This month, 8 talented learning disabled performers from across West Wales have begun a new journey into the arts. These are the students of the newest Hijinx Academy who are enrolling to train professionally in performance skills on a pioneering course run by Welsh theatre company Hijinx.
Students of the new Academy in Carmarthen, which is being run in conjunction with Arts Care Gofal Celf, are now learning a range of performance skills, including physical theatre, improvisation, mask work and clowning. The course is being delivered by a team of professional arts practitioners two days per week, 50 weeks per year in Carmarthen’s much loved Lyric Theatre.
Hinterland actor signs up as Academy tutor Among the line-up of tutors is Alex Harries, of ‘Hinterland’ fame, who will be training the students in Acting for Screen skills. Alex, who plays ‘DC Lloyd Elis’ on the Welsh crime drama, commented: “I’m really excited to be joining the team of tutors at Hijinx’s Academy in Carmarthen and meeting all of the students. It’s great to be playing a part in helping the industry become more accessible for talented actors of all abilities.”
Hijinx and its Academies Hijinx Academies set out to address a fundamental problem – that learning disabled actors are rarely able to follow the traditional drama school route into acting because of barriers such as the grades needed to attend or the lack of provision for their requirements. Rather than let their talents go hidden and undeveloped, Hijinx have a bold plan to reach talented learning disabled adults across Wales and give them an opportunity to train to become professional actors, through Hijinx Academies like this one.
Hijinx’s goal is that any talented learning disabled actor in the country will be within a 90 minute drive of a professional training course that is geared to their needs. The West Academy is the fourth one to open following the success of the initial course in Cardiff which launched in 2012. With help from Lloyds Bank Foundation and Arts Council of Wales, Hijinx have since opened a North Academy in Prestatyn in November 2014 and a second in Cardiff in July 2015. Plans are in place to open a Mid Wales course in 2016.
Hijinx’s Chief Executive, Clare Williams, said “We are thrilled to be launching the fourth Hijinx Academy in Carmarthen in partnership with Arts Care Gofal Celf and Carmarthenshire Theatres. We have created the Academies to ensure that promising performers with learning disabilities literally have a platform to develop and show off their extraordinary ability and skills. We have seen remarkable progress from the students in the South and North Academies and can’t wait to begin that journey with a new company of students from across West Wales. It is also fantastic to be connecting with and creating jobs for arts practitioners elsewhere in Wales.”
Venue The Lyric Theatre in Carmarthen, complete with a 1000-seater auditorium, studio space and café bar, will become the home for the new Academy. Set within easy walking distance of bus and rail stations and car parks, the theatre is ideally located for the new company of Academy students who are travelling in from as far as Haverford West and Swansea.
West Wales authorities working in partnership The new Academy is being brought about by a broad-reaching partnership with social services in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Swansea. Prospective students living in any of these local authorities are able to apply for funding to attend either course via social services in their area. This remarkable partnership is being facilitated by Arts Care Gofal Celf, an arts organisation based in Carmarthen which provides arts training and activities for disadvantaged people and those who support them.
Drama Foundation course Alongside the new Academy, Hijinx hope to run a second course in life skills through drama for adults with more complex learning disabilities, which will also be facilitated by Arts Care Gofal Celf.
Join Hijinx Academy West or Drama Foundation West If you are, or know of, a performer with a learning disability who is interested in joining either the Academy or Drama Foundation in Carmarthen, or one of the other Hijinx Academies, contact Dan McGowan at Hijinx on 02920 300331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.