In the mid-1990s, musician and songwriter Sir Richard Stilgoe and neurologist Dr Michael Swallow started piloting music weeks for disabled people.
These were so effective that Sir Richard decided to start a place where disabled young people and volunteers could work together for longer than a week – to change their own and other people’s lives by creating new music and performing in public. The Orpheus Centre formally opened in 1998 at Sir Richard’s former family home in Godstone, Surrey.
Orpheus started with five disabled students who lived on site, learning to cook, manage budgets, do laundry and go shopping. They also wrote songs, devised dances and broke down people’s preconceived ideas about disabled people whenever and wherever they performed.
Fifteen years later and Orpheus has 27 full time students living in independent flats as tenants, as well as around 20 day students. Our students are all motivated by the performing arts and have performed in venues all over the country including the Paralympics opening ceremony, Buckingham Palace and the Royal Opera House.
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Without the generosity and support of its donors and volunteers, Orpheus would simply cease to exist.