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creating possibilities for disabled children
The Summer School 2023 group photo.

This July, we hosted our first ever Summer School for practitioners at Curve Theatre in Leicester. We were joined by 12 freelance artists, actors, directors, dancers, theatre makers and facilitators from across the World. This was the most international group we think has ever attended a Bamboozle training week with participants travelling from Australia, the USA, Italy, Sweden, Ireland, South Africa and Newcastle!

Participant Liliana Dalton, whose mum had attended one of our courses in Melbourne, described the experience as “An open, thoughtful, informative and collaborative week. The knowledge shared by Bamboozle was very thorough and generous and it was so wonderful to meet passionate people from around the world.”

During the week, the practitioners were given a whistle stop tour through the fundamental principles of the Bamboozle Approach and how we seek to build connections with young people and enable them to access our work. Led by our Artistic Director Christopher Davies, our Associate Director of Education & Training Nicole Arkless and freelance artist and composer Craig Bryne, the participants were led through the process of creating two shows for two different audiences.

A photo taken during rehearsals as Christopher Davies talks the group through the session.

Nicole Arkless commented: “It was humbling to meet so many people who’d come from all over the world to take part – there were some with a vast amount of experience and some who are starting out on their sensory theatre making journey. The range of experience levels and the variety of different practice disciplines made for a productive working environment where everyone could share ideas and learn from each other. Spending a whole week together allowed us to fully immersive ourselves in the theatre making process as well as explore in depth the necessary considerations of creating an accessible performance that has the audience at its centre.”

The group explored the importance of music and settings and used workshops, ritual and free exploratory play as inspiration for creating these two new theatrical pieces – one for audiences on the autistic spectrum and one for audiences who are sometimes described as having profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) or complex needs. At the end of the week, some of our families were invited to watch these 20 minute sharings and to meet the performers afterwards. The two pieces were full of Bamboozle methodology, brand new songs, puppets and set and costume pieces from both Bamboozle and Curve’s stores.

A group meal out to local favourite Herb on the penultimate night of the week!

Gloria Minnich, from the USA, told us she’d describe her time with us as “an incredible week filled with learning and camaraderie. A safe, welcoming environment where I felt at ease sharing and taking risks. It is an experience I’ll remember for a lifetime and I’m so excited to see where I’m going to take this information and put it into practice.”

We’d like to say a big thank you to all the practitioners who joined us and we can’t wait to hear about what they’re creating in the future. If this Summer School interests you, we’ll be looking to book in dates for 2024 soon! You can also find out more about our training courses currently booking for the rest of 2023 and the start of 2024 here including our Masterclass 2024 which will also be running at Curve Theatre in January.

 

Bamboozle is marking National Children’s Day by celebrating the disabled children and their families that the company works with.

The United Nations’ NCD is celebrated in the UK on 14 May and recognises of the importance of children and young people and how their rights, freedoms and wellbeing all need to be protected in order for them to grow into happy, healthy adults. 

Sue Pyecroft, Bamboozle’s co-founder and Associate Director of Families and Community said: “Today we are celebrating the community of disabled and autistic young people and their families who have been coming to our Backyard in Rowley Fields Allotments for the last three years. Prompted by Covid restrictions we moved our offer for autistic children outside and it has proved an inspired move. Being in nature is hugely beneficial to all of us but particularly those autistic children. It takes a considerable effort to bring autistic children to somewhere new but the results have been amazing. Huge thanks to the National Lottery and all those who buy tickets for helping us secure Backyard and other activities for the next five years.” 

Kayleigh, who brings her son to Backyard, says this about their experiences:   

The last few months have been some of the most stressful, anxious times, so to have this little escape from reality right now is fantastic. I love that every time we come here, it always feels like we belong, without judgement, it feels easy. This is the one place that I feel Harlem can truly be himself without fear, without the need to be anything other than his true authentic self. As always thank you for bringing a little magic to our lives, for really making a difference.  We’re so grateful every time we get to experience Backyard. 

