We are Spectra


Spectra is a performance company that draws on the diverse creativity of its mixed professional and learning disabled community cast to devise multi-sensory, immersive theatre. Developed through a partnership between mac birmingham’s Next Generation programme, independent artist Kate DeRight, and Queen Alexandra College, Spectra is made possible through funding from Arts Council England.

This blog will be regularly updated – keeping you posted about our current creative ventures – as well as sharing our past projects and achievements with you. Our Spectra Bloggers will include the facilitators, teachers, funders of the project, and of course – the participants themselves!

Thank you for visiting Spectra Bloggers – we will blog again soon!

Spectra has been important to me because it lets me show people what I can do. It lets us show off our talents. I don’t like change and I’m adapting to other people’s abilities and meeting new people with different abilities and getting used to them, which is a good thing.’ – Spectra Participant


We are Kindred

This week we continued exploring mask work, working in the small groups we created last session; the reds, the greens, the blues and the purples/pinks! We spent the session creating a different identity for each group.


What is the name of your tribe? Quirky Pinky Perkys

Where do you live? Pinkyville

What do you enjoy eating? Angel Delight, Marshmallows

What do you enjoy drinking? Pink lemonade


What is the name of your tribe? The Red Leicesters

Where do you live? In a strawberry field

What do you enjoy eating? Strawberries and tikka

What do you enjoy drinking? Red Bull


We used our bodies in a variety of ways to create different characters, and then we devised a sequence of moves that represent each group.

The names of the some of the moves we created include:

  • X – Defend
  • Sea Horse
  • Sword jab with both hands
  • Puppet
  • Slithering
  • Fish Hook

It’s as if we have been creating our very own ‘movement languages’ in each group!




We will be carrying on with this next week – as well as inviting in some exciting guests into our sessions! Come back next week to find out what we get up to!

Masked Expressions

After a long Christmas break, we are well and truly back in the swing of things. It’s been great being in the studio together – getting creative!

This week we explored using full mask. Most of the company had never worn a mask before – but it was incredible to see how naturally they all took to it!



As your face is fully covered by a mask – we had to use our bodies to express ourselves even more than we normally would. This exaggerated physicality helped us create some really interesting characters!




As you can see, the masks were rather plain and simple, and so to help us develop our characters further, we used various craft materials to design our mask.


There were 4 different coloured coded zones: blues, greens, oranges/reds and pinks/purples. We had to choose one and stick to it – making the mask fit into one colour category.



We will be using these masks next week to develop our non-verbal theatre skills further – working in our new-found colour coordinated mask groups!

Watch this space to find out how we get on!

Our great big hearts are racing

Just over 3 weeks ago, we were involved in a national event called Creative Minds Midlands, at mac birmingham.

It’s taken a lot of planning to make it happen! For the past year or so, Kate, Sam and Bethan have been representing Spectra at ‘Steering Group Meetings’. As a ‘Steering Group’ we met every month to share ideas and organise the event; we ‘steered’ the conversations and actions, making sure things were going in the right direction. The event was co-created, meaning that Young People With Learning Disabilities (YPWLD), and people without learning disabilities came up with the ideas and made it happen.

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All of these organisations were involved in putting the event together


The rest of the Spectra team very were involved on the day itself. We wrote a Rallying Chant especially for the event – it aimed to make the delegates (people who came to the event) stop and listen. The whole event was about doing and taking action, and so we needed to make sure people were ready for action!

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Welcoming the delegates


Don’t be shy – Ready for action – We’re going to lead the way – Join us – Let’s work together –

Be brave – Freedom – Fighting fit – Hear our voices – Stand tall

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Ready for action!


‘Here we are together

Our great big hearts are racing

We’re standing strong to fight for

Creative minds that can.’

Another part of the day we were involved in was leading the delegates around different ‘Rooms Of Wonder’. These rooms included getting involved in a non-verbal drama workshop, watching films of work/projects involving YPWLD, watching live performances from ‘dynamic duos’, and creating a Sensory Sculpture! We helped guide the delegates from room to room – in some multi sensory ways…


Popcorn pointing the way…


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This way please!


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There’s always a tasty treat when we’re around!


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Popcorn in the film room


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Sensory bunting guiding the way


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Bethany leading the group


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Where’s Mike gone?


The afternoon was about reflecting on what people had experienced in the morning and delegates were encouraged to ask the questions:

What next?

What will you do as a response from today?

What do you promise to change or do differently?

What do you want to start doing?

In the Room of Words,  there were different activities for the delegates to get involved in to help them begin to think through and answer some of those questions.

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The Room of Words


After break – we were all given a small jam jar, with soil and a forget-me-not seed inside. There was a sticker on the side of the jar that said: ‘My Pledge Is…’

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Plant your Pledge


We all had to decide on a pledge (a promise) that we could make as a response from the day.

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Everyone holding up their pledge


‘When we’re apart we are broken.’

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Ready for action!


‘We meet with open hand, Super woman, super man,

Brighter colours in our land, Brighter colours in our land.’


