The Winchester-based theatre company, which aims to transform the lives of people with learning disabilities through drama, dance, singing and film, commissioned Michelle Collard – an independent researcher and postgraduate student at the University of Kent, to carry out a 12-month study to find out what impact its drama and dance classes has on its performers.
The findings, now published in the Blue Apple Community Drama & Dance Projects Evaluation Report, reveal the social network size of Blue Apple members increased on average by 40 per cent over a 12-month period.
Members reported gaining new friends and having the confidence to go to other social groups and clubs, which has led to a reduction in social isolation.
Other benefits highlighted in the report include:
• Improvements in physical skills and fitness levels;
• Increase in independence;
• Members reported increased confidence levels in meeting new people, asking for help in new places in the community and keeping eye contact.
The study involved members, parents and carers taking part in focus groups and individual assessments at three intervals from July 2018 to July 2019.
Ros Davies, a Blue Apple performer, said: “Blue Apple Theatre is a fantastic place to meet new people and to make friends. You have to get on with people and work together as a team. It is about trust and focus, helping others with their lines, doing my best in rehearsals as well as in performances, being positive and taking the initiative.”
One parent of a Blue Apple member said: “Our son wouldn’t leave home for two weeks until he started Blue Apple. Blue Apple came into our lives at a time when we really needed it.”
Another said their daughter’s confidence levels had changed since joining Blue Apple and they had noticed the difference in other members: “When you watch the performers on stage you can really see a difference. Some Blue Apple performers would previously come on maybe at the back of the stage and wouldn’t look anywhere, and now they may have one or two lines but they say it and they are there and you can just see confidence on their faces.”
Simon Morris, general manager of Blue Apple Theatre, said: “We aim to improve the quality of life for people with learning disabilities through drama, dance and film. In general, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can experience a poorer quality of life. Up until this study, we knew drama and dance-based interventions may improve an individual’s quality of life, yet limited evidence existed.
“It’s encouraging to have data collected through independent reports by members and their families which begin to evidence that taking part in Blue Apple community classes help members live independent lives, to feel included in their communities, which ultimately reduces members feelings of isolation and improves their mental, physical health and their overall wellbeing.”