Projects with People with Learning Difficulties


Work with people with learning difficulties

No matter what the level of ability or the experience of the group, Wolf + Water’s work with this incredibly creative section of the population is always full of high adventure.

The theatre, music & arts work we undertake celebrates each individuals talents, creativity & dignity, & is geared to each persons particular level of capability, be that performing a complicated dance piece or banging a triangle, with equal energy.

Sometimes our work can be challenging. We believe that all too often “the bar” has been set far too low for people with learning difficulties in terms of just what they can achieve & the issues they can digest & deal with. We want, for example, people to leave our performances saying “that was an amazing performance” rather than “Awww…didn’t they do well…”

Wolf & Water have worked with both children & adults with learning difficulties, including those with multiple & profound disabilities & across the autistic spectrum, working creatively to produce stunning theatre productions & film pieces, as well as running sessions with clients using drama & arts to develop social & communication skills.

Sometimes Wolf & Water work with groups on their own but are also widely recognised for their integrated work, bringing together people with learning difficulties with other community groups such as schools & amateur dramatic societies fostering ongoing collaborations between organisations, enabling groups to learn & discover new skills from each other.

Some of the things we can provide:

  • One off or ongoing creative workshops in drama, dance, music, film & visual arts.
  • Workshops that explore or consult on specific issues or topics with groups -e.g. communication skills, personal
  • safety, healthy relationships etc
  • Residencies – e.g. “A Show in a Week” projects
  • Projects that integrate groups of people with learning difficulties more with their communities (e.g. partnering localschools or other community groups)
  • Bespoke performances for conferences & events
  • Staff & artist training on using creative approaches with people with learning difficulties.


People with Learning Difficulties – Past

Wolf + Water have run numerous (literally hundreds…) projects over the years,  both in the UK & overseas resulting in performances, films, exhibitions, books & general joyous mayhem. Here’s just a handful of the highlights….

Fire and Water an arts wave devon project in Torrington 2015

Saints & Springs – Wells & Wishes

wells1Was an integrated multi arts project between Great Torrington School and people with learning disabilities.

Wolf + Water delivered a week of exciting drama, movement & music sessions bringing together year 11 pupils from Great Torrington School and local adults with learning difficulties who spent the week diving into the theme of springs, wells & sacred shrines in Torrington & North Devon and worked together to create a strange magic world where anything might happen,

Answering such questions as “what are they about then?” “can wishes really come true?” & “how did St Nectan manage to run all around North Devon for that length of time even though his head cut off?”.

The enchanting performance was performed at the Plough Arts Centre as part of the grand finale of arts wave Torrington ‘Fire and Water’.


H&G 1

Hansel & Gretel – Many Directions Theatre Co – North Devon – 2014

Using the structure of fairy tales, we examined the rise of the Nazi party’s build up to the Holocaust through it’s treatment of people with disabilities as part of the T4 program – also bringing into focus our members very honest & raw everyday experiences of bullying & discrimination. Comfortable it was not. Brickbats & bouquets. We expected nothing less.

“Amazing &  profound…this was an important piece of work”

Festival Review


A Mid Summer Nights’ Dream – Many Directions Theatre – North Devon 2012

MSND lovers dance

A re telling of Shakespeare’s love story, performed by our Many Directions Theatre group & set in the trenches of World War One. A series of shows performed as part of North Devon Fringe Theatre Festival.

A deeply moving & thrilling re-imagining of A Midsummer Nights” Dream – Extraordinary. That is the show of the festival

The Ballad of Boozo the Clown – Many Directions – 2009

Boozo Poster

An everyday story of a Parisian alcoholic suicidal clown whose life disintegrates further and further.

The only non professional performance to be listed in the Guardian newspapers “Top Ten Shows” of the year.


“Modig” – residency & performance – Ottestad Steinerskoken – Hamar, Norway – 2006

This was our second residency with twenty 8 – 15 year olds with learning difficulties to combine them with a great group of twenty “mainstream” 9 year olds to create a huge outdoor multi media public performance on the theme of bravery involving giant puppets, dragons & …biscuits.

The way you connected with the children, particularly the ones who were most withdrawn, was magic!

The day you left the class had real heartache! Thank you so much for your work, words, music…I’ve learnt so much in such a short time. I hope we will see you again – We miss you!

“The VP Team” Film & Workshop Program- North Devon, UK 2003

We were invited by a group of adults with learning difficulties to come & help them make a film about the government’s “Valuing People” white paper, the document which set out how people with learning difficulties should be treated by the services that serve them & society in general.

