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Charity Provides Funds to Support Launch of Non Verbal Youth Theatre Groups

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds is thrilled to announce a new partnership with GeeWizz Charitable Foundation, a very special charity which focuses on supporting children and young adults in Suffolk and Norfolk who suffer from life-threatening conditions, a disability or cancer.

GeeWizz has presented Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds with a cheque for £50,000. This magnificent funding has secured Theatre Royal’s new Non Verbal Youth Theatre groups until 2025.

The new groups, launching this month, are an extension of the theatre’s already successful Youth Theatre programme. The new Non Verbal groups will support young people who are learning disabled or neurodivergent. These interactive sessions will build their confidence, help them to make new friends and encourage participation in non-verbal creative play. By using a non-verbal delivery style, this will allow all young people (verbal or non-verbal) to take ownership of activities facilitated by Theatre Royal’s team of highly skilled practitioners, and express themselves within a creative process that is accessible to their creative differences.

Gina Long MBE, founder of GeeWizz, and now an ambassador of Theatre Royal, has been a voluntary fundraiser and charity campaigner for more than 45 years. During that time, she has helped raise over £7 million for national and local charities.  Most recently she created the Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk Legacy Auction working closely with John and Imogen Sheeran. Their legacy global online auction raised £506,000, of which £50,000 has been pledged to Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre Inclusion project.

This initiative is so close to her heart and that of GeeWizz. She says, “We all personally know of many local families who will benefit from a much-needed project like this. With support from our Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk Legacy Auction we can fund very important legacy projects that are going to help so many, for years to come. We are delighted to support Theatre Royal’s Non Verbal Youth Theatre Programme too. Working in conjunction with the fabulous work of education providers Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre Non Verbal groups will enable young people to make friends in a supported and friendly environment with a team of experienced practitioners.  This is so important in helping them feel more able to direct or manage their lives and express themselves and engage with activities and matters that affect them and GeeWizz is proud to be able to help.”

Theatre Royal’s Creative Learning Manager, Hayley Murrow, is excited about the positive impact these groups will have. “We are so grateful to GeeWizz, that we will be the only professional theatre company offering provision of this kind in West Suffolk. The new groups will enrich the lives of children and young people using theatre and performing arts techniques designed specifically with them and their needs in mind. Youth Theatre Non Verbal will support our young participants in building self-esteem, increasing confidence and developing a positive sense of who they are and what they can achieve. By being able to create quality art, reflecting and celebrating their unique creativity, they can explore theatre making in an inclusive and responsive environment.”

These groups will explore a variety of theatrical mediums through non-verbal delivery. Through ongoing training Theatre Royal will develop the programme with leading theatre companies creating work with, and for, young people with disabilities.

Aileen Belsberg, CEO of GeeWizz believes the groups will provide essential life skills to the participants “As a very special small charity, we are always looking for community projects to fund that will support children and young adults for years to come. Theatre Royal’s non-verbal activities with the youth theatre are a fantastic way to enable young people with learning disabilities or who are neurodivergent to express themselves in a fun, friendly and safe environment. The activities in these workshops will help so greatly in supporting key life skills and professional development and GeeWizz is incredibly proud to help.”

Theatre Royal Youth Theatre Non Verbal will provide new youth theatre groups for children and young people aged 8 to 18. There will be two groups held at the theatre during term time. Tuesday 4pm to 4.40pm is for 8 to 12 year olds and then 5pm to 5.40pm for 13 to 18 year olds. Bursary places are available and can be applied for by contacting education@theatreroyal.org.

Full term dates and session times can be found at www.theatreroyal.org/education/youth-theatre.

The first year of the Non Verbal groups (2021/22) are funded by St Edmunds Trust.

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