EDIT: 5th February 2019
Tweet from National Holocaust Centre and Museum:
"Thank you @CollarCuffsCo for relating #HMD to the important role we all play in improving the lives of young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). We have a duty to create an appropriate reflective and sensory experience for them: https://goo.gl/Jx8pqA "
Observe and Remember
Practitioners working with children or young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) are often asked to consider ways to offer experiences that will include them in observing particular calendar days, from Remembrance Sunday to Children in Need. The merits or benefits of doing this are frequently debated, however from scanning through a range of practitioner forums over the past few days it seems that many are being asked to do something to mark Holocaust Memorial Day - some are positive but unsure what to do, while others feel uncomfortable with the idea but have very little power to refuse the request. I feel there's a duty to respond and support colleagues, and to offer something that will, at the very least, create an appropriate reflective and sensory experience for these children and young people - you can download the resource I've written below.
The Holocaust and genocide are tremendously important and sensitive topics in contemporary society, and continue to inform discourse around human rights, religion, culture, gender, sexuality, and also disability. People with PMLD are frequently neglected or ignored by the government, local authorities and health and social care services, and are often denied access to most of the world beyond their homes or schools by a lack of even the most basic of human rights: truly accessible, hygienic and safe toileting facilities; see the Changing Places campaign.
Society at large tends to pity and patronise them and perceives them mainly to be suffering, rather than thriving; see Joanna Grace's TedX talk for a full and frank exploration of this. As practitioners we see and hold dear the potential of each individual we work with: we recognise their needs and preferences, their thoughts and feelings, their senses of humour and interests, their contributions to the world - no matter how big or small that world may be - and we continue to advocate for and with them alongside their families and carers. Within our sector, the Core and Essential Service Standards for Supporting People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities have at their heart a complete dedication to ensuring the full participation, autonomy, voice and rights of a group who would, at the hands of Nazi Germany, potentially have been part of the T4 euthanasia programme. Holocaust Memorial Day is a perhaps an annual reminder or call to action for why we must keep on championing the rights and needs of people with PMLD; as part of the constant commitment to remembering the Holocaust, the often used words are 'Never Forget' and 'Never Again' - let's make sure we don't and that it never does.
Relating Holocaust Memorial Day to the important role we play in improving the lives of people with PMLD perhaps opens a new space from which to engage in this annual day of reflection, and there is a simple activity suggested here to support this. This session is drawn from the work of Liz Collar, a special education teacher with nearly 40 years of experience working across a wide spectrum of needs, and whose dedication to making art, music and history accessible and relevant to young people with PMLD has inspired so much of my own practice - she's also my mum! It is also informed by my time as an academic in the field of Religious Studies, where I developed a specialism in Holocaust Theology and Jewish History.
For more information about Holocaust Memorial Day visit: www.hmd.org.uk
Play strategies for wiping...
We've developed a little play guide to support children in learning the skills they need to be able to wipe after going to the toilet: this is a complex physical skill to be able to master, and increasingly through performing 'You, The Loo, and Nappy-Nappy Noos' we're coming across a lot of children who simply don't have the physical development to be able to do it successfully.
Play is the key tool for physical development, so here are some of our ideas for you to explore and develop...
You can read it for free here:
HAPPY NEW YEAR! The end of 2018 is here , and we thought we'd share our year in numbers for you...
We were founded in 2016, so we're just a mere 2 years old. The past 12 months has been our busiest and biggest year yet, even though we're just an creative team of 1 (Julia) and a performance team of 2 (Julia and Ellie).
Three new productions have been developed this year: 'Crabby' (premiered in May at Brighton Fringe with The Warren); 'You, The Loo and Nappy-Nappy Noos' (premiered in May at Brighton Fringe with The Warren, and developed in partnership with ERIC UK); and 'The Christmas Clock' (premiered at Delapre Abbey in November).
Our audience has grown and grown! Before May this year we only had 'Little Meerkat's Big Panic' out on the road, and Meerkat had by that point been seen by around 3,000 people...in 2018, we saw over 1,200 people so we're well on our way to a total reach of 4,500 people! And all from £550 of funding from MK SOUP.
'Crabby' has been our second busiest show, and in 2018 we shared the seaside with nearly 750 people. 'Nappy Noos' has been seen by over 650 people. Thanks to saving up small surpluses from these performances we were able to fund our very first Christmas show, and 'The Christmas Clock' has now reached over 560 people; we will be bringing this show back in 2019 with a bigger, better Volume II (The Revenge) edition (joke!)
This means, in 2018, we have entertained nearly 3,200 people, and since May 2018 we have sold out every public show to date across all four productions!
In 2018, we were nominated for two awards: the National Diversity Awardsfor Best Community Organisation and The Small Awards for the Sole To Sole category; we eventually ended up as finalists for The Small Awards and went to a lovely awards ceremony in London. We also won two awards, scooping Best Children and Family Show for 'Crabby' at International Youth Arts Festival, Kingston and then Best Children's Show at Buxton Festival Fringe for 'Little Meerkat's Big Panic'.
Thanks to many, many lovely crowdfunders (we love you all dearly), in 2018 we raised £500 to develop 'Crabby' and received a small grant from Andrew Lloyd Webber's RUG Charities to create this production; linking this to our audience stats above, we've reached one person for every £1 the project has cost. 'Crabby' is continuing to secure new bookings into 2019, so the cost/value figure over time will soon look even better. For 'Meerkat', the cost/value figure is currently at 7 pence per person reached and falling; for 'Nappy Noos' the cost/value figure is currently at 0.5 pence per person reached! We're really proud of our low-cost model, and the reach we've achieved.
We've also raised £550 in crowdfunding towards the development costs of our new production for 2019: a sensory version of 'The Tempest'. This will be our biggest and most ambitious show yet, and we are looking towards other funding sources to ensure we have sufficient materials to be able to increase our average audience size from 50 per show up to 100 per show. We are very excited to confirm that we will be premiering the show at Brighton Fringe, marking our fifth year of participation in the festival.
As well as taking our shows out to schools, early years setting, libraries, theatres, festivals and fields in 2018, we've also increased our reach and impact through other projects. Julia became a Sensory Ambassador to the marvellous Circus Starr as well as an Associate Artist at MK Gallery within their 'Arts and Us' programme of work. In addition, Julia has delivered whole year-group sessions around understanding anxiety in two very large secondary schools, reaching over 500 young people with practical sensory strategies to support self-regulation.....
Blimey! What a year!
Thank you SO much to everyone who's come along to see us, and for all the feedback and ideas: we listen to everything you share with us and, having now had so many families that have seen multiple shows, we hold your children firmly in mind when we're thinking about what to do next and how to make it marvellous.
Wishing you all a peaceful, healthy, happy, and calm 2019. We can't wait to see you all again and to share our new productions with you...yes, that's right, it's not just 'The Tempest' that's brewing ;)
Lots of Love
Julia & Ellie
Articles, resources and ideas from Julia