Our History

In the mid-1990s, musician and song-writer 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 people and students 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 opened in 1997 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 challenged people’s preconceived ideas about disabled people whenever and wherever they performed. Nearly twenty years later and Orpheus has up to 28 full time students living in independent flats, 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 Royal Opera House, Royal Albert Hall, Glastonbury Festival, Notting Hill Carnival, the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, and the Royal Festival Hall and appeared in hit TV show Call The Midwife.

In 2018 we are celebrating Orpheus’ 20th anniversary year. As we look back on the successes over this time, we are also excited to see what the next 20 years hold for Orpheus.

Find out about our 20th anniversary celebrations here.