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Guest Blog: Lucy Garland On Creating For Audiences With Learning Disabilities and Frozen Light's New Podcast

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Guest Blog: Lucy Garland On Creating For Audiences With Learning Disabilities and Frozen Light's New Podcast
Emma and Hugh feature on
the Frozen Light Podcast

Frozen Light create multi-sensory theatre for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). We tour extensively across the UK and, when on the road, we spend an awful lot of time with our audiences. When lockdown hit, we were left with the uneasy feeling that we were going to lose contact with these audiences; that we were not going to be able to connect with the people who we usually spend so much time being influenced and inspired by. It was horrible.

Everything we have built Frozen Light upon is about making theatre that is truly accessible for our audiences with PMLD. Putting this work into theatre venues not only provides an exciting, engaging, accessible offer for our audiences but also increases their visibility so that society can start to become more inclusive for them. We were left with the question: how do we do this when not touring?

We started to listen, and the overwhelming response to lockdown coming from the families and friends of our audience was "Don't forget us". The regulation that was being stripped away and the priority list of who would receive care if hospitals became full was leaving our audience feeling scared, even more invisible, forgotten, and uncared for. Not to mention that many of our audiences were shielding due to their complex health conditions and all outside carers, day services and respite had been taken away. Families were exhausted, stressed and trying with all their might just to survive.

So, we decided to start a podcast. The idea of this podcast was to keep in touch with our audience, to let them know that we were still listening, but also to use our platform to share their stories and ensure that this group of people remained visible and weren't forgotten. This pandemic is also a moment in history, and it felt important to us that everyone's story was documented, not just the story of the average white man but that of minority communities and the communities that we work with.

Guest Blog: Lucy Garland On Creating For Audiences With Learning Disabilities and Frozen Light's New Podcast
Thomas and his bubble on
the Frozen Light Podcast

We have learnt so much from doing the podcast. It has been invaluable hearing the stories of families and organisations of people with PMLD and how they have responded to Covid-19, but also their experiences and hopes for the future. It has been fascinating to hear about all the ingenious things people have been doing in lockdown - from an 80s UV disco to a cake designed around the theme 'pond life'! The creativity and energy of the families and people who care for and support people with PMLD is astounding.

But also hearing about the level of fight and commitment that these people have. We've heard from mothers who have fought for their child's right to oxygen, parents who fight for the correct care service for their adult child so that they can actually live a fulfilling life in adulthood, sisters having to justify their brothers' rights to access live culture. All of these things are basic human rights, and yet these families and carers have to fight for these things every day. It is appalling. It is also exhausting, and society needs to wake up and realise the huge value and potential of people with PMLD. When we do, these families will not have to fight because people's basic human rights and needs will be met as they should be.

The theatre we make is all about human connection: it is about using the multi-sensory as a method of communication for a group of people who communicate in a non-linguistic way. It is about engaging with people on a human level and valuing each audience member as an individual who brings something different and exciting to each performance. We miss that direct contact with our audiences with PMLD. We do recognise that with this podcast we are not reaching our people with PMLD directly, which makes us feel a bit uneasy and is something we are working on, but until we can do that again, this podcast has been a great way to ensure that people with PMLD are not forgotten, and that when lockdown is over, there will still be exciting accessible theatre out there for them.

You can find the podcast at www.frozenlighttheatre.com/podcast and all the usual places you access your podcasts


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