A pioneering community theatre company in Totton is using the performing arts to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities.

Hanger Farm Community Theatre has begun weekly sessions at Hanger Farm Arts Centre in Totton, that are open to people aged 16 or over, with a learning disability, autism and other additional needs

The theatre company encourages people to use these inclusive drama sessions to explore their artistic ability, as well as building confidence, resilience and communication skills

Over time, the goal is to pioneer truly inclusive performing arts through mixed performances together with non-learning disabled artists.

Following a successful pilot, the two drama sessions have been very popular with one weekly workshop at full capacity and just a handful of spaces left in the second group.

The budding actors have already performed a short version of the King Midas story at the Arts Centre’s autumn season launch in September and are now working on a Christmas sharing to be performed in December.

Hanger Farm Community Theatre and the Arts Centre are both run by local charity Minstead Trust. The Trust supports people with learning disabilities to achieve greater independence, lead fulfilled lives and live as full citizens in society.

The Arts Centre runs shows and events all year - with high quality comedy, music and theatre from some of the country’s most talented performers. Every ticket bought helps to support people with learning disabilities.

Kevin, a member of the Community Theatre who played King Midas, said: ‘I enjoy the drama group, I meet new friends, have fun and feel happier. Being King Midas was good, I got to wear a crown and the audience clapped. I am rehearsing the Christmas show now, I’m looking forward to it.’

Emma Golby-Kirk, Head of Arts Programming at Hanger Farm Arts Centre, said: ‘It has been joyous to watch the community theatre members learn new drama skills and grow in confidence together. The sessions are uplifting and the people we support are clearly benefitting from unleashing their creative talents. We are now looking to secure funding to set up more groups for the whole community to enjoy.’

If you or someone you know is interested in joining the community theatre or helping to fund the sessions email [email protected]