The Dukes Inclusive Theatre programme is an embedded approach to participatory arts access for a broad spectrum of needs; with progression routes for participants into delivery roles, industry placements to share learning and training for practitioners.

We have long-standing programmes of work with young people and adults with learning difficulties (Shattering Images & Red Banana Llama); explore British Sign Language integrated performance (Dukes Deaf Drama); and currently pioneer a national project for people experiencing dementia (A Life More Ordinary).


‘A Life More Ordinary’ is a 3 year programme led by The Dukes.

Our pioneering project, ‘A Life More Ordinary’, gives people living with dementia and memory loss more choice, more control and greater access to leisure and cultural activities at The Dukes in ordinary, everyday settings. The Dukes offers regular film screenings and creative workshop activities, creating a supportive, caring experience for loved ones and families to enjoy together.

The programme responds to research by Age UK Lancashire, entitled ‘Linking Communities’ in 2012. This research highlighted the need for more inclusive activities for people living with dementia and their family members who often exclude themselves, or feel excluded from the sort of events in which they had previously participated together.

Central to ‘A Life More Ordinary’ is building a community of interested and involved participants, in a specially adapted environment.  The intention is that people can feel able to come to an ‘ordinary’ social event, alongside members of the public.

During Year 1, the A Life More Ordinary programme, led by The Dukes, has been rolled out to 5 other venues across the North-West: Picturehouse at FACT in Liverpool; Wem Town Hall in Shropshire; Chorley Little Theatre; Ludlow Assembly RoomsTheatr ColwynOldham Coliseum and Light Cinema Experience in New Brighton on The Wirral.

During Year 2, we have extended our partners to include Oldham Coliseum, Theatr ColwynLight Cinema Experience in WisbechLight Cinema Experience in CambridgeLight Cinema Experience in WalsallLight Cinema Experience in Bolton, Light Cinema Experience in ThetfordLight Cinema Experience in Sheffield, Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and Hyde Park Picture House Cinema in Leeds.

Year 3 of the programme culminated in a national two day event at The Dukes in May 2018.

On Thursday 17 & Friday 18 May 2018, we held a unique two day festival, exploring how the arts are touching the lives of people living with dementia in wonderful and remarkable ways.

This event included keynote speakers, performances and workshops by some of the most pioneering artists, practitioners, researchers and extraordinary people, working with people with dementia, in a variety of settings and in unique ways.

Click the video below to see an overview of Creative Adventures in Dementia: A Life More Ordinary Festival, captured by film-maker Tom Diffenthal.

Just one highlight of the festival was Still Me’s workshop, The Jamboree.

Still Me is a person-centered, participative multi-arts group for people living with dementia and their caregivers. It is one strand of A Life More Ordinary at the Dukes.

There are four artists involved in the delivery of Still Me and a multitude of positive outcomes have arisen from this unique, collaborative process-led project.

Click on the video below to explore this wonderful workshop.

A big thank-you to all the facilitators and participants who took part in the festival and helped make it so wonderful.

As part of the continuing project, The Dukes leads a support programme of training in venue adaptations, screen choices, marketing, fundraising and evaluation through a devised Toolkit and Resource Pack.

‘A Life More Ordinary’ is being evaluated externally by Professor Christine Milligan, Director – Centre for Ageing Research, Faculty of Health and Medicine, Lancaster University.

The Dukes continues to support our partner venues in their dementia friendly events and aims to work collectively with our local businesses and organisations to strive towards becoming a better dementia friendly society.

The A Life More Ordinary Steering Group is: Roger Clough (Emeritus Professor, Lancaster University), George Harris (Director Mirador Arts), Diane Smith (Dementia Matron, University Hospitals, Morecambe Bay Trust), Councillor Margaret Pattison (Older People Champion), Christine Milligan (Director of Centre for Ageing Research, Lancaster University), Anne Oliver (Engagement Officer, Age UK Lancashire),  Rahena Mossabir (PHD Research Student, Lancaster University), Alex Summers (Associate Director, The Dukes).