The National Lottery Reaching Communities Fund has awarded Bamboozle five years of funding to support their programme. 

Bamboozle’s programme, which will reach 60 Leicester and Leicestershire families each year, has four strands: 

  • The Backyard – an outdoor provision for autistic children and their families 
  • Family days – where families can meet and share experiences 
  • Skill share at home – where a Bamboozle facilitator works with families to support them in their own homes 
  • Voices – a research project into how learning-disabled children can have their voices heard

We can’t wait to start delivering this exciting new programme of work and reach more families. Keep an eye on our website and social media to keep up to date with these sessions.

We are delighted to once again join the line up for Wild Rumpus’ Timber Festival, located in Feanedock, The National Forest, running 7 – 9th July 2024.

Bamboozle are taking two performances – a special “festival” version of Down to Earth and our Backyard – to this year’s festival. We want to say a huge thank you to The National Forest who have funded Bamboozle to enable more people in the National Forest area to access our work.

Alongside attending the festival, we will also be delivering sessions in schools across the National Forest area and reaching families who haven’t experienced Bamboozle’s work previously.

Wild Rumpus – Timber’s organisers – want to make the festival accessible for families with disabled children. They are providing complimentary tickets for families registered with Bamboozle to help open up the festival experience to those who may have felt festivals weren’t for their families previously. You can find out more about Timber Festival’s accessibility here.

“We never thought attending a festival like this would be an option to us. It had its challenges, but we overcame them all and came home with so many amazing memories. Thank you so very, very much!”

Parent from Timber Festival 2022

If you are a family with a disabled child and would like to experience Bamboozle’s offer at Timber Festival this year – email kit@bamboozletheatre.co.uk by 26th May to secure your FREE weekend tickets.

Thank you Wild Rumpus, Timber Festival and The National Forest for making this experience possible.

 

Bamboozle has some exciting training projects and opportunities planned over the next three years, so our Artistic Director Christopher Davies thought there was no better time to begin our upskilling programme for Bamboozle artists to deliver training. 

Photo: An art gallery created from a session with Ashmount School students

With training and support from Education Co-Ordinator Nicole Arkless, this team of artists has been working on an education project with staff and students at Ashmount School in Loughborough. They worked with six groups over a three month period and explored a variety of creative scenarios alongside the behavioural and linguistic strategies that make up the Bamboozle Approach.

As well as offering training to Ashmount staff the project was specially designed to give the artists an opportunity to deepen their knowledge and experience of Bamboozle’s education work. The project has enabled Bamboozle to expand its education and training delivery team in order to meet the rising demand for its education programmes and training courses. It will also help us achieve our plans to create a network of training hubs in schools in Arts Council priority areas.

Over the next three years, we will be training school staff and local artists in the Bamboozle Approach – the training delivery team will be instrumental in ensuring a legacy impact for children and young people in those areas.

You may recognise the four team members who will be delivering training for us – Dawn Bowden, Craig Byrne, Kayleigh Cottam and Amy Lovelock – as they’ve worked with Bamboozle for many years. We can’t wait to see them leading projects in the future.

Taylor Hobson, a Leicester company making ultra-precision technology, have made a hugely generous impact on our fundraising total for the year, by donating an astonishing £25,559 raised through their payroll giving scheme and other fundraising activities.

Taylor Hobson first donated to Bamboozle back in 2017, when Jain Burdett, the company’s Special Applications Project Leader, got in touch to let us know that we’d been selected as the beneficiary of the company’s payroll giving scheme. We were delighted!

Jain found out about Bamboozle when researching local charities to support; “when we speak to our members who donate through the payroll giving scheme, they are always keen for donations to support local charities who make a difference to the lives of children and young people”.

Since the start of our relationship with Taylor Hobson, we have benefitted from both donations and volunteer days. In 2022, we were lucky enough to receive design support for our Gala and the staff from Taylor Hobson kindly donated their time and expertise to renovate our Backyard site. This work has helped enhance the experience for our families with a safer, more accessible cabin and surrounding area.

