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


‘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.



Last week we had such a great time with David Rowan (). He spoke to us about what he does as a professional photographer, why he finds it interesting, and what makes a good portrait. He has his very own mini studio set up – it was great!

We then got the chance to have a go – both behind and in front of the camera!

Some of the photos will be exhibited at mac birmingham as part of their Disability Awareness Programme – we can’t wait to see them – they’ll be over 1 metre tall!


Luke posing for the camera.



Charlotte full of excitement and energy!



Alex enjoyed using the remote control to take the photos himself.



Ailidh took to it so naturally!



Tyrone liked experimenting with different angles and profiles.



Ailidh and Michael make a great double act!

A huge thanks to David and mac birmingham for giving us this opportunity!

‘Our imaginations went wild…’

We are now back in full swing with sessions this term! We’ve been exploring telling stories using our voices, faces and bodies. This has led us on some incredibly creative journeys, devising different characters and thinking outside the box.

‘We played a game called energy ball this week. We stood in a circle and passed round an imaginary ball – we could bounce it, roll it, throw it. But as we went on, we got more and more creative. The ball turned into other things, like a balloon that we could blow up, a pillow and even a tasty sandwich. Our imaginations went wild and we were able to create something out of nothing.’

Sian, Spectra Participant

img_0599How can we communicate without words?

It’s so fantastic to have the mac birmingham Learning Support Workers in our Spectra sessions. Jess and Mrinal join us alternate weeks, and it’s invaluable to have them on board, getting stuck in and involved.

img_0597Mrinal and Calum sharing their creative ideas…

We have also used objects and places to help inspire us to create movement and tell stories. Here, Julio was inspired by his bedroom – he had a clear vision of his bedroom in his head, and he used his body to ‘draw’ it out, as if it were a creative 3D sketch. This turned into the beginnings of a stunning movement piece…

And finally, this week is sadly Dan Whitehouse’s last week at mac birmingham. He has been an incredible support and advocate for the work of Spectra since it began. We wish you all the best Dan!


What word, emotion or thing inspires you? What is your personal manifesto? This is what we have been exploring over the past few months…

What began as a straightforward film screening and a period of creative consultation for Spectra has turned into the multi-sensory, immersive extravaganza that took place last week. Manifest was the result of some serious soul-searching and Spectra’s ongoing passion for bringing its roaring creativity to each and every undertaking. The inspiration for this piece has been the idea of uncovering our personal manifestos – deciding what drives us and what idea we want to build our lives around. The evening was also a declaration of Spectra’s manifesto: these are the principles for the world Spectra wants to build. On the crest of wave made up of our three years and six productions together, Spectra is looking towards adventure in uncharted territory…

Our audience members joined us on this journey and explored and shared some of the things that inspire them in their own lives. These things included:






Egg and chips











Thanks to Tom Chimiak for the images.