Throughout my life I have been involved in the Arts; from playing a rock and roll shepherd in the Primary School nativity, to now finding myself living in Singapore working for Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT). I was lucky enough to have drama classes early in my life as it gave me the confidence to communicate and connect with people easily, to be heard but also to listen and understand others. I collaborated with my peers and it instilled a strong team ethos I have yet to find in any other activity or sport. I tell you this, because having experienced first-hand the impact of the arts, it helps to put into context why I strive to reach more children, young people and adults through participation in the Arts today.
Creativity in School
Ensuring that Creative Arts has a place in the school day is incredibly important, as subjects to learn key skills such as creative thinking, adaptability, and teamwork that will in hand prepare students for the future. Beyond that, Drama starts from a place of ‘no wrong answer’, where failure is rewarded. It demands that we express our opinions and empathise with others, it also helps us understand how to tell a great story and builds our verbal and non-verbal communication skills. However, for some young people this access to drama is only possible through their compulsory education, and if it’s not available, they miss out.
Reaching the Community
Way beyond the formal arena of Arts education, is the world of ‘Applied Theatre’; where application of theatre practice can be in non-traditional theatre spaces with people who may or may not be actors that may not be seeking the Arts in any form. Exemplified in our work at Changi Prison with female prisoners, where we carved time and space for people to meet, talk, discover and reflect their life experiences through the lens of drama. Doing so, this is where real impact can be felt for the participants.
In recent years, SRT has also taken our stage to libraries thus offering free access to theatre. The playUpstairs in the Sky astoured in English and Mandarinserved as entertainment with a social message at heart, by underlining themes of ‘play’ and grief. Through taking the stage to the community and more importantly supporting people to build their own stage can ultimately open doors, raise aspirations and change lives. However, it’s important to remember that whilst theatres can be magical places for some, for others there are barriers both real and imperceptible.
Access for All
At SRT, our latest development links with the focus for the wider arts sector in Singapore on Access. ‘Access’refers to the accessneeded for a person to receive any service as they need. Hence, when we look at‘Access’to Arts programming and venues in Singapore, can we say that everyone is accounted for? And if not, how can we ensure that everyone can ‘Access’ the Arts? For example, is there a ramp to the theatre? More importantly, are we promoting the social model of disabilityand actively adjusting to enable not disable. Where in this model ‘disable’ is not a term to describe an individual, it is a term that highlights the fact that society ‘disables’ the person by the way in which it operates.
Here at SRT, we are actively promoting the social model of disabilityand adjusting to enable not disable. Where in the last 12 months,SRT along with many industry friends have launched the Access Arts Hub.A collective of people and organisations with a shared vision to improve Access to Arts in Singapore. As part of the Access Arts Hub, we had the fortune to work with leading UK access specialists in the last 12 months in Singapore; Kirsty HoyleandTrish Hodson who inspired us to offer services for everyone.
As such, in 2019, SRT is excited to bring Audio Description for the theatre where we have trained 9 new audio describers under the guidance of Access2Arts in Adelaide. Under this effort, patrons who are blind will now be able to attend our theatre programmes. It is important to remember that by offering good access we are now offering people a choice. This might only be the beginning but a positive place to start building awareness, being informed, and enacting change.
Arts for All. The title of this article. What does that mean? Arts for All creates an opportunity for everyone to discover that the arts can be for them to explore and enjoy. Too often we have decided in advance who the arts are for. It’s a soft skill, a hobby to enjoy, it’s for trained actors or for those that are rich or neurotypical. However, when we recognise the diversity of the arts and the opportunities it offers us, we are at the very least opening our doors to possibilities. In this ever changing, fast paced digital age harnessing drama can be the key to offering connectivity beyond technology. Drama classes allow us to explore and discover, to understand the world and others around us. It offers a place free of judgement where empathy and compassion are inherent in its process. Let’s place arts at the centre of our schools and communities as a vehicle to tell stories and learn. Let’s open up the creative process for everyone, not only to see but to create themselves. If we embrace the arts beyond the aesthetic and see the deeper impact, we can support everyone to be confident, creative communicators that are part of a caring, connected community.
This article is written by SRT’s Learning and Engagement Manager, Paul Adams. Click here to find out more about the access programmes at SRT.