This most recent donation brings the total donated by the company over the past five years to an amazing £40,086!

We’d like to send a huge thank you to all of the team at Taylor Hobson for making this generous donation and for all their support over the years.

Inspired by Taylor Hobson’s gift? Find out more about how you can support Bamboozle.

This morning, Bamboozle were delighted to be announced as one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio of companies to receive national funding.

Peter Knott, Area Director for Arts Council England said: “By producing and touring multi-sensory theatrical experiences for learning disabled children and young people, Bamboozle Theatre Company makes great art and culture available to a wider audience. We’re delighted to be increasing our investment in them to continue their work touring nationally and internationally to schools, theatres and festivals over the next three years.”

Bamboozle has been working with Leicester/shire families and schools since 1994 and has toured shows to theatres, schools and festivals throughout the UK and internationally to five continents.

Co-founder and Artistic Director Christopher Davies said: “We are delighted to receive support from Arts Council to help our work continue. This grant gives us a welcome measure of security which we can build on and raise funds locally to enable us to continue to provide opportunities for Leicester and Leicestershire families. It is so important that the audience we serve gets access to the arts. It raises self-esteem and gives young people a sense of worth and enjoyment. At Bamboozle we are very lucky to work with a remarkable team: talented freelance actors and facilitators, a hard-working office team and a committed board of Trustees all of whom enable the highest standard of work to be made for our audience. The importance of the work is frequently brought home to us when parents tell us the impact it has on their disabled child and the whole family who often feel isolated.”

During the Covid restrictions Bamboozle created socially distanced outdoor activities so that they could maintain contact with families. Musicians performed in people’s front gardens, Firebird an open-air show with a 5m wingspan puppet toured schools and the Timber Festival and Backyard was created for children on the autism spectrum.

Kayleigh Rodgers who brought her son to Backyard this summer said:

“Imagine there was a place you could go without the fear of being judged and no disapproving glares. Where children can truly be themselves, not worrying what anyone else thinks. It sounds magical doesn’t it! Well that’s what Bamboozle Backyard is, absolutely magical.”

We were delighted to host our fundraising Gala dinner and charity auction on Saturday 25th of June after two years of postponement due to the pandemic. We returned to The City Rooms, a beautiful venue in the centre of Leicester, and welcomed 140 guests including long-term supporters to local businesses.

Our theme for the night was ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The Bamboozle team decorated the venue in greens and purples, using leaves and flowers, wreaths of ivy and lots of pompoms! Enter Edem provided a fantastic walkabout performance with the classic characters Titania and Bottom, Oberon and Puck, who entertained guests with circus skills, magic and comedy. The Bamboozle Babes also performed a beautiful medley of songs arranged especially for the night by Bamboozle artist and internationally renowned soprano Amy Whittle.

We also heard two very moving speeches from Bamboozle parents, Tess Rushin and Andrea Farnish. We were delighted to also welcome Poppy, Tess’ daughter, who has been attending Bamboozle’s sessions since the age of 4, (and is now 16!). We’re hugely grateful to Tess, Poppy and Andrea for sharing their Bamboozle journeys with our guests, which conveyed the life-changing impact that our experiences have for the whole family.

Our live auction was another highlight of the evening, where the bidding on an array of fantastic prizes was filled with excitement. Most sort-after prizes included stunning art donated by Leicester artist Paul Wright, an original sketch by Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park, and a unique singing experience from Amy Whittle. The grand total raised from the evening was an astonishing £16,900.

Thank you so much to our guests, Bamboozle families, and our team of staff and volunteers for an unforgettable evening which goes a long way in helping Bamboozle continue delivering our immersive theatre experiences for learning disabled children and their families.

Unit 10 St Mary's Works | 115 Burnmoor Street | Leicester LE2 7JL | 0116 255 2065
Registered Charity Number: 1136157 | Registered in England and Wales.
Company No. 7193792