition and employment more tangible and practical. Participants were given control and the ability to explore sensitive issues around independence and decision-making.

Quotes and Case Studies
“The opportunity to travel to London and dip their toes in the capital city is still resonating with them today - “That they have a timeline in their head is, perhaps more important, since time is something that they find difficult to grasp.  They loved it and have only gained and grown from the experience.” Support worker at Kingsweston school, Bristol

'Young people have learnt so much today. They are capable of doing so much more than people think. Articulate is important because it gives young learning disabled people a voice.” Sean Mclaughlin, Corporate Director of Adult Social Services, Islington Council

Case Study
Josh is about to leave school. He has a learning disability and wants to be an actor, but his teachers and career advisors told him he didn’t have the skills. Then his support worker said, “Why not go to the Shape Articulate event? It will help you think about your future.” Josh went to Sadler's Wells and heard other young learning-disabled people talk about the skills they have learnt to do the jobs they want.

“I watched Anne-Marie from The Bill. I want to be an actor on a TV Programme like Eastenders.” I have learnt how to develop the skills I want for the future. Today has helped me with confidence to make people listen to me more. I found out about an acting training course. I am also going to do an action plan with Shape. I’ve had a really good time today” Josh Rosen, Articulate UK, participant

Links
You can view Josh’s video diary of the Articulate day

You view Anne-Marie Hislop’s showreel here

About Shape
Shape is a disability-led arts organisation working to increase access to the arts for disabled people. Shape develops opportunities for disabled artists, supports arts organisations in being more open to disabled people, and runs participatory arts projects and professional development programmes to help achieve its aims.

Articulate UK is a funded Youth in Action Programme, an EU-funded Programme for young people aged 15-28 that aims to inspire a sense of active citizenship, through non-formal learning activities and intercultural dialogue.

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Shape Articulate Conference at Sadler's Wells Theatre
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