“We don't stop playing because we grow old,
we grow old because we stop playing.”

George Bernard Shaw

Commitment to Play is an ongoing strategy delivered in collaboration with University of Leeds, involving trainee doctors from Leeds Institute of Medical Education and members of the learning disabled community. We also collaborate with Leeds Beckett University and Leeds Trinity University. The level of student involvement can vary, from participation in 'on-campus' one day drama workshops to a deeper involvement in rehearsals and performances.

The 'on-campus' drama workshops see Bright Sparks meeting the students on their own turf, yet the tables are turned because our learning disabled performers are well experienced with drama, acting and creating. They become teachers; and the students are entirely in their hands. The fun-filled sessions explore ways in which people communicate and how barriers to communication can be overcome. In a safe, playful and supportive environment we use drama to improve people's abilities to work together, through creative negotiation. Time and again, students describe the sessions as accessible, relevant and enjoyable.

"In order for a group to be creative together, they must negotiate; and in order to negotiate, they must communicate."

Marc Walton - Technical Manager

“A brilliant day.”

Louise - student participant

When it comes time to create one of our main shows of the year, students are encouraged to take advantage of our open-door policy. If there are students who are interested in taking their involvement further, we include them in the devising, rehearsal and performance of the production as part of our Big Drama Club. This has seen great success with shows such as Return of the King and Over The Moon.

Through creative play, we help to develop the student's empathy. This direct experience helps to quickly settle their anxieties and has a lasting impact on the student's approach to disabilities. Graduates have reported raised confidence and improved interactions when engaging with people with disabilities in their professional career.

“An unforgettable positive learning experience that will stay with me for years to come.”

Sophie - student participant in Over The Moon

"Bright Sparks ooze enthusiasm and stimulate laughter and confidence. Their approach is inspiring. They use theatre techniques to engage people who might struggle to express themselves in a conventional way. An experience that I'll never forget."

Tim - student participant in Over The Moon

More student involvement activities can be seen in the Over The Moon Documentary film.

Through our Links with Leeds Institute of Medical Education and with Leeds P.C.C. (Patient Carer Community) we have also run the Special Studies Project (SSP), which develops communication skills between medical professionals and people with learning disabilities, over the past five years.

Our ongoing examination of how the arts can have an impact on formal medical education, and communication skills training, has been filmed and documented in partnership with Leeds Institute of Medical Education. This work has been published* and in 2015 earned Bright Sparks an invitation as speakers and workshop practitioners at ‘Where’s the Patient’s Voice’ international medical conference in Vancouver.

* The Power of Play in Higher Education - Creativity in Tertiary Learning Edited by Alison James and Chrissi Nerantz

“The way that Bright Sparks worked with the participants was impressive to say the least. We put together an amazing show and I learned so much. A wonderful eye-opener into how the community of learning disabled people function. I wholeheartedly thank them for the experience.”

Sam - student participant in Return of the King



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