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Hands On Training - East (Pilot)

Summer 2022 launched our pilot Hands on Training projects, supporting unemployed and economically inactive residents in Barking & Dagenham to gain the confidence and skills to take up new opportunities. The 10week pilot, open to anyone over 16 and not in education, training or employment, provided a safe, fun environment to gain confidence and practical skills through arts-based activities that accommodated all learning styles. Participants were provided with one-to-one support and links to local networks.

Our 3hour sessions ran for 10consecutive Fridays, 11am-2pm, each led by a different arts professional exposing the participants to a range of skills including wood carving, spoken word, portraits photography, storytelling and clowning. 15participants successfully completed the programme, with overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants and our partner, Thames Community Hub (London Borough of Barking and Dagenham), we are seeking to develop the Hands on Training framework, focussing on specific arts and culturally themed programmes. 







Recovery Poetry






Wood Carving



Hands On Training - East
Research Project April- June 2023

Foundation For Future London, Collaborative Commissions research project

Devising a performance-based methodology to: 


  1. Connecting to under-represented participants, particularly those experiencing isolation, with little or no experience of drama, performance-based workshops 

  2. Develop shared engagement techniques to recapture participants sense of play, who identify as neurodivergent, or have lived experience of long-term physical and/or mental ill-health and/or disability and experiencing isolation and withdrawal.

  3. Produce spontaneous accessible games/ ideas/ opportunities for individuals in the group to engage with improvisation, without triggering fear or anxiety. Devise simple play techniques utilising combined arts; drawing, painting, music, dance, storytelling, improvision to trigger performance

  4. To develop the ‘confidence, resilience and tenacity’ of individuals through creating short snappy comedy-based performances for social media to platform their talents encourage sustained participation.

Process (in-brief)


We engaged 8adults aged 19 to 82 years from diverse backgrounds to participate in a series of four workshops over a one week period. Introducing games in a traditional way of starting a drama workshop, were not an option for us, we felt it would trigger immediate resistance from some members of the group. Ice breakers can be awkward for those who are sceptical and have no drama experience. Often games can feel patronising, over easy or too complicated for newcomers to grasp.


We devised a four unthreatening exercises/methods to trigger a sense of playfulness, to break-down barriers to participation and provoked a playful environment.

  1. Drawing a portrait of someone in the group, in pairs, using A3 paper and different coloured felt pens, they put their pen to paper and could not remove it until they had finished drawing the portrait together. They had as long as the music lasted. This triggered laughter and fun it was not threatening as it was in pairs and produced exciting and funny drawings.

  2. We laid out felt pens and A3 paper and asked them if they could draw sketch us / in motion while we danced. Those participants who didn’t mind dancing joined in. It immediately initiated the element of play that built a natural informal process where play was re-initiated in all sorts of forms.

  3. Elan Game – We didn’t introduce the game to the group with this name. We played some music and I suggested that we tried to move one at a time, we could only move when the other person had stopped. This was fun and silly and we became more animated and trying to catch each other out. I then suggested that if two or more people started moving at once, they had to finish at the same time, together, in unison. Through the gentle introduction of the rules, we began to devise visual scenes and stories began to emerge and the group naturally began to talk to each other as they moved together – improvisation! They were improvising in the most relaxed and fun way.

  4. We then took the group out into the estate we played music, visited play parks and as they played I began to film them. We naturally devised short comic ideas sequences for social media. The group helped to edit the footage.   

Project Outcomes


Play is an extremely powerful tool for those with no experience of drama. Play techniques can be experienced at all ages, connecting with play is a natural precursor to improvisation and requires similar spontaneity and imagination but is far less daunting and pressure building, a structure to use for devising.


Play is great for engaging those with less experience and confidence to participate in drama


(1) is self-chosen and self-directed

(2) is motivated by means more than ends

(3) is guided by mental rules

(4) includes a strong element of imagination


In social play, the ways of playing must be agreed upon by all of the players, every idea or rule must be approved, by all others. The most important rule in play is the freedom to quit. That is part and parcel of play and every player knows that. Freedom to quit is what makes it so collaborative as all the players want to keep the game going so as to continue their own fun, and because they know that others may quit at any time, they are motivated to make sure that others are having fun.


That means paying attention, even to their nonverbal expressions of happiness or unhappiness, play provides a platform for getting their own needs met while also helping others meet theirs. It is a natural way to build confidence with great artistic results.


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