Unlocking possibilities for people with intellectual disabilities

To read on London News Online website:

Note: In the UK, the term of ‘Learning disability’ is used instead of ‘Intellectual disability’.

Ground breaking learning disabilities arts group celebrate Big 30 with Deptford take over


A creative arts charity which believes in the power and talents of people with learning difficulties is celebrating 30 years of ground breaking successes

The inspirational Heart n Soul charity, which has won global acclaim, began “without a grand plan” at theatre workshops for people with learning disabilities and launched at The Albany in Deptford.

To celebrate the landmark there is to be so much celebration going on the month long party featuring performances and art installations it has been billed as “The Deptford Takeover”. Flagship event “Good Times: A Celebration of 30 Years”at The Albany in Douglas Way, Deptford will give people the chance to see some of the stars from the past three decades The bill for the night on Thursday July 13 features artist and charity co founder Pino Frumiento, Lizzie Emeh, The Fish Police, Mark Snead, Too Hot for Candy, Electric fire and a host of Club DJs

Over the years Heart n Soul participants have graced Glastonbury stages, toured the world and member singer-songwriter Lizzie Emeh made history when she became the first solo artist with a learning disability to release an album in the UK in 2009.

The charity’s night club featuring DJs with learning difficulties, for all revellers all but particularly welcoming those with learning issue, called The Beautiful Octopus Club has spawned 50 copies across the country

While Dean Rodney the front man of band The Fish Police also led one of Heart n Soul’s biggest projects to date – The Dean Rodney Singers – specially commissioned for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

As part of the celebrations The Big 30 archive has been created featuring the portraits and voices of people who have played a significant role in the charity. The exhibition with, portraits by award winning photographer Franklyn Rodgers, is to open at Deptford Lounge library. The show is also to have a permanent home in the London Metropolitan Archives.

Co founder and musician Mark Williams MBE told SLP: “It was founded along with learning disability musician Pino Frumiento and theatre director Alex Parker. I began very small with no grand plan and so it has been an amazing journey. We just had a great belief in the power and potential of people with learning disabilities and we want to share our passion. I first met Pino while working with a group at the Mulberry day centre in New Cross and I was really struck by the energy and openness of the people about their music – it was a great discovery. It got better when they were given the chance to write their own music and songs. The very first performances at The Albany were amazing as previously people who had been hidden away in a day centre were up there on the stage – it was very powerful and exciting. We have some fantastic memories over the years of experiences including tours in Europe, South Korea and Bahrain. We also did Glastonbury three years in a row from 1999. The Beautiful Octopus Club concept has been copied greatly and there is now 50 clubs like it across the country. The Club DJs are to perform at three Sunday evenings at The Royal Festival hall over the summer.

He said: “Our over whelming aim is to unlocking possibilities for people and increase their visibility in society so they can tell their stories – and their voices will be heard. For the Big 30 celebrations we will be visible across public spaces in Deptford – which is why its called The Deptford Takeover Its to say guess what we are all human and together we are stronger.”

Co founder Pino Frumiento MBE, said: “The Big 30 Project will let people see what we are: not just people with learning difficulties. We are human beings.”

Lizzie Emeh, said: “We want to show people what we can do and we want to reach as many people as possible. My whole life I wanted to be a singer and I thought it could never happen. Well, look at me now.”

Mark Burgess; long standing Heart n Soul participant and co-chair said: “People don’t want to sit at home staring at four walls. I want to get out and put something back into society.”


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