“I love coming here joining in acting.” – Stan (Participant)
“Working with Bright Sparks is one of the best things I have ever done.” – Ian Graham (Sports and Wellbeing Co-ordinator Aspire CBS)
“Keep bringing the smiles to everyone. Loved my experience. Definitely something I’ll take with me.” – James Credland (Student placement)
“Amazing work." – Andy Rawnsley (Chief Executive Aspire CBS [retired])
“Bright Sparks are one of the most effective theatre companies working with the learning disabled community in the north of England.”
– Natalie Kyrkos (Leeds Playhouse Learning Disabilities Manager)
Sheets Across The Streets (2022 summer show)
Roslyn Birch (Senior Support Worker Aspire CBS)
"Amazing." "Fun and informative."
Audience Members from Aspire CBS
Elaine Walton (Creative Collaborator)
"Brilliant." "I love it." "It's happy and gives me confidence."
Cast members Clessia, Alan and Bhupesh
"Terrific. A genuine delight."
Chris Armstrong (Photographer)
"I loved every minute."
Darren Meade (Leeds Health Awareness Coordinator)
"Phenomenal. I shed a tear and laughed out loud."
Annie Conway (Audience member)
Nice To See You (2021 end-of-year show)
“Absolutely brilliant! So so good!”
Mandy Haigh - Leep1 (Leeds People First) Former Manager
Sarah Stead - Audience member
"I enjoy the drama, it gives me confidence and a positive mind."
Bhupesh - Cast member
"Amazing, as always."
Amber O'Sullivan - Headspace and Mental Wellbeing Coordinator, Woodhouse Community Centre (Oblong)
"The show did give me a confidence feeling inside of me. It's amazing being part of Bright Sparks."
Colleen Ward - Cast member
"A fabulous way to bring the community together. It put big smiles on all our faces."
"I had the pleasure of catching one of the performances of 'Nice To See You' in December 2021 and it was wonderful. Bursting with creativity, warmth, music and humour, with brilliant performances from the cast and a real feelgood factor which brought a grin to my face and a tear to my eye. Just what we need during these continually difficult times. Thank you!"
Nicky Bray - Freelance Community Music Worker
Life in The Cloud (incorporating the #howdoyoudoleeds project) 2020 onwards
“So much joy and so much happiness. And so much talent.”
Kerri - Arts Facilitator
“I don’t want these sessions to ever end.”
Louise - Participant
"You guys are the best!"
Selina Riley - Collaborator
Return Of The King 2019 stage@leeds
“Brilliant show. But what I loved the most, was that the cast members were in charge all the time."
Martin - ex Aspire CBS manager
“More people need to see this. If it doesn’t return soon, I'd be devastated.”
Maggie - Audience Member
“Celia has really been boosted up by doing this show. She's just more confident and absolutely buzzing about being the narrator.”
Vicky - Support Worker
“Elvis is back in building and I loved it! At the end, I turned to my friend with tears in my ears, to say, 'this is quite emotional isn't it?'. Only to see him in tears too.”
Daz - Audience Member
“I absolutely love it … amazing. I have worked with a few outside agencies but both John and Marc treat the group with great respect as adults and as individuals.”
Michelle - Care Worker Aspire CBS
“I didn’t expect ‘Return of the King’ to be so good. It was better many of the so called ‘professional productions’ I have seen in recent years. So funny, exciting and moving. I could tell the cast loved being in the show as much as the audience loved watching it.”
Paul - Audience Member
“I laughed, I cried, and I even got up and danced at the end. An evening to remember for a long time.”
Christine - Audience Member
“I loved it. I really, really enjoyed acting, they are nice people and they are good to me.”
Dianne Mitchell – Participant
“I loved being the Evil Genius and casting my evil spells on Elvis. I can’t wait for the next show.”
Colleen - Participant
“My confidence has grown. I love being an actor. I am the most gorgeous Elvis.”
Alan - Participant
Big Drama Club
“I like drama, it makes me very happy and it has helped me meet new people. And I like using my voice and doing the announcements welcoming all the people to our show.”
