During 2019’s summer holidays, Bamboozle Theatre Company hosted a week-long Family Residency at Bonington Theatre, Arnold, and at Curve Theatre, Leicester, supported by funding from Nottingham County Council (Bonington), BBC Children in Need, The D’Oyly Carte Foundation, The Henry Smith Charity, and Arts Council England.
In Bamboozle’s 25 year history, we’ve been delivering our immersive multi-sensory residencies designed for learning disabled children and young people at theatre venues in Leicestershire, and later in Nottinghamshire, during school holidays for the past 17 years.
Our family residencies are designed to be tailored to the access needs of children and young people who might be described as having profound and multiple learning disabilities and children who are on the autistic spectrum.
The whole family are welcome at the residencies, including brothers and sisters of any age, and members of the extended family, too, where we create an accessible experience which can be shared by everyone.
Often, families who come to Bamboozle’s sessions tell the company that it’s nearly impossible for them to find activities which cater for the needs of their whole family group, and that our sessions are one of the few things that they can do together as a family.
A visit to a Bamboozle Family Residency involves being taken on a journey through different multi-sensory environments. Five or six families coming along for either a full-day experience or a half-day experience. Keeping group numbers limited means that Bamboozle’s team of artists and volunteers are able to provide a high level of focussed interaction and attention for each individual disabled child.
As part of this summer’s residency, families met the character Greta, a tour guide to Dragon Forest. There hasn’t been a dragon spotted in the forest for many years, but recently signs have started to appear that show dragons may have returned!
Families explore the forest, gathering specimens of the flora and fauna, only to be rudely interrupted by construction workers who are threatening to flatten the forest for new developments. After the construction workers leave, families discover a cave, home to Ember, the last dragon in the forest. Ember’s eggs are about to hatch and need protecting. Families then work together to rescue Ember, her eggs, and to save the forest.
At the centre of the experience is opening up possibilities for creative interaction for learning-disabled participants. Bamboozle creates an environment which full of focused attention, incorporating all of the senses, which means that children can participate in their own way and at their own pace.
Children are given the opportunity to communicate however they choose. For non-verbal children, often different methods of communication are opened up. Every child is acknowledged and valued.
Parent and carers who attend Bamboozle’s sessions with their children have described the experiences as “absolutely perfect for our young people; interactive, engaging, sensory and fun”.
One of this summer’s sessions was attended by a local short breaks service for learning disabled young people.
A member of staff from Crocus Fields service said “I cannot express enough how wonderful the performance was. Today I saw young people engaging in a way that I have never seen before. They were focused, happy, relaxed and all in a safe environment. As staff we felt safe in letting the young people explore at their own leisure without having to be by their side, the young people were able to experience a little freedom in a safe and interactive space. The performance itself was imaginative and fun. The cast were kind and friendly and understood the needs of the young people”.
Tina Smith, Bamboozle’s Family Development Worker, tells us “the Family Residencies are a vital experience for the families and carers who attend. The benefit that children and young people and their family group get out of being in such a welcoming creative environment, which is fully accepting and has their choices at the heart of it can’t be underestimated”. She adds “Bamboozle is a registered charity and we depend on funding to be able to put on our family experience. We’d like to thank this years’ funders; Nottingham County Council, BBC Children in Need, The D’Oyly Carte Foundation and Arts Council England for enabling us to continue providing these immersive experiences”.
Watch this space for dates of future Bamboozle’s family residencies. If you would like to find out more about our residencies, please get in touch by calling 0116 255 2065.