DT first interviewed Ashling Foat, Company and Volunteer Manager, for Tottenham-based charity Haringey Shed at the end of 2017. Back then we were lucky enough to attend their performance at Bernie Grant Arts Centre, The Dividing Line. We had a quick catch up over coffee to see what they’d been up to.
Haringey Shed specialise in inclusive theatre for children and young people aged seven to 25. Established in 2000, they were born out of a project that inclusive theatre company Chicken Shed ran in Northumberland Park School, developing the concept that a disabled actor should have the same opportunities, and should be part of the same cast, as a non disabled actor.
Haringey Shed are based at the Haringey Irish Centre where the young people they work with take part in after school clubs, holiday programmes and activities.
‘We try to provide professional performing arts opportunities and it’s really important that their work is valued.’ Ashling told us.
They run a summer programme and after school activities during term time including youth and children’s theatre groups, singing, acting, dancing and music making. They also have an older performance group, 1419, who work on more challenging techniques and subjects.
‘We reach about 1000 young people per year through our after school and holiday activities, outreach in local schools and collaborations with other organisations.’
Ashling works alongside two other full time members of staff – Eddie Latter, Artistic Director, and Jim Shepley, Executive Director – and they often hire freelancers and session workers for specific projects. They work with over 100 volunteers each year aged 13 to 25 and have a supported volunteering programme for adults with disabilities.
The young people regularly perform to an audience and the youth theatre group performed Our Side of Town at Bernie Grant Arts Centre this March.
They recently started technical theatre Thursdays, funded by London Youth Culture Makers, where the young people can explore different roles including lighting, sound, costume and set design.
Last year, the children’s theatre group worked with Lorenco House, assisted living for residents over 50, on a project called Along The Lines Of and brought resident’s stories to life. ‘One of the men used to work on fishing boats in north Scotland. He got up on stage and aboard the boat with the young people which was all completely improvised – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
‘We’ve also been working with Alexandra Palace. We joined them on their big family fun day festival in the summer and produced a piece of work which was performed outside under a big tree.’
Outside of their work with the young people, they were commissioned to do a piece of work in response to knife crime. ‘We created a show about fictional characters and it was performed to year 6s at a primary school. The audience met the characters afterwards and took part in a workshop. It was really powerful and the headteacher said it had the impact it needed.’
Ashling told us about a young woman, aged 17, who joined two and a half years ago. ‘She doesn’t go to school because of her disability and is at home on her own with mum. She started attending our 1419 group and was very insular and kept herself to herself. She took up the opportunity to be trained to be a mentor last year and was paired with a younger person. She was brilliant. So intelligent. In the 1419 drama group we’ve really seen her come out of her shell. She’s suddenly this quite sarcastic comedic actor. Her confidence has greatly improved and she’s told us it’s nice to come out the house and not be on her own. We’re really proud of her!’
‘Three of our young people – at college level – are now studying with Chicken Shed in Cockfosters and are thriving. They are all performers with disabilities which some people might think could hold them back. One in particular was told not to do drama GCSE because she could never be an actress as she’s got autism – which is ridiculous! Her mum fought for her to do drama GCSE and she’s now studying a BTEC in performing arts.’
If you’d like to support Haringey Shed you can raise money via their 100 Challenge Club or attend an event.
This article first appeared in the Spring issue of Discovering Tottenham which was released in March 2019.