The Netherlands

So, having just received news of the success of our Grants for the Arts bid to Arts Council England, I thought I’d open up a little bit about ‘The Netherlands’. The first production by the new company Two Tonne.

Those of you who know me know that the piece was originally made (co-created with Lucy Hind) as part of a short festival of work to re-open a newly refurbished Theatre in the Mill about eight years ago.

It was (is) about being the parent of a learning disabled child. I am and Lucy is a sibling.

The piece was then produced by students at Huddersfield University, which was a huge honour and opened up things in the piece that I don’t think I’d really contemplated before.

Anyway, a lot of time has passed since then, my daughter has done a lot of growing (as have I) and dealing with the sh*t that comes with the territory of firstly being a teenager and secondly being a learning (and physically) disabled one.

It felt right that this should be the piece I launched the new company with. But..

Time has made me more and more aware that who ‘we’ (my daughters parents) are – university educated, articulate, middle-class – has had a massive impact on her life. Her uncle is a senior academic with a speciality in Leaning Disability, we have access to the absolutely latest research. And that REALLY matters as you sit in front of the latest local authority education panel I can assure you.

But what about those who don’t have that access? What chances are denied?

This iteration of the piece will be made in conversation with a whole lot of people who aren’t me, who don’t share my experience.

I got this off to a really lovely start with the wonderful Downs Syndrome Training and Support Centre in Bingley, West Yorkshire. We sang songs with v little children, ate cake, drank coffee and chatted one to one for two hours with both mums and dads about their experiences.

There are a LOT more conversations to follow, with parents whose children range from babies to adult, with midwives, paediatric nurses, educators, academics and local politicians.

How this will effect the piece I don’t yet know but effect the piece it will. And effect the sharing of it. The intention is that each place the show plays we also start to make connections between audience members so that what can be a very isolating experience gets a bit less isolating. That people maybe meet up, informally for a coffee and a chat and maybe share advice and support – and maybe some of the research, experiences we have had get passed on too.

Its not a substitute for funding to parents groups – and let me tell you these are folks who need to (increasingly) fight for every single thing they get – in the absence of that it’s a way, I hope, that theatre related stuff can make a difference. And THAT I think is more important now than it ha been in my memory.

I’m going to be blogging regularly about this project/process so please do follow @TonneTwo if you are interested.

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