Herts Inclusive Theatre gives children and adults so much more than an opportunity to perform. And those that take part achieve so much more than people expect of them. That’s why we’re launching our ‘So Much More’ campaign to highlight how we help people improve their mental wellbeing, resilience, confidence and social skills.

Without doubt 2020 has been a challenging year yet we were able to move our sessions online during lockdown and have been able to run face to face sessions where it’s been safe to do so – this has been a lifeline for many of those we work with by giving them continuity and contact with the outside world. And with your support we’ll be able to help even more people in 2021.

Please spread the news about our work and campaign using the hashtag #somuchmore and tag us @hertsinclusive

Please take a look below at just a few of our participants who have benefited from our activities. Thank you.

Zsófia

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“It’s a place for our children to find friends, build confidence and develop social skills”

Nine-year-old Zsófia has been going to HIT for nearly three years, and in the words of her mum Eszter, she’s found her own world where she can express herself.

Eszter said: “Zsófia really found herself there. Originally, I signed her up to help her with her speech and social skills and how to express her emotions in a good way. For the first half of the year every Saturday we’d leave her and when we picked her up we’d ask her what happened and we’d get no feedback other than it was fun. Then we came to the production of Cinderella and we were like ‘wow’ she loves it, she loved being on stage and having an audience. That’s how we saw what a difference it made for her.

“It’s a place for her to make friends and express herself. It’s hard for Zsófia to join other classes or sports so having something that’s just for her has been really good for her. These are one of the few activities I can leave Zsófia and not have to stay and support her. They’re really fun sessions. All the staff really know how to talk to the children and how to make it fun for them. They do it in a way that the children feel good about themselves, it really helps with their wellbeing. They really know how to get the best out of them. It’s a place for our children to find friends, build their confidence and develop their social skills.”

One of the biggest benefits for Zsófia of attending HIT is that it’s helped her to concentrate better. Eszter explained: “We did the online sessions during lock-down and she really enjoyed those, it’s really helped as she’s social and needs people and it was a door to the external world for her. This was a place every week she could come and be social. Initially, it was really hard for her to stay focused on anything, she couldn’t sit still and watch the TV for an hour for example. So to begin with she found it hard but it’s really helped her improve her focus. We could leave her on her own with the laptop and she would happily take part in a whole online session.”

Liam

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“You tend to underestimate children like Liam and yet they’re capable of so much more with the right input and support – that’s what HIT has given him”

Liam, 13, has complex needs and has been attending the weekly youth sessions for around six years. When he first joined he would only run up and down the stairs of the theatre and had to have 1:1 support from his carer or mum Jane. But now he performs on stage, has made new friends and actively takes part in sessions on his own.

That’s been a massive accomplishment that mum Jane is extremely proud of. She said: “I cried when I saw him up on stage performing, I was very emotional and proud because you tend to underestimate them and yet they’re capable of so much more with the right input and support. I felt that being on stage performing in a show wouldn’t be possible for Liam but he’s got there and he’s achieved it thanks to HIT.

“It’s difficult to find activities that are inclusive; even when they say they are they’re not always. But HIT really is. Liam’s needs are quite complex and severe, particularly around communication, but the team have got to understand him and have adapted so he can take part. For example, he can’t learn lines but he can read perfectly so he read out his lines and they recorded him.”

And being part of HIT has had wider wellbeing benefits for the rest of family too. Jane said: “It’s good for parents as well as you get a group of people to talk to and I’ve made friends through going along and built a support network.

“I’d recommend HIT to any parent who’s looking for something after school for their children to go to, it definitely builds confidence and helps with attention and communication.”

Liam said: “I like Emma [Workshop Facilitator], playing games and making friends.”

ZACH

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“The staff and volunteers at HIT have a real can-do attitude. They focus on what Zach’s strengths are and build on that.”

Zach, 13, has complex needs and has been attending the weekly youth sessions for around five years. Taking part in HIT has given him opportunities to build on his natural artistic strengths, something he wouldn’t have been able to experience otherwise.

Mum Shamim said: “Zach loves performing but the drama club his brother goes to wouldn’t be suitable for his needs whereas the structure and peer group at HIT works for him. It’s just the confidence he’s built, it amazes me that he can get up on stage and perform and I don’t know that he would have been able to do that without HIT, they’ve given him confidence in what he can do. The staff and volunteers have a real can-do attitude. They focus on what Zach’s strengths are and build on that.

“It’s been a good peer group for Zach as well. As much as he wants to be independent he can’t be usually but he can go to HIT and socialise with his friends without his parents or carers being there and he can have friends that are outside his school circle.

“From my point of view I get to sit and chat with other parents and share experiences and I’ve made new friends who’ve become a real support network. For Zach it’s the sense of accomplishment, that he’s worked towards something, as a team, with his strengths and an end product he’s achieved. He loves it and gets so excited about it.

“I would definitely recommend HIT to others. There’s so much a child can get out of it just by being part of the group. The staff and volunteers are so knowledgeable and experienced and bring out the best in every child but without any pressure, just in a fun and enjoyable way.”

Zach: “I like doing the shows and being with my friends.”