Everyone at FitzRoy Leo Trust is bursting with pride after an amazing theatre debut for some of the residents. Justine May, Deputy Manager, told us how their unforgettable journey to the stage unfolded with the help of an old friend of Leo Trust.
The residents of Leo Trust have a long established relationship with Jo Frater, a wonderful dance therapist and owner of Confidance, for many years as she used to teach a Leo Trust dance group. She told me about a theatre group called Mind The Gap who are England’s largest professional learning-disabled theatre group. They do everything including their own lighting, sound and staging. Jo told us that they were performing at the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury College and she thought the guys at FitzRoy Leo Trust would really enjoy the show.
The old FitzRoy Leo Trust Dance Group along with other residents went to see the performance. Seeing people with learning disabilities on stage opened up their minds and inspired them to think about what they could achieve. They also had the opportunity to take part in a Q&A session afterwards. The staff that attended said how emotional it was hearing the residents tell the performers about their lives from their perspectives.
Jo came to me shortly after the show and told me that the Gulbenkian where opening a stage to people with learning disabilities to put on a show in June. I jumped at the chance and remember saying to Jo, let’s get the band back together’.
After 16 weeks of rehearsals with Jo, an exciting meeting with stage crew, and a brilliant dress rehearsal in the theatre, Judith Hatcher, Jonathan Burrowes, Keith Brown and Oliver Hodge took to the stage.
Along with members of Confidance, they gave a performance that they will never forget. Frances Burrowes, who is also a member of the group but didn’t perform due to her recovery from a recent operation, was there alongside her peers to lead the Q&A session at the end of the show. When Frances said how proud they were to be part of Confidance and how amazing Jo was, you could feel the emotion in the theatre.
Frances went on to say that they loved dancing and they had learned a lot and that someday they could be really big. I have to admit I was choked. The look of joy, pride and happiness on the faces of all those involved was priceless. Since the performance, we have noticed how much the guys have changed and grown from being a part of this incredible journey. Their confidence has soared.
Our sincere thanks go to Jo Frater who is an amazing teacher, a woman with great patience, intense foresight and a true belief that there really are no boundaries. When you set your mind to something, anything is possible.”