The obvious danger from the outset was that making a video about a government white paper ran the risk of being as exciting as making a film about paint drying…that is until one of the group suggested we do it in the style of the 80’s action series “The A Team”…& thus the “VP Team”… featuring Choice, Ms Independence, Ms Inclusion & the mysterious Captain Consequence…was born.

Having escaped from “Grimstone Maximum Security Centre for the Mentally Retarded” our heroes live on the edges of society, helping other people with learning difficulties in need…

Over six months we devised a series of episodes around issues pertinent to the group – relationships, person centred planning, personal safety, health & independent living, & then spent a hectic two weeks filming in health centres, police stations, graveyards & best of all, pubs.

Congratulations to you and the team for the film  – it was fabulous. The film and the atmosphere it generated kept a smile on my face for days – in fact i’m still smiling now. The acting throughout the film was just superb: and I now want to know why the BBC haven’t bought the whole series – and i mean that. Well done Wolf + Water

Fascinating … very witty, to the point, excellent ‘process’, all local production ….great!


“Macbeth” Film – North Devon, UK – 1998

McB - Lady MacbethWas an ambitious project undertaken with adults with learning difficulties from High House Community Resource Centre & pupils from  Great Torrington School, to create a full length 16 mm feature film (long before the days when you could make a film on a computer in your bed room!) adaptation of “Macbeth”. It was completed on a budget that equated to what it would cost to shoot 15 seconds of a TV soap opera at that time….

Enthralling, confusing, provoking, uplifting, self indulgent, astonishing and hallucinatory by turns and sometimes simultaneously… I sat watching with my hand on the remote control looking to short cut and save time – but I never pressed it – greater praise has no reviewer

An extraordinary and admirably ambitious piece of work…this film deserves to be seen

McB The Deep end


People with Learning Difficulties – Present

Many Directions Dance & Theatre Groups

On our home patch in North Devon, we run two weekly dance & drama groups for a total of 30 + folks with learning difficulties. We have just completed “Hansel & Gretel” – a performance that told both the traditional folk tale & the story of the T4 Project that targeted people with learning disabilities in the run up to the Holocaust. This ran for a series of performances as part of the North Devon Fringe Theatre Festival, June 2014.

A perfectly woven, moving and thought provoking piece of theatre. …. This poignant performance deepens the significance of the the tale of Hansel and Gretel. A truly profound and moving piece of work


Training, Consultancy & Conferences

Wolf + Water have & can:

•    Provide training courses for staff, artists, organisation & institutions on using arts approaches creatively or to explore specific issues. Our “Big Meal” training course on using drama & music with people with learning difficulties has been very successful across the UK, & been run for wider agencies such as “Children in Scotland” & others.

If you eat a wonderful meal, you leave the table regretting that the meal is over – that’s what I feel like – the whole course was a delight
It was great to attend a course where for once the material was relevant to work with people with severe learning difficulties
Stimulating, thought provoking, full of ideas. I’m going home with a total new impetus

More detailed consultancy & organisational development – we can provide training on an organisation by organisation basis, working holistically with staff & clients over an extended period of time to generate new creative approaches. For example we ran a series of consultancy workshops with Devon County Council Day Services clients in the light of the “Valuing People White Paper” that, using creative techniques such as drama & cartoons, helped people to express what they wanted from their services. This was then developed into “The Inspectors” – a piece of audience interactive Forum Theatre, that was performed to other groups of people with learning difficulties across Devon, to garner their views.

I was tremendously impressed with the performance you gave at the Learning Disability Partnership Board. I found it funny & provocative. I have had a number of unsolicited comments from a variety of people all who have participated in one of your performances. They all wanted me to know how powerful & important the messages were that you were communicating
It was really good and I enjoyed it and it helps people with learning difficulties to have confidence
A wonderful performance – great that we can have a good laugh as well as face serious problems
Absolutely brilliant – the audience participation could be used in all sorts of places to improve communication and spread the word


We also facilitated the South West peer education training for Mencap’s “Getting It Right from the Start” program, looking at front line GP services for people with learning difficulties.

Conference Performances – we have provided bespoke performances for conferences & events looking at learning disability issues for the British Institute of Learning Disabilities, MENCAP, Devon & Cornwall Police & Devon County Council -using members of our regular drama groups as performers & workshop facilitators.