“There is a real beauty in humans connecting through music”
Passionate about the “endless possibilities” of disabled and non-disabled artists dancing together, Turtle Key Arts is bringing our community back together again.
With life slowly getting back to some sort of normality, many community organisations are relishing the thought of more in-person time with their beneficiaries at last. As Kelly Bray, Turtle Key Arts producer, puts it: “I am so thrilled to get back out there. Most of our projects this year are about getting people back together – they are so desperate to perform again.”
For Turtle Key Arts, creative producers based in Hammersmith and Fulham, that means helping disabled and non-disabled people find expression and connect through dance and music. Dancing can increase physical fitness but can also have other benefits for people with disabilities, like improving motor skills, building friendships and boosting self-esteem. But with 11 million people with a disability in the UK, many find themselves locked out of the world of performing arts. “People with disabilities are often put ‘in a box’ and given little chance of mixing with people creatively,” says Kelly.
Making dance accessible to all is at the heart of Turtle Key Arts’ work; it celebrates the power of ‘integrated dancing’ with both disabled and non-disabled artists. Kelly believes that this kind of dancing creates all kinds of creative and social opportunities. “Our approach is to bring down the barriers. We highlight abilities, rather than disabilities. There is a real beauty in humans connecting and exploring in different ways to music. They might be working with a wheelchair, or crutches – it makes you realise how much people can do. It feels like the possibilities are endless,” she says.
This year the team is bringing back two in-person summer projects, the Joy Festival and the Young Amici Summer School, which are funded by Hammersmith United Charities.
The Joy Festival is a disability arts festival and is on track to run in real life this year. It’s a celebration of disabled and non-disabled artists through a programme of visual art, music, theatre and dance. The festival includes a week-long programme of integrated performances at Hammersmith’s Lyric Theatre in September. There will also be 3 big family fun day in August, with dance, circus and art sessions, along with creative workshops in the community.
Joy was founded in 2018, says, Kelly, “because there is just not enough celebration of disabled artists in the borough, and not enough networks for them to connect with others. We really needed to create a community where we can share stuff.”
Young Amici summer school
Another project is the Young Amici Summer School by Amici Dance Theatre Company which Turtle Key Arts produce, is for disabled and non-disabled people between age 11-25. This free summer school in August is for any young people interested in dance and developing their skills in a fun and safe space. The programme aims to deepen young people’s experience of participation in dance and spark curiosity and creativity.
Throughout the week, young people can pick and choose which classes they join and then take part in improvised dancing with props. The idea, says Kelly, is for dancers to use their ability as their strength. Then the dancers share their piece at the end of the week. Pastoral care is part of the creative process, so there are chill out spaces and experts who can support where needed.
The positive impact on young disabled people in this creative environment is striking, says Kelly: “I remember a young person who had learning disabilities – they were so nervous and thought everyone was judging them. Now they are doing solos and making friends so easily. It’s lovely to watch – they just enter the room so confidently and start dancing. One of our dancers says that taking part is the most free she’s ever felt.”
- Find out more about the Joy Festival and Young Amici summer school
- More information about Hammersmith United Charities grants programme
- Find out more about other organisations we’ve funded