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.

Over the course of the programme’s first year, ‘A Life More Ordinary’ welcomed 1,878 participants to our screenings, creative sessions and events.

We are now in Year 2 of the programme and are now developing the programme to include a further 10 venues across the UK. During this year there will be a further 19 events at The Dukes and 60 more screenings at our partner venues as the programme expands to include 10 more venues across the UK.

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.

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, Age Uk Lancashire 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.







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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

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

We are currently in the process of seeking funding to potentially start rehearsing in January 2017.
The group performed at The Dukes Theatre on July 9th as part of the Signed Voices event
The group also performed on July 31st at the Sign Circle Festival in Longridge, Preston.
Deaf Drama meet on Monday evenings at the Media Factory, UCLAN from 6pm-8pm.
Sessions are run in BSL by Jilly Sumsion (hearing), Rich Keen (Deaf) and facilitated by an interpreter.
If you have any additional needs please submit an Access form along with your application.
For more information about the Deaf Drama Group please call the Centre for Creative Learning on 01524 598522.

Interested? Please download and complete the Adult learning 2016 – 2017 Application Form and return it to or hand in to the Dukes Box Office

Elspeth J Charitable Trust Deafway Logo Print UCLanLogo cosign

2016-01-02 21.45.52-2


Redbananallama create inclusive club nights by and for adults with additional needs and their carers/friends and family.

We devise original cabaret content and organise all aspects of these popular and much needed events. We use music, poetry, comedy, magic acts, dance, mime, singing, music hall songs, ukulele duets and a huge red llama leading the conga…

Ingredients for a successful Cabaret:

One rich and open ended theme

Oodles of desire to play and interact with the audience

Plenty to stimulate the senses

An MC with ‘chutzpa’

Lashings of talent


Give control to the group, ensuring everything is expertly hosted and curated by them

Hand over marketing, design, production and copy; everything

Collaborate at every stage

If you want to try your hand at singing, dancing, music, marketing or stage management this could be for you.
Delivered by Creative Learning Practitioner, Liam McCormick and professional musician Rick Smithson
Mondays 10.00am1.00pm.
£100 per term.
If you have any additional needs please submit an Access form along with your application.
For more information about Redbananallama please call the Centre for Creative Learning on 01524 598522.

Interested? Please download and complete the Adult learning 2016 – 2017 Application Form and return it to or hand in to the Dukes Box Office

Prime Time Drama


In association with Age UK Lancashire

Prime Time Drama is a bespoke programme for people aged 55 and over; who’re interested in developing performance skills and building social circles.  Prime Time is led by local poet and theatre maker, Louise Fazackerley (Olympic park artist, former Radio 3’s The Verb ‘New Voice’)  who hopes to “Explore true stories and real world events as a basis for fun and creative sessions.”

Thursdays 1.30-3.30pm
September 2016 – April 2017
For ages 55 and over
If you have any additional needs please submit an Access form along with your application.
Membership is £60 per term, payable before the start of each term
For more information about the Prime Time Drama Group please call the Centre for Creative Learning on 01524 598522.

Interested? Please download and complete the Adult learning 2016 – 2017 Application Form and return it to or hand in to the Dukes Box Office