Could you tell us about Kids in Control?
KIC was incorporated in 1997 and is a physical theatre company that works with all ability youth, and adults, in a wide range of settings including schools, communities and professional theatres. We also run in-house creative programmes all year round including our core Adventures in Human Being and Physical Graffiti projects, and for the past three years our partnership programme TBH with Suicide Awareness and Support Group (which is focused on teen mental health and wellbeing).
KIC has a long-standing partnership with the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, delivering the annual all ability youth programme since the opening of the new building in 2011, and also with the University of Atypical, contributing annually to the fantastic Bounce Arts Festival since its launch in 2012.
We mainly work with post primary young people, generally teenagers between 14 and 18 years old however we also deliver a project called Blue Chevy which is a special project for young adults with disabilities interested in developing their own niche in the creative industries.
Blue Chevy participants tend to be young people who have grown up in KIC. As young disabled adults they have found little opportunity to develop their creative talents outside of KIC, so we felt a responsibility to secure a space for them to continue to develop professionally. Blue Chevy is a very successful project that meets need and fills a gap in the sector.
We are a small company and the work we produce is always unique and tailored around the needs of individual participants. Providing the creative space for our participants to develop in a way that suits them is a KIC core value that underpins all programming.
KIC sees the uniqueness of every participant and responds accordingly to individual needs so we are constantly developing and adapting our creative tools to support participants to develop creatively. The majority of participants join KIC and stay for several years (and for some into adulthood) because it is a genuinely inclusive environment and there is a lack of professionally managed inclusive opportunities elsewhere. A key need when young people first join KIC is to reduce the social isolation that many feel and within KIC they are able to work as an ensemble, as creative equals, developing friendships and meeting new people in a safe, fun and energising space. Building their self-esteem and self-efficacy, as well as learning new creative skills follows, once participants are settled and comfortable in the KIC environment. KIC has a Welfare Support Officer who ensures that we can identify and provide additional support if needed.
KIC believes Art is about everything & for everyone – we do not audition but rather focus on developing and delivering innovative, challenging and unique physical theatre programmes in which the artistic, educational and social agendas are indivisible.
What is Physical Theatre?
Physical Theatre is the process by which the body becomes the principal means of expression. In my practice, I will use whatever I need from a variety of tools – mime, movement (with words and without), physical sculpture – to get at whatever it is the group in front of me needs to say.
There is a cinematic approach to KIC storytelling, where a group ‘storyboards’ the bones of a narrative with ensemble physical imagery, then follows a layering of words, music and visuals, until there is an integrated and dynamic narrative. Above all, our theatre making aims to be visually impactful and engaging for a diverse audience.
That sounds like anyone could be part of that orientation?
Absolutely. Inclusivity is at the heart of the KIC ethos. I have been working with young people in areas of need and disadvantage since 1987, and, within that demographic, I never set out to identify ‘abilities’, or, worse, ‘talent’. It was always a question of the need to make voices heard, often in situations of social oppression. For example, I didn’t go looking for disabled people; rather, when disabled people turned up in my workshops, I adapted my work to include them, and that has profoundly enriched my theatre-making. For me, Art is either ‘about everything and for everyone’, or it’s not. Artistic practice is too important to be pigeonholed as one kind of speciality or another.
Of course, the adaptation I speak of takes time; the time to work out the physical capacities of participants, together with their understanding of my exercises and thinking. I will work with the information that comes back to me from workshop encounters, making my way towards participants, and all the while encouraging them to meet me somewhere in the middle. In this way, the KIC physical theatre process is open to all.
At any given time KIC has a range of outreach programmes, delivered in partnership with community groups such as Divis Youth Project and John Paul 11 Youth Centre, Ardoyne. Running parallel is KIC’s annual Schools Inclusion Programme (currently with Ashfield Girls School (East Belfast), Glenveagh Special School (South Belfast) and All Saints College (West Belfast).
This network of projects is important in providing access routes to the highly acclaimed KIC Core programmes, thus ensure diversity – which is the life blood of KIC. To further ensure access opportunities, we established our Physical Graffiti in-house core programme, designed to provide a space for young people on the autism spectrum to become familiar with KIC methodology in a supportive environment while also allowing KIC artists to get to know and understand individual needs. This is a space where we can support individuals to develop the tools they need to be confident creative equals with their mainstream peers.
Part two of this interview is here