This wonderful one-day workshop and performance by The Bone Ensemble at Mountjoy School in Beaminster was part of our Short Breaks programme.

Actors Jill Dowse and Sam Frankie Fox gave a couple of workshops with small groups of children aged six to 18. These included non-verbal gestures, sounds and music.

‘It’s very interesting to work with children with complex needs. They don’t generally show they are participating in the ways you’re used to as a performer. The challenge for us is to work with that,’ said Jill, who is also co-artistic director of the ensemble.

In the afternoon the company performed ‘Where’s My Igloo Gone?’ to an audience of 40 children, their parents and carers. Tony Alford, leader of West Dorset District Council, WDDC Cllr Jacqui Sewell and Dorset County Cllr Daryl Turner also attended.

‘This was what we call a relaxed performance, which means you’re prepared for people getting up and crossing the stage, and for noise. Sometimes you get some fabulous, creative noises from children joining in,’ added Jill.

A relaxed performance is designed for those on the autistic spectrum, with sensory, communication or learning difficulties. It’s also for anyone who would benefit from a less formal environment, their family and carers. There is a relaxed attitude to noise and audience members are free to leave and re-enter the show at any point.

The day was funded by Short Breaks with additional contributions from Bridport Round Table and The Valentine Trust. Artsreach (Dorset’s rural arts touring charity) and Mountjoy School also supported the event.

Short Breaks is a Dorset County Council commission to provide a break for parents/carers of children in Dorset with disabilities. Their children take part in exciting and rewarding activities in a safe environment. Short Breaks’ activities take place outside of school hours, during school holidays, weekends or after school.

The Arts Development Company is one of many providers. We focus on arts-based activities. These include taking part in dance, music, drama and visual art as well as visiting the theatre, a cinema or other arts organisation.

Early intervention

Jo March from The Arts Development Company explained: ‘The aim of the project is early intervention. We provide a break for parents and families of disabled children to enable them to spend a bit of time with other family members. Or they might do something their day-to-day care duties don’t usually allow them. Parent and carers benefit by getting a regular break and children with disabilities benefit from taking part in an arts activity with other children. This gives them a chance to socialise, try new things and gain confidence in a safe and supported environment.’

Working with schools

We have a background of working with schools and young people. We organise activities in partnership with Dorset’s special schools as well as some of the SEND bases in mainstream schools.