Chris - Participant
“I like the drama and making new friends very much.”
Michael Ingram - Participant
“I was happy to be in the play. I enjoyed the pizza.”
Narinder - Participant
“Truly a lovely experience working with the Bright Sparks. Incredibly person-centred, most definitely want to be involved in the future.”
Babs - Care worker / 1-to-1 support
"Thank you, Marc and John. And Elaine, for costumes. I love dressing up and doing drama."
Pat G - Participant
“I loved all of it, my favourite is drama. I want to do more. Fantastic."
Vicky C - Participant
Real Friends Schools Tour
“My confidence has grown I would have never stood in front of so many people and I spoke to school children.”
Kalwant - Participant
“Drama has helped me to speak up and has helped me meet new people, I have learnt a lot about hate and mate crime.”
Susan - Participant
“Real friends is brilliant, Marc and John help us all be the best we can be. I love visiting different schools.”
Julie - Participant
“I am a support worker and have really enjoyed being part of the drama group. I have never acted before but absolutely love it. The people I support enjoy working on productions, from learning lines to body language and it's great just watching them enjoying themselves.”
Beckie - Assistant Manager Leep1
“I haven’t done drama since school I was very shy and it felt awkward, I participated with no expectation I felt so alive it was great.”
John – Leep1 work experience placement
“I saw the matinee performance of Sheets Across The Streets, summer term 2022. This was a fantastic show. The Bright Sparks facilitators displayed skill and expertise in enabling adults with learning disabilities to engage with theatre performance. The performers had space in the show to express their individuality and contribute to the performance with movement, speech and singing. Adults who had difficulties with movement were well supported. The production displayed inclusivity all the way through.
The storyline was cleverly put together. I enjoyed the supporting audio-visual elements that helped to move the story along. This was an opportunity to provide stimulus for the performers to respond and react to. Similarly, there was an intelligent use of props which created aspects of stagecraft including representations of buildings being constructed/demolished and a washing machine.”
Sarah Stead – Vera Media (Beeston based Community Learning and Production Company)
“I think it was interesting to share a local story and make people more aware of Leeds and its history. I loved that Bright Sparks represent people from different backgrounds and cultures that settled in Leeds, also touching on worker’s rights, women’s rights; and representing the diversity that Leeds has as a city. One of the audiences included a lady who had tears in her eyes, as she felt so touched by the play, having lived in quarry hill herself. Another audience member even brought along his birth certificate to proudly show is that he was born in the flats! The play really struck a chord with everyone and became a story for all the people of Leeds.
I would really love to see this play performed on the site of the Quarry Hill flats at the Leeds Playhouse. The story is meant to be performed there. I think Bright Sparks provide an amazing inclusive individual tailored opportunity for anyone, regardless of their ability, to perform, be seen be heard; and be part of a talented bunch of actors who support and respect each other. Real acting opportunities on a real stage! Just what talent like this deserves!”
Julie Lill – Senior Support Worker Aspire CBS
“It’s always a pleasure to be part of something that means so much to the people involved. I have worked with Bright Sparks before, but this time it was only as a bit part player in one scene, which meant a lot of the work was almost fully formed when I first saw it and I was able to watch more of this show from the audience perspective than I have before. Everyone enjoyed the project and that showed in the ease with which those who had taken part before became part of the company again, and in the way new performers gained in confidence each time I saw them rehearse.
Marc and John do a fantastic job not only of communicating their own ideas and direction to the cast, but also in the way they adopt ideas from the cast and integrate them into the work as it progresses. It’s not just a happy accident that many of the stand-out moments of a Bright Sparks show originate from adults with a learning disability, it is because of the creative environment built around the group. I think working in rehearsals has sharpened my ability to go with the flow of improvisation, which has been a great help in creating a rapport with people who communicate in different ways and made me more aware of when and how an interaction is being reciprocated and mutually enjoyed.
