Giving a voice to people generally overlooked by society is something very important to the people behind the latest production to grace the stage of the ampitheatre in Derry’s Playtrail.
Last week The Bud Club - a social club for young people with disabilities, premiered ‘I am ME’ - a play which looked into the issues which affect the young people on a daily basis.
It was a joint project between the club, the Playtrail, Fresh Academy of Performing Arts and Bright Start Media - and was funded by Children in Need.
Sinead Crossan from Fresh Academy, who also teaches at Ardnashee College, said the experience was ‘truly remarkable’ for all involved.
“We started the project by having a consultation process with the young people - which allowed us to try and understand exactly where they were coming from.
“A lot of assumptions are made for disabled children and young people - but we wanted to give them a voice.”
The team brain-stormed and Sinead said she was surprised, and moved, by some of the issues which came up.
“One girl said she just wanted a friend, a real friend - which was very moving.
“Another boy said he hated the ‘yellow bus’ which picked him up for school - that it earmarked him as someone with additional needs, and that it didn’t follow the same social norms as other school buses. He may have ended up sitting beside a three or four year old - even at 17. It wasn’t always an age appropriate service and it made him feel different.”
Sinead then worked to pull together a script - which she brought back to The Bud Club - and they edited it for her.
“They told me bits I got wrong - for example one of the issues they raised was bullying so I wrote a school yard scene. But they told me that it was not in school that they faced bullies. School was the one place they felt safe.”
Sinead, along with fellow staff from Fresh, and staff from Playtrail then worked with the young people through a week of intensive rehearsals before last Friday’s performance - which was seen by more than 200 people.
Gavin Melly, Inclusion Officer at the Playtrail said: “I am ME has been a journey, from a simple and powerful idea that young people with disabilities should have choice and control over their lives to enable them to live as full and active members of our community. “The belief in a life of isolation and dependency is no longer the case, let’s keep this consigned to history.
“We are equals, we all need to respect each other for our differences.
One member of the audience, Brid Cutliffe said: “It was absolutely brilliant. As a parent of a younger child with additional needs, I found it very emotional but also very encouraged that groups like this are changing attitudes to people with disabilities.
“It’s exactly what I want all my children to be a part of. Long may the Bud Club last, well done to all involved.”
The performance was recorded and will now be used by the Inclusion Officer as an interactive tool during disability awareness training with local schools and youth clubs.
The experience had such a positive response that Fresh Academy is keen to continue its working relationship with the Bud Club.
“It has been such a good experience for everyone - that we definitely think there is much more we can do,” Sinead said.