The Pioneer Spirits were set up in Hertfordshire to create and provide performances that teach key messages about learning disabilities and differences and we have been commissioned to perform at a number of events and for various organisations
We formed in July 2010, with sessions originally starting at the Pioneer Club in St Albans in August 2010 (and which gave us the idea for our name). These sessions were attended by the main steering group, known as Creative Directors; together we created and directed the content of the presentations and performances we offer
The Creative Directors are true representatives of people with a range of disabilities and differences, and all our work is developed around their input and creative ideas. They receive payment for performing at events
You can book us to deliver a number of training performances:
We originally put this performance together for the Hertfordshire Learning Disability Partnership Board Annual Event February 2012, and it reinforces the point that trainers, presenters and professionals need to avoid talking in jargon when talking to people with learning disabilities and – on many occasions – to the general public
The play was developed with the group to include their own characters and responses to a jargon-filled speech, and we made a Jargon Buster Machine, which interprets the characters thoughts as they hear the words spoken. We use the machine to change the speaker’s thinking and finally the characters respond positively to the easier words
We also wrote a song to encourage people to say “Stop – I don’t understand” if they are finding what is being said to be too complicated
Other performances of Jargon Busters include a performance in Cambridge for Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust Learning Disabilities & Forensic Services ‘Sharing Good Practice’ Conference
We created a play about mental capacity and positive support for The Big Health Day, for Hertfordshire County Council
In this performance we show a group of people making choices about housing and their own personal development. We used a comedy character and situation to show when an area of someone’s life might go wrong, finishing with a happy ending, where support is put in place in accordance with his best interests
‘The Choice is Right’
We performed for the Personalisation Road Show at 10 venues across Hertfordshire
We start with our Personalisation Song (‘The Choice is Right’) which describes the whole process and leads into a sung introduction to the Game show
The game was devised after consulting people with a range of disabilities from Hertfordshire and – where appropriate -the people who provide their support or care.
It became evident that people were confused about budgets and how they might spend or save their money. The key message is about people being in charge and how they need to make choices if they want to save money for special occasions or ‘treats’
Contestants choose a ‘dream’ to save for and then choose from a number of activities for their weekly timetable, with a budget of 8 gold coins
They have to choose wisely. The audience can help by calling out advice and the catchphrases etc. Eventually, they ‘step into the future’ to ‘picture that dream’ (a photo is taken of the contestant with props that reflect the dream they chose)
The play is informed by the Staying Safe Department of Health leaflet and includes what not to do and what to do to Keep Safe
We created The Keep Safe Song which has a catchy chorus with signs for audiences to sing and sign along to, and verses to introduce scenes and reinforce key messages:
Scene 1: Keep Safe on a train (where to sit):
Scene 2: Keep Safe in the home (stranger in the home)
Scene 3: Keep Safe out and about (cash machine, mobile phone)
The audience is included in the summary after each scene, to suggest what should be done to keep safe and to ask questions and be given advice and information
Hertfordshire’s Health and Community Services (HCS) at Herts County Council originally funded the Health Champions project which involved The Pioneer Spirits in partnership with the Health Liaison Team working initially with a group of people who attend St Albans HCS LD Day Service. The aim was to develop a way in which to really engage people with learning disabilities of all abilities and associated professionals to understand the importance of the Purple Folder and how it relates to their health in general
The Health Champions went on the road, teaching people of all abilities about the Signs that Save Lives and The Purple Folder. This has been presented by graphics, song and through an innovative and funny play that had members of the audience playing key roles at each venue.
The Road Show had a serious message behind it – it’s all about saving lives and improving communication between health professionals, people with learning disabilities and the people who support them, but that didn’t stop everyone having a great deal of fun in the process
The play and song were created and developed with a group of people with learning disabilities
The idea behind the play is that any new group can make up their own unique play, creating the names for their characters, the comedy accident, the funny communication problem and so on, because the narration is all prepared for them – all each new group has to do is to fill in the gaps. Because of this, it is suitable for people of ALL abilities, including those with profound and multiple disabilities
A training folder package has been developed which will enable other groups to put on their own version of the play. It has been put together in a way that provides facilitators with all the advice they need, and doesn’t require them to have a background in drama
The performance itself is a great way to motivate and interest people, and the training package takes it several steps further, as groups can spend weeks really enjoying the drama process and exploring the key themes of the purple folder informally and in a relaxed environment with people they know and trust
Frank Garvey, Strategic Liaison Nurse for the Health Liaison team said: “It has been an amazing ride; a wonderful experience that has added so much to the agenda of equitable healthcare for people with a learning disability.
I feel very strongly that this work has been an important milestone in utilising creative media in the health promotional field”.
MORE HEALTH CHAMPS!
We worked with the original Health Champions from St Albans LD Day Service to create a song called ‘Where’s me Purple Folder?’ to encourage people to remember to take their folder with them (an issue that has come up quite regularly)
We asked them where they kept their folders, and also wrote verses about true health experiences.
We put together a funny PowerPoint presentation to encourage the audience to join in
The performance went down a storm and was repeated by the group at their Day Service review a few weeks later
And at Lister Hospital Nurses Day
PANTS! THE PANTOMIME
In January 2012, we performed Pants! The Pantomime at The Sandpit Theatre, a professional Theatre in St Albans
The play delivered a positive message about people with learning disabilities, and was created by the whole group based on a series of improvised scenes. This included a custard pie fight and a dance by ‘Pants People’
We worked very hard to make this a professional performance, and we created all our own songs and background music, which included The Rumbles in the story. Roma Mills, local councillor for St Albans, very kindly provided signing for people who were hearing impaired/deaf and we were delighted to perform to a full house of people with a range of disabilities as well as many professionals
The Pantomime brought together a number of people and of 22 people in the cast, 17 had learning disabilities and/or autism