Sunday 28 December 2014

Theatre company wins top Allianz Business to Arts awards with DAA

Company works with actors with intellectual disabilities

Published 14/09/2013 | 17:00

A LEADING theatre company which works with actors with intellectual disabilities has been named as a recipient of the Allianz Business to Arts Awards.

The Blue Teapot Theatre company is this year’s recipient of the Dublin Airport Authority €5,000 Arts Award at this year’s Allianz Business to Arts Awards.

It’s been a busy week for the theatre company as its critically acclaimed production ‘Sanctuary’ finished at the Dublin Fringe Festival over the weekend, as well as scooping the prestigious award.

But the work that has been done by Blue Teapot in the area of intellectual disabilities has long been recognised.

Since 1996, it has been breaking taboos around people with ID, and in more recent times, has started to offer FETAC accredited qualifications to their members.

Blue Teapot’s productions have effected real change, with the public perception of people with ID being altered through the medium of drama.

For the last 17 years, Blue Teapot has worked with the Brothers of Charity services, which established the company, and with Ability West since for the last four years.

Petal Pilley, director of Blue Teapot, says it’s essential that people with intellectual disabilities have a voice. 

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“In this day and age, it’s so important.

“We’re a performing arts based project but what’s really vital is that people with intellectual disability are given the choice of the kind of life they want to live and progammes they want to participate in,” she adds.

Paul O’Kane, public affairs manager with the DAA says the authority is delighted to recognise the work of Blue Teapot with this year’s award.

“DAA has been sponsoring the Business to Arts Awards for more than two decades through the commissioning of the annual awards sculpture. With the DAA Arts Awards, we are also able to reward an arts organisation that has particularly impressed the judges in a given year.

"Blue Teapot, which works with actors who have intellectual disabilities,  works with professionals to produce pieces of a very high standard that allow the entire cast to perform to the best of their own abilities."

There are three project strands to Blue Teapot – a professional theatre company with nine permanent actors, a performing arts school with a three-year FETAC accredited programme and an outreach project Bright Soul.

Blue Teapot’s professional theatre arm comprises the performers behind Sanctuary, a play that looks at sex and disability.

Pilley says the Brothers of Charity have taken many leaps of faith with the company over the years.

“From moving into a new building to growing the theatre company and starting the school, throughout it all they have been very supportive. There’s no two ways about it, without the Brothers of Charity Services, without the good people in there, we wouldn’t exist.”

Sean Conneally, board member and manager of Brothers of Charity, says the organisation had one reason for supporting Blue Teapot – the amount of joy it gives its service users.

“It’s really amazing to see the people in action, and the joy they get out of it themselves. Anybody who looks at it from the outside can’t but be affected by their enthusiasm. Some of the performances are phenomenal.”

Financing the project throughout a recession is a difficulty, so the DAA €5,000 Arts Award will provide great assistance.

“We’re stretching the pound all the time. The more support we can get and the more patronage we can get, the broader it can become,” says Conneally.

Adrian Harney, HR manager, Ability West, says the arts are an area in which all people have potential.

“Our aim is to support service users to realise their dreams and ambitions and to develop their potential as far as possible in all walks of life. The arts are hugely important. There’s no reason why people with an intellectual disability cannot play their part in that area.”

Pilley says it’s vital that people with intellectual disabilities have an audience.

“An awful lot of people with intellectual disabilities may only ever be seen in a care setting. Performing arts give them the opportunity to be seen in a different light. For them to be seen as an actor, performer or student is empowering.”

Both Harney and Conneally see much potential in Blue Teapot going forward.

“We’re very keen to encourage and support Blue Teapot and definitely see it as progressing and going from strength to strength. [The Allianz Business to Arts nomination] is a hugely positive step for the organisation and has put its name on the map in a good way,” says Harney.

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