This is the third project on which I have worked with the group, and the performers have engaged with the process of rehearsal and performance far more meaningfully than in any other session or activity I have seen. The project was a great success, not only because of the therapeutic nature of the work, but also in achieving the desired effects of drama, comedy and tragedy in the work. I spoke to a colleague after the final show whose grandparents lived at Quarry Hill and emigrated when the flats were demolished. She has fond memories of that time and was in tears at the end (“tears of happiness”, she said), saying the show had captured life in the flats so well. It was the purest kind of emotional reaction, and this cast inspired that feeling in this production. That emotional connection would be even deeper if the work was performed at the Playhouse, where it was set.”
Ian Graham – Senior Support Worker (Sports & Wellbeing Co-ordinator) Aspire CBS
"I saw the confidence of the customers I was supporting grow in every session. They had the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. It was heart-warming to see friendships develop. The sessions were very person-centred for each individual, Bright Sparks worked hard to involve everyone in the performance and rehearsals; highlighting customer’s talents in the performance ensured everyone got their chance to shine. Throughout the session Bright Sparks took everyone’s opinions into consideration. They were constantly adapting parts of the sessions and the performance to ensure everyone was comfortable in their roles and costumes.
There was always such a happy and upbeat atmosphere in every session; even though there was a lot to complete in such a short period of time. The customers I supported absolutely loved every minute of each session, constantly asking when we were going back throughout the week. They were unbelievably excited for their friends and family to watch them perform and were extremely proud of themselves at the end. Everybody who came to watch the performance could not praise it more.
stage@leeds was a perfect venue for both rehearsals and the performances. It was also great to rehearse in this venue as we could really see the performance coming together. The costumes, lighting and sound effects added to the overall effect of the performance and really brought it together it felt just like we were in a professional show. I absolutely loved being part of these sessions and the performances, it was lovey to see the play slowly coming together and everyone getting involved… including staff. We cannot wait to come back!”
Leah Bray-Hemingway – Support Worker Aspire CBS
“Working with Bright Sparks Theatre Company has been a wonderful eye-opener into how the community of learning disabled people function. The people I encountered immediately struck me as such kind-hearted, giving individuals that I was immediately humbled by it. The carers enjoyed the sessions as the people they were caring for and collectively we put together an amazing show. I was particularly interested in the way the show formed in its own fluid, dynamic way, being fundamentally stitched together from the fabric of ideas and obsessions the participants had. This open-ended, design-orientated way of learning is one of which I find fascinating and seeing it put into practice to support the group for myself as a learner. Without a final product in mind, the project flourished into realms no one knew would be as beautiful as they were.
I learnt, or maybe more solidified, my appreciation for making things, for building and problem solving. Creating the set reminded me of learning through play and practicing my abilities was so enjoyable I could have spent days building and editing the props to perfection. I also learnt to relax, to appreciate non-conventional conversation in a way where sometimes the end of a conversation didn’t have to mean the same as the beginning.
Behind order is the chaos from which it was birthed. Working with Bright Sparks proves this to be true, their abilities to work with each other and the participants was impressive to say the least and I wholeheartedly thank them for the experience.”
Sam Bartle – Student participant (via Bright Sparks’ Commitment To Play Initiative)
Having previously seen the ‘Over the Moon’ production by Bright Sparks Theatre Arts Company I knew that I was in for a thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment … and I was not disappointed. Return of the King brought so many of my favourite themes together…a fantastical tale spanning time and space which has Elvis at its core … what’s not to like? For me this is community lead theatre at its absolute best: fun, inclusive, clever, kind and family friendly with a plot so full of twists and turns that there is never a dull moment.
I enjoyed this production as much as any I have seen, and I say that from the heart...I was entertained from start to finish. The dedicated Bright Sparks team ensure that all of the actors have fulfilling roles and there is never a feeling that anyone is outside of their comfort zone. I hope that Bright Sparks can continue their work long into the future … and I for one am eagerly awaiting to see what production they will pull out of the bag next time … you can rest assured that I shall be there … and you should do yourself a favour and join me!
Darren Meade – Leeds Cancer Awareness Project Coordinator