Launch of Hijinx Academy Prestatyn

Doors open on a new performance training course in North Wales for actors with learning disabilities

This week, 13 talented learning disabled performers from across North Wales are heading to Scala Cinema & Arts Centre in Prestatyn. These are the new students of the Hijinx Academy in Prestatyn who are enrolling to train professionally in performance skills on a pioneering course run by Welsh theatre company Hijinx.

Hijinx Academies set out to address a fundamental problem - that learning disabled actors are rarely able to follow the traditional drama school route into acting because of barriers such as the grades needed to attend or the lack of provision for their requirements. Rather than let their talents go hidden and undeveloped, Hijinx have a bold plan to reach talented learning disabled adults across Wales and give them an opportunity to train to become professional actors, through Hijinx Academies like this one.

Students of the new Academy in Prestatyn will begin learning a range of performance skills, including physical theatre, improvisation, mask work and clowning, which will be delivered by a team of professional arts practitioners two days per week, 50 weeks per year at Prestatyn’s stunning Scala Cinema & Arts Centre.

Venue
Scala’s state of the art and accessible facilities are the new home for the Academy. Set 3 minutes from Prestatyn Rail Station and 10 minutes from the A55, Scala is ideally located for the new crop of Academy students, who are traveling in from as far as Anglesey and Flint. The Scala Cinema & Arts Centre’s General Manager, Chris Bond, said “We are delighted that Hijinx has chosen the Scala as its North Wales home. The Scala has many exciting spaces – all fully accessible – which will be used and enjoyed by these budding actors. We are excited to welcome Hijinx and the first group of participants this Autumn.”

North Wales authorities working in partnership
The new Academy is being brought about by a broad-reaching partnership with social services in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham, Conwy, Gwynedd and Anglesey. Prospective students living in any of these local authorities are able to apply for funding to attend either course via social services in their area. This remarkable partnership is being facilitated by Co-options, a social enterprise in Rhyl who provide inspiring opportunities for people with learning disabilities to fulfil their ambitions.

Jeni Andrews, Commissioning and Planning Officer for Social Services & Housing at Denbighshire County Council said: “Having learning disabled adults in a professional acting role helps to change attitudes and perceptions by raising awareness of the skills and capabilities of people with learning disabilities.”

Drama Foundation course
Alongside the new Academy, Hijinx will be running a second course in life skills through drama for adults with more complex learning disabilities, which will also be facilitated by Co-options. This will run for one day each week at Scala beginning in early January 2015. Anyone interested in joining the Foundation should contact Angharad Tucker at Co-options on 01745 851454.

Hijinx Theatre and its Academies
Following the success of the Hijinx Academy Cardiff launched in 2012, and with help from Lloyds TSB and Arts Council of Wales, Hijinx plan to start Academies across Wales. The Prestatyn Academy is the second and it will be followed in February 2015 with a new Academy in Newport, and in 2016 with one in Mid Wales.

Hijinx’s Executive Director, Clare Williams, said “We are thrilled to be launching the second Hijinx Academy in Prestatyn in partnership with Scala. We have created the Academies to ensure that promising performers with learning disabilities literally have a platform to develop and show off their extraordinary ability and skills. We have seen remarkable progress from the students in the Cardiff Academy and can’t wait to begin that journey with a new company of students from across North Wales. It is also fantastic to be connecting with and creating jobs for arts practitioners elsewhere in Wales.

Join Hijinx Academy or Drama Foundation Prestatyn
If you are or know a performer with a learning disability who is interested in joining either the Academy or Drama Foundation in Prestatyn, or one of Hijinx’s future Academies in Newport or Mid Wales, contact Dan McGowan at Hijinx on 02920 300331 or dan.mcgowan@hijinx.org.uk.

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