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The Orpheus Trust Centre is an inclusive performing arts centre founded by entertainer and musician Richard Stilgoe in his former family home in Godstone in 1998. Orpheus aims to use music and the performing arts as a vehicle for self-development by offering young people creative experiences through which they will discover and develop new skills, new aspects to themselves and therefore new expectations. They work in a user-led way, providing their care services in a sensitive, flexible manner to meet individual needs, and delivering their educational programme in a way that meets individual goals. Orpheus employs the social model of disability to inform practice and the youth-work approach to personal development; encouraging individuals to define their identity and role within their communities.
The Centre’s work is focused on apprenticeships, which are 3 year full time placements for up to 25 young disabled people aged 18 – 25 who work towards living independently in the community through an individually designed and complex programme of daily-living skills, performing arts and involvement in all aspects of running the Orpheus Centre. The Orpheus Trust also runs week-long performing arts courses for up to 30 young disabled and non-disabled people, led by professional artists and culminating in a public performance either in the Orpheus’s own Barn Theatre or on tour around the UK.
Orpheus also has a touring performance programme which has included performances at the Royal Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall, Schools’ Proms, Glastonbury Festival, the International Festival of Music Theatre in Cardiff and a pan-European arts festival in Greece. These public performances are always well supported and educate the enthusiastic audience as much as entertain them. The Apprentices also visit many schools, colleges and community groups to run participatory workshops, performances and discussions. There is an important educational aspect to this experience for the ’host’ group; for many, it will be the first time they have interacted with disabled people. The Apprentices also provide tailored workshops and disability equality and awareness training to business and community groups.
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