Shabang Theatre – more simply known as “Shabang!” – are a small charity doing big things in the district of Slaithwaite, West Yorkshire.
Founded by Kim Reuter and Russ Elias, Shabang provide arts-based work with a specific focus upon children and young people with additional needs – in addition to this, Shabang also like to include the families of these individuals. Based in an arts resource establishment called The Watershed, Shabang have created a space which is safe, accessible, welcoming and appropriate for visitors with additional needs.
Working exclusively within the field of additional learning needs, Shabang are made up of musicians, performers, designers, makers and qualified teachers. Shabang harness and combine these skills to create a special and unique shared experience, inviting our audience to participate in a range of performances, workshops, events, activities and training courses.
They do this through hosting arts based educational events for families of children with disabilities and run outreach projects to special education settings across Yorkshire. All of their projects are learning led with original music, songs, characters, plot lines and accompanying educational resources.
Shabang also endeavour to make educational arts accessible to all of their participants whatever their ability and always strive to pass on their skills to teachers, parents, carers, as well as the participants themselves.
Such educational activities include a weeklong arts residency for children with profound and multiple learning needs called Sensory Scapes, as well as the Up Club, which is a weekly drama session for children and young people with Down Syndrome. Shabang also run Little Tiddlers, which is a twice weekly session for additional needs pre-school children and their families.
In fact, the need to include families is something which Shabang have strongly focused upon during the past five years. They have done this through designing, devising and creating a programme of activities which brings isolated families together to share in a creative experience. Such activities include Dream Catchers, which is a monthly arts club for families of children with additional needs, and Day Dreamers, which is a monthly arts club for families of children on the autistic spectrum of abilities.
In addition to this, Shabang also provide courses for parents of disabled young people including Brain Boosters, which is a weekend course for parents on learning enhancement, and Yakety Yak, which is a weekly course for parents on Makaton signing and communication issues.
The majority of this family work is funded through Big Lottery Family Learning and has gained Shabang a credible reputation, as they are often approached by independent family support groups to put on events and activities specific to their needs.
As well as the string of activities that they run, Shabang have also focused a lot of their work upon digital projects, including an educational Makaton signed DVD and a five minute short film for World Down Syndrome Day, which reached over 24,000 hits in its first four months.
And while we are at the stage of crunching numbers, it is worthwhile to mention that Shabang have written and created 10 original theatrical shows, giving over 3,000 performances in the process. They have also written and recorded over 40 songs and most impressively of all have worked with over 42,000 disabled children and young people during their existence, which spans back 25 years.
From all of the above, it is clear to see that Shabang are committed to creating accessible arts for children, young people, adults and their families with additional learning needs. They celebrate difference and live life by the mantra that “we are all equally different”, encouraging all of their participants to “live, love, laugh and learn”.
Shabang have inspired the families of disabled people to become more involved with them whilst improving the quality of life for all of their participants, which leaves no surprise as to why they have been shortlisted for the Community Organisation for Disability award at the National Diversity Awards 2014.