Keith became a staff member at SAFE School of Arts in 2001, leading drama workshops.
SAFE School of Arts is a Christian summer school for people with special needs. The week offers workshops in music, drama, dance, craft and sport and ends with a final festival of worship for friends and family, showcasing what the school has achieved together throughout the week.
“I was quite terrified about my first year. I think because I had never worked with people with special needs. My biggest fear was if I said the wrong thing or asked them to do things they couldn’t do. It felt like I was entering a minefield.”
“My first year I did a ‘getting to know you’ night and one of the games I planned had lots of running around. It meant running up and down lines and racing each other. I was worried about wheelchairs and whether it would be suitable so I asked another member of staff and they said ‘they’ll love it.’ It turned out to be the most wonderful evening, they had a great time. It taught me to treat them like anyone else.
“It’s not a case of asking ‘what can’t you do’ but ‘what can you do with what you’ve got.’ I want to work with the capabilities and the talents that they have. So if we have a go at dancing the delegates are encouraged to dance in their own way, whether that be standing on too feet or in a wheelchair.
“I probably get more out of the week because they are such fantastic people, and so loving.
“We had one girl who was bed ridden for nine months last year and she had been going through some really hard operations and yet she still said ‘I’m so looking forward to coming to SAFE.’ And it made me think about my little niggles and how I should stop winging about life. These people have every right to complain and be grumpy but they are just happy people. Inspirational is the word.
“For me SAFE is a week where we are all equal whether we are able bodied or not. No one is an outsider. We are one big happy family. The delegates bring absolute joy into my life.
Drama at the SAFE School of Arts
“In the festival the drama group will perform a few pieces. Over the years we’ve done a diverse range of things, from mime to musicals and working with fabric. Often we do narrator-led pieces with small speaking parts for those who are confident. It’s less stressful for them that way. We do a lot of physical theatre too with the delegates becoming props and bits of scenery.”
“Drama is about working as a team, being aware of people around you; it builds confidence too and helps with communication skills. Some of our delegates have issues with communication so we help as much as we can.
“There’s a great sense of achievement. The final festival is just the most joyous night.”