Funding news: £247,000 from Paul Hamlyn Foundation for new project called Engage

Mind the Gap is delighted to announce the launch of a major new three-year project called Engage, which has been made possible thanks to a significant injection of funding totalling £247,000 over three years from Paul Hamlyn Foundation More & Better programme.

This funding will enable Mind the Gap to move beyond ad hoc projects towards an ongoing programme of activities that will achieve long-term impact.

Executive Director, Julia Skelton explains: “Engage is a new project building on the company’s expertise that will increase arts access and participation for learning disabled people. We will be working with seven theatre venues in different parts of England, including Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, to create new opportunities for more people as participants, audience members, working artists and leaders”.

With almost 30 years experience in learning disability led theatre and performance, Mind the Gap knows that there are many learning disabled people who would like to do more in the arts. Some want to get their creative juices flowing through practical workshops, some want to perform and make a living from being in the arts, others just want to see more shows. However, sometimes there are no opportunities in their area, or they lack confidence, or they feel the theatre isn’t for them.

Working in collaboration of theatre venues including Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton, Gulbenkian in Canterbury, and West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds the Engage project will create more opportunities for learning disabled people to take part in regular, ongoing practical workshops, for aspiring artists to gain new skills, and for more high quality work to be presented in venues.

Commenting on the programme, Moira Sinclair, Chief Executive of Paul Hamlyn Foundation said “At Paul Hamlyn Foundation we know exciting things happen when people are given the freedom to access and participate in the arts. We believe that these opportunities should be available to all, and that organisations like Mind the Gap have an important role to play in helping to develop skills, broaden horizons and help more people to enjoy the arts. This three-year programme will provide a significant space for many learning disabled people to do just that. We hope that the findings from the evaluation and the communication plans for the programme, which will share highlights from the work, will inspire others to think about how they can open their buildings and their programmes to a much wider constituency.”

An independent Evaluator will be appointed to help monitor and assess the project’s impact. Mind the Gap and venue partners will share news and hints & tips based on the learning from the project as it unfolds through newsletters, blogs, short films as well as hosting annual events.

So watch this space: there will be much more to follow!