Access All Areas for Hackney community theatre programme


A Hackney-based theatre company is giving learning disabled adults a voice, helping them get creative and boosting their wellbeing thanks to new funding.

Three Access All Areas participants Tom, Nathan and Tara

Tom, Nathan and Tara, participants at Access All Areas

Access All Areas, which operates from a base in Kingsland Road, Hoxton, was founded in 1976 as the Rainbow Theatre Company and today stages professional performances at venues around the country.

The company’s community-based Take Part programme, co-led by learning disabled professionals, will include drama workshops, creative wellbeing sessions and multi-sensory work.

The programme, aimed at people with learning disabilities and autism, is being funded with a £58,400 grant from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said:

“In its previous incarnation, Access All Areas was something of a pioneer in providing regular drama sessions for people with learning disabilities in the mid-1970s, and it’s gone from strength to strength over the last four decades.

“The Take Part programme will put learning disabled adults front and centre, helping them improve their health and wellbeing, promoting inclusivity and giving them a voice at the heart of the community.”

Activities running as part of the Take Part programme include the Black Cab Company, a community drama programme in which participants take part in creative workshops and stage an annual show.

It also includes a creative wellbeing programme which uses drama to help participants address issues such as the return to normal life post-Covid, and multi-sensory work for adults with more complex needs.

Access All Areas Executive Director Patrick Collier said:

“There are still a lot of stereotypes about learning disabled and autistic people – the idea that they have something wrong with them – whereas we believe they are people who have a different way of acting and communicating.

“A lot of learning disabled people don’t feel welcome in creative spaces and don’t feel like they are allowed to own their own creative voice because of how they are treated by society.

“We empower people to see themselves as creative and valued members of the community with something to say, enabling people to express their creative voice in a way that suits them.”

More information is online at

“It helped me push past the barriers of what I thought I could do”

Paul Christian is Deputy Co-Chairperson of Access All Areas, and a Take Part participant.

He said: “My journey with Access All Areas started with Take Part. It gave me confidence in myself and it also gave me the confidence to work with other people and pass on my knowledge.

“It allows us learning disabled and autistic people to have an impact on the world, unapologetically.

“It has led me to the point where I am able to be a leader, a deputy co-chair of AAA’s board, and disability advocate and panellist. It helped me push past the barriers of what i thought I was able to do.”

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile, dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK –

The City Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge Houses Estates, founded in 1097 to maintain London Bridge, and Members of its Court of Common Council form the Bridge House Estates Board.

Bridge House Estates is responsible for maintaining Tower, London, Southwark, Millennium and Blackfriars Bridges, and its charity funding arm City Bridge Trust – founded in 1995 – gives out over £25 million a year to good causes across the capital.