What I've Learnt: Access to the Arts

What I’ve Learnt: Access to the Arts

Alison King

by Alison King, Chief Executive of Turtle Key Arts and Chair of ITC

Date Published: 15 June 2017


I originally trained as a Stage Manager and in 1994 I was asked to Stage Manage a One Man Show at a venue called Turtle Key Arts. It was then that I met the two founders and immediately hit it off with them. They were doing the type of theatre that I wanted to be part of, original, ground breaking, devised and accessible. Theatre that made a difference. I kept working with Turtle Key on a freelance basis until they invited me to join the company - the rest is history!


Sharing experience and knowledge ensures a legacy to your work

When Turtle Key Arts was set up 27 years ago its aim was to unlock creative potential in individuals, companies and communities, by producing and devising original, ground breaking inclusive art to entertain and inspire. As creative producers we enable each project to reach its full artistic potential and ensure that participation and education is embedded at the heart of everything we do.

Over the years we have tried to work in areas where there has not been much provision, working early on in the fields of Dementia, Autism, Dyslexia to establish ground breaking projects and to be at the forefront of opportunities.

Our work has a UK and international reach through a wide variety of projects with many different collaborators and partners.


Partnerships are key when you are a small organisation

It is incredibly valuable to work in partnership with larger organisations who have the resources to help deliver the projects. As a smaller dynamic and responsive company we can provide the projects and help to run and facilitate them, often helping a larger organisation to work in an area they may have previously not worked in. Partnerships also help bring groups and communities together and contacts that might not have previously engaged making the project richer and more rewarding from a sharing and collaborative point of view. We have had many successful partnerships for example; Royal Opera House, English Touring Opera, National Portrait Gallery, Wigmore Hall, Lyric Hammersmith, Oxford University.


Find individuals rather than pre-existing groups to work with as participants

For me this is essential as it helps us really get to the people that need the project most. It is also important when working with certain needs within a group, that the group dynamic and mix is right so the participants can gain the most from the project.

It is also very important to have a safe, secure environment and structure to the project to enable creative freedom and expression amongst the participants to flourish and remembering that it should be a fun place to be to!


Provide your workshop leaders with training and support - the buck stops with you

We have found over the years that it is really important to get the right kind of workshop leader to run the project and provide them with sufficient pastoral support for the group and their needs, so the workshop leaders can really concentrate on the creative side.

The workshop leader needs the right skills and personality for the group and as an organisation it is vital you provide them and the pastoral team with any training needed. We have also learnt that it is important that the buck stops with us, that we have ultimate responsibility for the project and all the areas involved.


Listen! Friendliness and understanding cannot be underestimated

Experience has taught me to listen to what our participants and groups want, to never think that we know everything and to be open to feedback so our projects can just grow and get better and better.

Humour and understanding goes a long way as does a friendly ear, a snack, biscuit or a cup of tea!


Free to attend             

We make all our projects free for the participants, it is part of our core values, so with all the work we do, we need funding to be able to continue to do the work that we do, so please visit www.turtlekeyarts.org.uk and spread the word!

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"UK Theatre" is the operating name of UK Theatre Association, a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, whose registered office is at 32 Rose Street, London, WC2E 9ET, Company No 323204.