Arrival is a programme of arts activities for people with learning disabilities and autism which took place over two years, culminating in performances and generating partnerships with museums, galleries and theatres along the River Thames. The River Thames and surrounding environment, over the centuries, has stimulated famous artists and musicians such as Turner, Whistler and Handle. Inspired by this artistic history, Arrival created a series of art performances using the experience of the artists that have portrayed the River Thames and the environment around it. The Outside In Pathways team engaged a number of experienced and established artists to work alongside participants with learning disabilities and autism, including people with higher support needs. The artists worked with the project participants one day a week for two years, 96 weeks in total, at the River Thames venues. The Arrival project aimed to create an important body of images and performance, including visual and digital art and film work that is reflective, forward thinking, interactive and developmental.
What we have achieved
A feature of Arrival was the production of art in a range of media. During the first year the focus was upon visual representations of the river (drawing, collage, photography and filming), alongside songs and writing about the Thames, leading to an exhibition at the Sackler Centre in the V&A and the production of a book of the groups work. The second year saw a further accumulation of materials and development of skills in preparation for live performances of an opera at the V&A. The programme staff, artists and curators and supporters all noted how the group’s ownership of the programme intensified as it progressed. This was witnessed in the improved concentration, engagement and expressiveness by participants reported by supporters and observed directly during sessions at the host venues. Participants also indicated a sense of shared ownership through repeated references to ‘our work’ and a willingness to help one another; an important outcome for a group some of whom find working collaboratively unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
I’m so pleased because this (project) has brought her out of herself… So many different things… I’m a bit overwhelmed!’
‘I tell you, it would not have been possible for him to come to somewhere like this in the past and do some of the things they do.’
Sister of a participant