Disability and arts News and blogs Lee Simpson and Orpheus The Sellotape puppet We love finding new ways to help students learn through the skills and experiences of others. So when local improv actor Lee Simpson (one member of the outstanding Comedy Store Players) said he would like to visit Orpheus and meet some of our amazing students, we were thrilled. So that is how, one chilly November day, Lee came to explore the world of Orpheus. He was blown away by our students. He was impressed by how confidently they talked to him about what they were learning, and was interested in how openly they discussed what their hopes for the future were, when they leave Orpheus. But Lee’s journey with Orpheus doesn’t stop there. After performing a very memorable reading at our Carol Concert in December, he agreed to come and talk to our students at our weekly Funky Friday session. “Come and do Funky Friday" they said. “We get together, take a look at the week that has just gone and sometimes have someone come in and tell us about their work.” I was up for it of course. I’d already visited the Orpheus Centre and been shown around. It was a delight to see so many young people so hard at work and so enjoying their work. Every classroom I went into was a hive of activity and I was even sung to and shown visual art. It’s probably the closest I’ll get to feeling like Princess Anne. I loved the atmosphere of the place. It was at once a caring and supportive environment but equally a demanding one that expected dedication and ambition from its students. A little while later I had the best night of my Christmas at the Orpheus Carol Concert, a wonderful evening where the students got to show off their considerable talents. So getting to visit again and do a Funky Friday was an immediate “Yes” from me. But what to talk to the students about? “Tell them about your career.” I was told. But I thought back to when I was a teenager and the idea of some old geezer like me coming in and talking about themselves didn’t seem like the sort of thing I would have been riveted by. With this in mind I thought about a back up plan… When I arrived the welcome was as warm as expected. I was shown into the theatre space and gradually students arrived and the energy and noise levels went up. Lots of people were chatting to me and I felt right at home. Funky Friday started and there were announcements, weekly awards, performances and a little bit of very enjoyable chaos. Then it was my turn. Up I went and started to chat. Pretty quickly the first question was fired at me. Before I’d had a chance to really answer that one another question came. These were very enquiring minds and they’d found my weak spot because ploughing on regardless is not a particular strength of mine. Pretty soon I decided that I should stop telling them about what I did and I should show them. What I do (or at least one of the things) is improv. I got a volunteer - there were lots of offers - and we played a simple improv game. This was better. The old phrase “Show don’t tell” has got something to say for it. I did some more improv with a couple of other students and everyone seemed to be enjoying it. My finale was a speciality of my theatre company which is to take ordinary everyday sellotape and with the help of some more volunteers we formed it into a glistening puppet creature. A generous round of applause and cheering later and everyone was ready to break up for the weekend. I had a ball. If you want a fizzy, fabulous, funky Friday to cap off your week you’ll find it at Orpheus. You can watch how much our students enjoyed his visit in our short film of Lee at Funky Friday below: If you want to find out more about life at Orpheus then just explore our website. Or, if you think you know someone who would like to talk at our weekly Funky Friday sessions then please do get in touch. Thank you again to Lee for sharing his experiences and giving our students a Friday to remember.