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Communication Acceptance & Inclusivity

Updated: Apr 11

Since our inception, we have always strived to make original, imaginative, and brave work. Original stories, told imaginatively, and often with bravery - putting your thoughts and ideas out in a public arena is brave. 

During the pandemic we worked online with teenagers who wanted to participate in sessions via the chat function alone. It opened my eyes to consider how I would facilitate a space where multiple languages could exist in one space. More importantly, how would I make sure that the text in the chat was considered as valid a voice as anyone else’s. My practice evolved. I learned the value of pausing for a typed response, encouraging others to also type into the chat, allowing silence (and learning to be comfortable with it), sharing work via the chat function, and not measuring success solely by the spoken word. It was a way of working that felt progressive and inclusive, and it led to some of those young people staying online with us for 18 months.

Since then, I have consistently strived to bring the spirit of this back into our in-person sessions.  I always knew that I didn’t want to stay on Zoom forever but I came to appreciate that I didn’t want to go back to normality and not create a space for the people who want to make work but for whom the spoken word would not be their first choice of language. 

Theatre is in essence a whole-body learning experience - however, sometimes we forget how much language processing must take place in a short space of time. People are asked to come in and follow rules of games, make up stories collaboratively, read scripts, follow direction, and retain this information. I have worked with a range of different practitioners to figure out what things might look like. It is possible, for instance, to make adaptations to allow someone to be in a session and still ultimately read and remember a script. Or, you rip up the script and make a shared story from a range of unique voices.

We did this in Into the Forest. The script was a scrapbook of drawings, important lines, remembered through muscle memory and repetition. When they performed, the children were nervous and managed to cut 20 minutes off the running time. However, it was one of the most original, imaginative, and brave pieces of work where every child was emotionally invested in what they were doing. They were loud and clear (albeit fast). You would have never known the process of how they learn their lines: who needed pictures, who rehearsed by moving their body, or who wanted to read a script and memorise it. Nor would you know how many of them had ASD, ADHD, EAL, or had lacked confidence to perform. Or that the child who closed the show had started by saying they didn’t want to speak but found their voice in the process.

Bounce is constantly evolving and we are excited to step into an arena of working with therapists and mental health practitioners to do more. However, those I feel most indebted to are the children and young people who have taught me so much over the last few years -  to ensure participation awakens the senses, to recognise that listening doesn’t always require your body to be still, that joining in games can take many forms, that stories are made through your senses, and scripts can be made without relying on words on a page. 

Also, I am indebted to my son, who lost his words in the pandemic but has bought us full circle to appreciate that love needs no words. He was my inspiration for StoryClub - a maternal desire to ensure more children had an equitable play space to nurture their own unique patterns of communication. He has also taught me the power of advocating to ensure the environment adjusts to the child and not vice versa.

I am proud that Bounce is an ever evolving space, to nurture all forms of communication into shared stories. As our stories lead us into the people we want to be and the community we want to belong to.

A young person is surrounded by other young people pointing mobile phones at them and filming/photographing.
Image Description: A young person is surrounded by other young people pointing mobile phones at them and filming/photographing.

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