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10 May 2007

Minding the Gap

Mind the Gap Performance

Anna-Maria Heslop and Jonathan Lewis

CAST! is a conference aimed at learning disabled actors, employers and trainers organised by Mind the Gap and Croydon Clocktower. Joe McConnell asked Sarah Kennedy, Marketing Manager at MTG, to tell us something about the organisation's work.

Joe: Following the sad disappearance of Strathcona Theatre Company some years back, it seems to me that there are not many choices available to aspiring learning disabled actors. They can't go to Graeae. Apart from Mind the Gap and Carousel, there is not a lot out there.

Sarah: Actors with learning disabilities do not have much access to formal training and rely on training linked to performance work within specialist companies. They therefore lack mobility within the creative sector, as the training becomes too unique and specific.

We take a pro-active approach to that. Over the past four years we've been working with four mainstream drama schools to deliver a national training course - Staging Change. This is currently co-ordinated by London’s Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in partnership with us. Every year, a group of six learning-disabled students study alongside non-disabled colleagues. This is beginning to open up training opportunities for people from other companies. We also run Making Theatre, an annual training programme in theatre skills. Please contact us (see below) to find out more.

Joe: To what extent are people with learning disabilities involved in the running of the company?

Sarah: We have seven actors who are part of the core staff team. Our production techniques encourage creative input from all the actors involved. In the future we hope to have the facilities to train learning disabled people in stage management. This progress has been generated from demands made by learning disabled actors themselves.

Joe: Can you say more about the barriers faced by aspiring learning disabled actors?

Sarah: General negative social attitudes towards learning disabled people still survive though a lot has changed in 20 years. One of our most recognised actors Anna Marie Heslop - who has worked on The Bill and other TV dramas - says that people are more likely to stare at her in the street because they've seen her on TV and not because she has Down's Syndrome. It's moving forward slowly.

Art that changes perceptions is still having a big impact. Audiences are still divided between those with a condescending attitude towards disability and those who genuinely love the theatre that companies such as ours are producing.


The Cast Conference will take place on Thursday 31 May from 10am to 4.30pm at Croydon Clocktower.

Contact Mind the Gap for details:

Mind the Gap, Queens House, Queens Road, Bradford, BD8 7BS

Tel: 01274 544 683 Fax: 01274 544 50


Or book online at their website:


Simone Meiszner

10 December 2007

I think what you are doing is fantastic but we have to find way of starting other groups in all areas of the country because disabled adults have dreams too and I feel in this particular area there isn't enough advice for them at careers centres for them to know where to go next. In fact my daughter was told to learn a proper job when she asked about performing arts that also came from a Social worker. So keep up the good work.

Victoria Wright

9 August 2007

Steve G - I think their race was mentioned so that blind and visually impaired readers can have an understanding of what is happening in the photograph i.e visualise it in their minds, in the same way that their gender is mentioned. The caption doesn't mention they are learning disabled probably because it is obvious from the article that it's about learning disabled actors.

Sarah Kennedy

16 July 2007

Over 100 people were at the CAST! event and there was a real range of learning disabled artists, support workers, casting agents and producers. We send out a big thank you to everyone who took part, especially our partners Croydon CLocktower, it really sparked some interesting debate and opened up lots more opportunities for future partnerships and work for learning disabled artists. People attended from many of the main companies working with artists with learning disabilities, plus there was good representation and input from producers from BBC TV and Radio, and Casting Agents and learning disabled actors were able to talk directly to each other to find out how they could best work together. Also we discovered lots of people were having similar ideas especially around being agents for learning disabled actors so the day certainly helped people to share ideas and plan on working together rather than working alone. By the way Mind the Gap have just moved house - you can contact us at Mind the Gap, Bradford

Steve G

1 July 2007

"They can't go to Graeae. Apart from Mind the Gap and Carousel, there is not a lot out there." Does this mean that Graeae does not accept learning disabled actors? If so, is there a reason they discriminate by type of impairment? Also, i find it interesting that in the caption for the picture the race of the two people is mentioned, and yet their visible impairments are not - is there a particular reason for this? To me it seems to imply that, in the view of the captioner, their race matters, but their impairment doesn't. In either issue there are arguments both for and against mentioning it IMO - but it seems kind of odd that one is considered something that should be mentioned and not the other... Anyway, not meaning to criticise in a negative way, just wondering - to see any exposure of the talent of disabled actors is positive IMO. Are there any upcoming productions?

Colin Hambrook

19 May 2007

Thanks Rosa - we urge you to visit and submit your name in support of the petition as soon as possible.

Rosa Catton

18 May 2007

Congratulations to Mind the Gap for improving the lot of learning disabled aspiring actors. But doesn't it show how little there is for that community in terms of professional opportunity and how far we still have to go as a society? I hope dao is going to question the government about the Olympic budget and the effect that will have on all sectors of tbe arts in this country. Can we have an atticle about that?

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