Mind The Gap – 30 Years As Champions of Learning Disability Arts, Now With a New Project

Staging Change is a new Mind The Gap project with a focus on helping those with learning disabilities gain employment in the arts.

The five partner venues who have teamed up towards this endeavour with Mind The Gap are Leeds Playhouse; Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax; The Gulbenkian, Canterbury; The Albany, London; Northern Stage, Newcastle.

Four interns have been employed for the project, each with a learning disability, and they will work on a new outdoor project for 2019 ‘ZARA’.  The roles of the interns are Assistant Producer, Assistant Director, Researcher and Creative Engagement Facilitator.  This is the first time the company has employed the learning disabled in the wider roles, having previously provided supported employment only for performers.

Deborah Dickinson, a Mind The Gap Associate Producer, said  “Mind the Gap has always created work with learning disabled artists – not just for them; it’s where we differ from many others. We strive to ensure it is their voice that is heard and their stories that are told, so having people with learning disabilities on the production team is hugely important to this new project.”

Mind The Gap was determined to ensure that the recruitment processes were wholly accessible, so Vicky Ackroyd of Totally Inclusive People has been advising in her consultancy role.  Totally Inclusive People also offers interactive disability awareness and equality training.

Deborah continued “We have learned so much throughout this process – even with our 30 years of experience we accept that we are not always perfect; for example, we can use a lot of theatre jargon that is confusing to anyone outside the industry, and for people with learning disabilities it can be off-putting, meaning they can’t get past the first stage.”

Paul Wilshaw was successful in securing the role of Assistant Producer:

“I have worked in theatre for 20 years as an artist, facilitator and producer. I’ve been lucky enough to secure funding and grants to be able to make work, but it’s not easy for people with learning disabilities. The work Mind the Gap do challenges this and I’m delighted to be working with the team on this exciting project, and hopefully more in the future.”

The company’s collaboration continues, with six venues around the country looking at how to work with learning disabled artists, audiences and creatives.

Jordan Freud is the Assistant Director on ZARA.

“Since my diagnosis with Asperger’s Syndrome aged eight, my dream has been to tell stories that shouldn’t, or wouldn’t, otherwise be told – to break taboos,” he explains.

“I’m excited by ‘ZARA’ as it tells the story of learning disabled parenthood; I’m particularly looking forward to assisting in the devising process with writers and actors to develop our innovative mix of film with live, outdoors performance.”

ZARA will include a cast of hundreds, large-scale puppeteering and a giant ‘baby’.   This outdoor theatre project has been in development for five years, bringing together an international team of directors, choreographers, producers, designers, technicians, puppeteers, musicians and actors.

Staging Change is made possible through Mind the Gap’s Arts Council England NPO funding and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

Mind The Gap has provided the following information about the interns:

Daniel Foulds Researcher

Daniel is a Writer and a Director. He has written for both learning disabled and non-disabled performers and firmly believes people shouldn’t be pigeon-holed because of their disability.

Daniel is passionate about history and in 2017 he received Arts Council England funding to help realise his ambitions as a Playwright and Director, and to bring history to life for audiences with the R&D project A Hidden History.

Daniel also worked on the Magna Carta project, a co-production between Freedom Studios and Mind the Gap, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.  He contributed to the ideas and narration for the realization of the film Magna Carta in 10 Minutes and performed and co-devised the performance piece presented at Bradford’s City Hall and in schools.

Paul Wilshaw Assistant Producer

Paul is a learning disabled artist studying at Mind the Gap.  He is passionate about being a theatre-maker and developing his professional abilities and is developing his own project A Long Way From Home, which is being supported by a grant from Arts Council England.

Paul writes songs, poetry and drama and has been working in theatre for 20 years.  He studied at Jellico Theatre, Bournemouth where he achieved a Performing Arts First Diploma.

He is an experienced performer and was with Double Act, Dorset’s only disabled led theatre company for seven years.

In July 2018 Paul was Co-Producer of the BEYOND festival in Leeds.  

Jordan Freud Assistant Director

Jordan is an emerging director-dramaturg and aspiring Artistic Director based in London and Leeds. Ever since his diagnosis with Asperger’s Syndrome aged eight Jordan has wanted to work and collaborate with other people to tell stories that shouldn’t (or wouldn’t) otherwise be told – to break taboos. Although currently studying English and Comparative Literature at the University of Leeds, Jordan is excited to take a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to assistant direct ZARA as part of his industry placement (which he chose to be part of his course). He is particularly excited to assist the devising process with writers/actors and develop our innovative mix of film with live, outdoors performance based on disabled parenthood.

Josh Coulthard Assistant Creative Facilitator

Josh is a theatre maker based in East Yorkshire, passionate about the power of the arts to transform lives. He is interested in turning this passion into a vocation.

Josh is a core member of Engine Room Theatre CIC a company making socially engaged and artistically innovative performance. He has helped to grow Engine Room’s distinctive multimedia style as well as informing the development of the company. Josh toured The Voyage with Engine Room Theatre in 2016 following a seven month devising process which saw him and six other performers draw on their personal stories to create a piece which spoke about our shared human experience. In The Voyage Josh interacted with film, and was a storyteller, dancer and musician playing Indonesian gamelan.

Josh has trained with Castaway Music Theatre for over ten years, first with their youth theatre group and then on their Academy programme. He is a founding member of Castaway’s ‘Trunk’ team, delivering disability awareness training to a range of groups including Hull 2017 City of Culture Volunteers. Josh has been Chairperson for Castaway’s Learner Forum Meetings and is an experienced performer with Castaway, performing in over ten full scale productions including as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream where he received an Arts Award.

To find out more about Staging Change and Mind the Gap’s work visit



arts@mind-the-gap.org.uk /  01274 487390








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