“Turn your house into a playhouse with Takeaway Theatre!” – available during Aug to June 2023

Open Arts is inviting disabled people and their families from across Northern Ireland to participate in Takeaway Theatre, a unique, one-time only show which is created and performed at home.

With the expertise and guidance of Open Arts performers, people with disabilities aged 5 and over and their families will co-create and participate in a short play incorporating themes, ideas and props which are of interest to them. The concept of Takeaway Theatre was originally developed by lead artist, Meabh Ivers who has partnered with Open Arts to expand the project.

Eileen Branagh, Chief Executive of Open Arts said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted for everyone the experience of being confined to their homes, which is the reality for many disabled people for much of the time. Takeaway Theatre will enable families to co-create a fun, inclusive and memorable experience and will enable the disabled person to take a leading creative role, rather than focusing on caring needs, which has been the case for many people during the pandemic.

This process is about engagement and empowerment for the disabled person, but it also enables family members to create a unique, shared experience.  The opportunity to enjoy an arts performance in the safety and comfort of home could also be the stepping stone to inspire disabled people to venture out again to a public arts or cultural event.”

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Open Arts inspires and supports the creativity and artistic development of disabled people through its weekly classes in a wide range of art forms – music, drama, dance, writing and visual art.

Open Arts participants have a range of disabilities, including physical, sensory, learning disabilities and mental health illness.

Meabh Ivers and Jessica Samoy Plunkett from Open Arts arrive for a Takeaway Theatre with (back) Lorcan Gallagher and his mum Emily

Emily Gallagher and her husband John, whose sons Oisín and Lorcan have different types of autism, welcomed Takeaway Theatre into their home for a recent performance.  Emily said:

“Oisín and Lorcan, who both have autism, were characters in the ‘Takeaway Theatre’ story. I couldn’t believe how engaged both boys were. Lorcan was a bit embarrassed at the start but both performers brought him out of himself to the extent he was sad when they left. Oisín laughed throughout and stayed in the room the whole time. As a family it was a heart-warming and fun experience and we absolutely loved it.”

To ensure that the Takeaway Theatre experience is tailored to each participant, the lead artist from the project will talk to the participant family before each home visit to ascertain access and communication requirements as well as particular interests or activities to be included or avoided. The facilitation of the story-making is done in a way that best suits and empowers the recipient family.

Takeaway Theatre is funded by the Bank of Ireland, Begin Together fund.   Welcoming the launch of the project, Paula Murphy, Head of Strategic Sponsorship and Corporate & Social Responsibility said:

“Bank of Ireland is pleased to be able to support the inspiring work of Open Arts, and its Takeaway Theatre concept.  This innovative piece of art is truly inclusive and will have a positive impact on the families who take part and their wider communities”

Open Arts would like to recruit two people with disabilities and their families per month from August 2022 until June 2023 to stage Takeaway Theatre performances in their respective homes  To apply for one of these free places, email eileen@openartsni.org to register your interest.

Open Arts is principally funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and receives Core Multi-Annual Funding from Belfast City Council’s Tourism Culture & Arts Unit.

For further information or interview requests, please contact Sarah Hughes, Ava Creative Consulting, tel. 07905 276399 or email sarahhughesbelfast@gmail.com

(Left) Lorcan Gallagher pictured enjoying a Takeaway Theatre session with Open Arts performer Jessica Samoy Plunkett

  1. Takeaway Theatre – context for disabled people and their families:

Disabled people and their families were some of the most affected by the pandemic. There was suspension of statutory adult services, children with special educational needs found themselves left with no learning support for home schooling and carers had little or no respite.

In 2022 much of society is being re-opened, however the effects of the pandemic will still be keenly felt among the disabled community, who were so isolated for so long.  There will be issues around confidence and also an ongoing fear from the virus itself.

At Open Arts, we know from our participants and their families how difficult the past two years have been and we are also very aware of the added concerns among the disabled community about re-engaging in person. There are concerns about safety, confidence and access as things reopen.

To overcome these concerns will take time and Open Arts believes that Takeaway Theatre can provide much needed creativity, contact and fun for some of the most vulnerable and isolated.  It will also support up to four artists in further developing their skills in working with disabled people.

  1.  Open Arts – background:

The vision of Open Arts is of a world where people with and without disabilities engage together in high quality arts activities that promote creativity, increase artistic excellence, nurture and inspire them, to achieve beyond expectations.

Open Arts’ mission is to engage with disabled people in delivering high quality activities and events across a range of art forms.  The organisation does this by promoting artistic excellence and encouraging the participation of people with and without disabilities.

Open Arts was established in 1992 as a limited company with charitable status, it ran as a research project before that from 1988.  It was one of the very first arts & disability organisations set up in Northern Ireland.

Open Arts is a disability-focused organisation with 6 out of 8 Board members having a disability. Two core staff members and a number of freelance individuals, engaged in the delivery of the Open Arts programme, also have a disability.

For further information on Open Arts, please visit www.openartsni.org

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.