What a team – the Steering Group at the end of the day!


To find out more about this event – you can read Bella Todd’s review here: http://disabilityarts.online/magazine/opinion/young-people-revolutionise-the-agenda-for-creative-minds-midlands/


Photo credits: Kate Green

The Colours of Birmingham

After a fairly quiet Summer, we are now back in full swing here at Spectra!

At the end of September, we were invited to take part in the Rangeeli Colours of Birmingham Parade, as part of Birmingham Weekender. The parade celebrated all things Birmingham – its diversity, its communities and its artists; and it even welcomed international performers from around the world to our city.

It really was spectacular. There were vibrant hand-held puppets, flags, masks, costumes and an amazing, life-size mechanical elephant called Harminder.

The lovely Manuela Benini (artistic director of the parade) came to visit us at mac birmingham for a workshop. We explored different ways we could use our bodies to explore the various characters that we would be acting as.

There was a smart, corporal-like rooster, some exotic tribal men, the queen of hearts, a cheeky clown, some tropical fish and more…

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 09.47.15Us all at mac birmingham, trying on our costumes!

IMG_2464Luke getting ready…

IMG_2469What a transformation!

IMG_2473There were people representing every country in the world.

IMG_2478Bethan & Kate were the tropical fish.

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 09.46.59All ready to go on the parade.

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 09.46.40Out and about in the city-centre.


It was a brilliant event – we all had so much fun. It was great to celebrate the diversity of our city and represent Spectra in such a massive, creative event!

A huge thanks to Sampad South Asian Arts, Birmingham Weekender & Manuela Benini for  producing it.

‘There isn’t one way of doing theatre’

Paige Holloway, a founding member of BecauseWeCanCanCan and has written a review of our recent show, Hanging In The Balance. Paige is a Creative Enabler, and she works closely with Open Theatre Company, supporting other young people with learning disabilities (YPWLD) to be involved in creative activities. She is fantastically honest, passionate, and determined.


I thoroughly enjoyed Spectra’s performance of Hanging In The Balance. The whole thing. The beginning, the middle, and the end. This is a big deal. I don’t say that about some shows that have been to in the West End. Despite the small amount of time that the cast had to put it together, it was well thought through and brilliantly done.

I particularly liked the way the story flowed – even though it was broken down into sections, as we travelled on a journey into different rooms and spaces!

The involvement of food was great, and this is one reason why Spectra shows are always so unexpected and fun. We had to use all of our senses during the show and not many shows make you do that. It was really interactive.

Different art forms were used, including physical theatre, music and drama. The musicians were really skilled and the original music and lyrics helped the story develop clearly. It was great to see the professionals and community cast working together – and it didn’t matter who was who. There were some particularly talented dancers too. They told the story without words and they were completely in character because of the commitment they put into the movements and the ways they interacted with each other. It was very uniquely put together using the strengths of each individual performer.

One minor problem was that although the props hanging from the ceiling in the theatre looked effective – some of them were a little bit low and caused problems for the audience as they got in the way a bit.

Also, as we were travelling from section to section, on our journey, if you were at the back of the group, it was quite hard to hear the brilliant lyrics that were being shared with the audience. It might be worth thinking through how everyone can be sure to hear everything as it is all so good, everyone needs to hear everything!

From this show, I’ve learnt that you can do theatre in different ways. There isn’t one way of doing theatre. You can involve all your senses, move around on a journey, and get very involved as a member of the audience.

It was incredible and it had beautiful meaning.

A beautiful show full of beautiful people. 

Thank you for inviting me Spectra! 



A slideshow of images from Hanging In The Balance

‘This is what theatre is all about.’

‘A totally immersive, beautiful experience. Your work always has me in tears – in the best possible way!’ – Audience Member

A few weeks ago, around 250 people embarked on this adventure with us, delving into our mystical world. Hanging in the Balance took the audience into another world, a world out of balance and in limbo. With the help of the wizards, fairies, drifters (and a gorilla!), the audience battled the Dark Fairy to bring the world back into balance.



As the audience arrived, they were invited to explore the space, discovering enchanting sights, sounds, tastes, smells and things to do.



KGP_6381.JPGStocked up with Elemental Pick ‘N’ Mix, the audience were ready for their adventure…

…with drifters, wizards and fairies to help them on their way.












‘You always create a uniquely warm and magical atmosphere.’ – Audience Member








‘When we’re apart, we are broken.’ – Finale lyrics, by Calum, Community Cast Member


This feeling was really significant throughout the show, as the characters realised the need for forgiving and saving the Dark Fairy. We need good and bad in order for there to be balance in our world.


‘Here we are together, hanging in the balance.

We’ve made it through the hard times, now we’ve made amends.

Dark Fairy is our friend. The magic we defend. Our journey’s at an end.’ – Finale Lyrics



‘Spectra have imaginations that are out of this world. Thank you for taking me with you.’ – Audience member


A huge thanks to Kate Green who took these fantastic photos.