Autistic Wiganers with a flair for art will be able to tread the boards thanks to a new inclusive drama group.
Wigan Autistic Theatre Company has been launched by drama enthusiast Martin Spencer with the support of town centre arts hub The Old Courts.
Ince resident Martin has an impressive CV in culture, co-founding and producing plays for Bravo Theatre Company and then writing and directing his own stage work Wheeler Fortune.
However, a volunteer at The Old Courts and the Octagon in Bolton Martin realised there was nowhere in the area specifically for people with autism to explore their love of drama and decided to do something about it.
Martin, 30, said: “After leaving Bravo Theatre Company I was keen to do something on my own but didn’t know what I wanted to do. I took some time out of doing theatre and sourced a work placement at The Old Courts.
“As time went on I felt passionate about setting up a theatre company and realised there wasn’t an autism inclusive theatre company for people like myself.
“ I know that some people with autism will struggle to get on stage and I want members to be able to overcome that by creating a safe environment in which there’s no time pressure to learn scripts. We want to create high-quality performances in a relaxed environment.
“You don’t have to have autism to join in. We are looking for people who are keen to be involved in acting, working back stage and even front of house.
“We just want those involved to feel comfortable and confident in what they choose to do in the group and to enjoy being involved in theatre.”
The group is open to anyone over 18 and Martin has already secured the support of Sammy Holden, a Parbold film-maker, artist and educator who will take on the role of creative assistant.
Sammy, 28, said: “I have previously worked in theatre with Martin, and I believe that the project can be a source of beneficial creativity for members of the local community who are underrepresented.”
The Crawford Street culture centre is also delighted to have Wigan Autistic Theatre Company under its roof at the Victorian former seat of justice.
Artistic director Jonathan Davenport said: “When we first met Martin we knew we had discovered a gem.
“Martin’s passion for theatre is pretty much unparalleled in my experience so far. As a loyal volunteer at The Old Courts, Martin has become an important part of the team and brings an enormous amount of enthusiasm and many great ideas.
“We were really keen to help Martin to get an idea off the ground and WATC is the perfect project.
“We were delighted to be able to support Martin with the offer of free space for his sessions and performances and we are offering the back office support to ensure that Martin is able to concentrate on what he does best which is developing his work and that of others.”
Sessions will be held on Tuesdays at The Old Courts from 7.30pm until 9pm. To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org