Celebrating fruitful partnerships in theatre and dance

6 Jun 2019
Six Blue Apple theatre actors performing on stage

Ahead of a special event taking place this evening to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of Blue Apple's residency at the University of Winchester, the company's general manager Simon Morris explains how our partnership is benefiting both organisations and highlights some exciting future collaborations.

We're celebrating the first anniversary of Blue Apple HQ moving onto the University's campus. What are the key advantages of this close proximity as far as you're concerned?

Although Blue Apple is an independent theatre company, our mission is to support disadvantaged people in our society to develop their personal skills to a high level of achievement and that clearly chimes with the University's community-focussed outlook, so we have a huge amount in common.

Being in residence on campus means that we are now surrounded by like-minded creative thinkers and a huge amount of collaboration has been growing organically.

The link with the University has also clearly lent us some additional prestige and valuable endorsement of our work - when you support performers with learning disabilities, it can sometimes be hard for other people to imagine the level of quality in our theatre work, so the University's backing can help people make a quick conceptual jump.

Tell us what Blue Apple does and why that's important

Blue Apple uses theatre arts to support people with learning disabilities to develop their creative skills, support their personal progression and increase their integration within the wider community. We are committed to the development of integrated and progressive opportunities within the arts for people with learning disabilities to raise the ceiling of expectation and advocate for the development of a more inclusive and equal society.

People with learning disabilities are widely recognised to have a larger percentage of physical and mental health problems in comparison to the national average. The increase in confidence gained through stage performances has helped Blue Apple members to enhance their social, personal and artistic skills and achieve public recognition for their talents - some of our members are now well-known in the professional world, such as our founding member Tommy Jessop.

The aim is that over time more people will develop the experience to reach that career level and our outreach programme is growing dramatically across the county as we try to provide more opportunities to take some 'first steps' in drama and dance, and to see where that leads for every individual. Not everyone will be thinking vocationally, to begin with anyway, but even more importantly our work has demonstrated increased wellbeing being achieved by our participants, particularly in their development of confidence and social skills.

How do you see the Blue Apple-University partnership developing in the future - are there exciting things in store?

We are based in the University's Faculty of Arts but we have now established relationships with around 15 different departments across the University - some of these partnerships are in the very early stages of discussions, whilst others are more advanced, such as with the advanced development of the integrated dance collaboration that the Blue Apple Core company has been working on with the D@win undergraduate company for three years now. We are even developing a graduate dance company together, to keep performing all the amazing repertoire that's now been created, and we are all really excited to be starting up a similar collaborative project with the Performing Arts department in the next academic year.

One of the most exciting areas for me is the development of research projects with academics in many different fields that will help us to support even more neuro-diverse performers in their creative development. The level of enthusiasm in all the conversations we are involved in here really inspires me.

Blue Apple is staging a major summer production of their new show The Tempest at Theatre Royal Winchester next week 13-15 June. Film students at the University of Winchester have worked with members of the Blue Apple Core company to record the trailer below.

Tickets for The Tempest are available online here.

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