Full Circle Learning Disability Theatre Company and Little Cog ready themselves to make Stockton International Riverside Festival their new Stomping Ground with world premiere

A female actor seated on a chair at the front smiling broadly holding a giant game controller. Five other actors in stripy white and black tops and red berets try to run off in all directions.

As we write this blog it’s a sunny July day and we’re hoping it stays this way for the next few weeks. Excitement is building in the rehearsal room as we ready ourselves for the world premiere of our show first outdoor show – Stomping Ground – which we’ve been commissioned to create for Stockton International Riverside Festival. There’s a real buzz at the moment as the soundtrack all falls into place and each time our production designer Kim McDermottroe comes to see us at ARC it’s like Christmas – loads of new props, costumes and pieces of set to play with! We have to pinch ourselves that its actually happening after all this time.

As a group of disabled theatre makers, you can imagine that the last couple of years have been a challenge. Most of us at Full Circle had never been on a computer before the pandemic but when it hit, we were on Zoom within just a few weeks. People have been amazed at our dedication to turning up on Zoom twice a week for two years to devise our show.

It was confirmed just before the pandemic that we would create something new for SIRF and share it in 2020 when suddenly everything changed. We’d started talking through ideas about what a ‘stomping ground’ is – somewhere in our community, somewhere we feel safe and welcome, somewhere we belong and have a say, and somewhere that it feels important to be. The flip side of that can be about feeling completely left out and ignored.

Like everyone else, we had no idea how long the pandemic would last and so we made a start on Zoom. It was so good to see everyone’s faces as these were very confusing times. But we just got on with it and turned our living rooms or bedrooms into mini drama studios for the drama session. We were sometimes worried about what the neighbours might think if they could see us but that didn’t last long as we threw ourselves into creativity.

The focus of our Stomping Ground became very much about our group and our experiences, and we realised that not many learning disabled peoples’ voices were being heard so it feels extra important to share this piece of work at this time. We think it’s significant because it’s our story from our perspective, and the fact that we devised against many odds.

So the props and costumes roll in and we’re buzzing, and we’re up on our feet running through the show, tweaking bits here and there and generally working hard to make sure it’s the absolute best it can be to share with you all on 5 and 6 of August. We really hope lots of people come to see it – and we really hope that people who are in a position to do so, support learning disabled people to come and see it. It’s so important that we see ourselves reflected in the arts and tell our stories our way. And our way is colourful and musical and with humour, and the parts which are moving are uplifting because it’s ultimately about triumph. And that’s something worth celebrating, so we hope you’ll come and celebrate with us and prove that learning disabled people can make our mark on the arts and in our communities.

Find out more about Full Circle and Little Cog