Year One

Year Two

For more information on how to get involved in A Life More Ordinary please email our Inclusive Film and Theatre Officer, Gil Graystone, at

 ‘The first thing people with dementia do is shut off – they can’t or won’t join in conversations. Sometimes when you go to what you would term ‘normal’ activities, ‘N’ is unable to join in and switches off and we end up coming away… here he was part of a group, and he could join in. And that does you good as well. And that’s important to carers, because we’re enjoying it when they’re enjoying it… and it’s something we can do together.” A Life More Ordinary audience member

Supported by Esmee Fairbairn, The Rayne Foundation, The Dowager Countess Eleanor Peel Trust, The Evan Cornish Foundation, The Elspeth J Thompson Charitable Trust, Joseph A Jones Solicitors, D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and The University of Lancaster.




Free teas, coffees and pastries are provided at all of our creative sessions and film screenings, courtesy of Iceland supermaket.






Shattering Images is an inclusive drama group with an emphasis on building confidence, self-esteem, exploring skills, finding your voice and having fun. We work over three terms to create an original high quality production in a person centred way. The first term is an exploration of themes, development of character and an exploration of plotlines. The second term delves more deeply into the rehearsal process and the third term sees the realisation of a professional production which is open to the public and schools groups.

Inclusion is about a sense of belonging, of feeling valued and respected for who you are. It’s about supportive energy and commitment. It’s a dynamic room full of people taking risks and doing something new. Inclusion is empowerment and about making theatre buildings a creative home for participants.
Jilly Sumsion, Programme Leader

In the future I would like to be recognised as an artist. Not an autistic artist or an artist with autism. Just an artist. Thank you.
Josie, Shattering Images Participant

We’ve seen a significant increase in everyone’s confidence and ability. Two students in the current group have already seen a massive improvement in just a few months – they came in shy and unsure what to expect, but the minute there is positive feedback we see that guard come down in a way it wouldn’t in a school setting.
Marti, Teacher

For further details please contact:

A scene from Imagine

Dukes Deaf Drama is a community group for users of British Sign Language, run in partnership with Deafway and UCLAN. Two original pieces have been made so far and toured extensively around community venues in the North West:

Imagine looked at two brothers during WW1- one Deaf, one hearing – who both want to fight for King and country. Our current play, Sailing Away is based loosely on the life of Gerry Hughes – the first Deaf person to sail around the world, solo.

Rehearsals are in British Sign Language. When there’s a mixture of signing and voicing it creates an imbalance. The pieces we make are make are entirely signed and it is an ensemble performance.
Jilly Sumsion, Programme Leader

It’s a wonderful opportunity to be creative, to be a member of the team, using sign language as an art form in itself. It’s similar to VV (Visular Vinacular) for its creative expression. It’s not about following a script and being rigid – it’s about improvising and seeing what comes from it.
Richard, Participant & Assistant Director

Interested? Please contact our Creative Learning department at 01524 598522.

Elspeth J Charitable Trust Deafway Logo Print UCLanLogo cosign

For adults with additional needs

Music, poetry, comedy, dance, illustration, performance and all things creative for our weekly Redbananallama group. Led by Dukes Creative Learning Practitioner Liam McCormick, participants are given the opportunity to express themselves creatively and make friends whilst having fun on a Monday morning.

September 2018 – July 2019


The Dukes is an Arts Award Supporter and Centre and we offer Arts Awards as part of our Redbananallama programme. Click here for more details

Click on the Dukes 2018/2019 Weekly Schedule for information about session times.

Click on the Dukes 2018/2019 Timetable for information about term dates.



Now for adults aged 40+

The other half of our Intergenerational group, in PrimeTime adults are given the opportunity to make new friends, develop performance skills and create a brand new piece of drama alongside our Junior Actors group of 15 and 16 year olds.

September 2018 – March 2019

Click on the Dukes 2018/2019 Weekly Schedule for information about session times.

Click on the Dukes 2018/2019 Timetable for information about term dates.

Click on the videos below to see what the 2017/2018 Junior Young Actors and Primetime group produced last year.

Listen to the performance: