Funding for Secret Diaries National Tour!

Secret Diaries

We are incredibly pleased to announce that along with funding from Granada Foundation and Equity Foundation, Arts Council England will be supporting Art with Heart to deliver a national tour of Secret Diaries.

We are so proud to be able to share this story with communities and young people across the country. Secret Diaries was born out of a need for open, safe and eloquent dialogue around issues of homophobia, family, friendships and coming out. At its heart, it is a story about each and every one of us feeling comfortable in our own skin and finding our own voice.

Through our Secret Diaries educational work, we will be facilitating workshops with young people and with the support of our partners LGBT Youth North West and Educate and Celebrate, we will be offering free teacher training workshops to encourage confidence in safeguarding young LGBT people and to meet their needs through inclusive education and practice.

We are thrilled to be taking this next step as a company and to have the opportunity to work with so many new and diverse audiences and organisations, and to continue working with established and new funders and partners. This funding is a key part of us being able to tour, and we are almost at our target and need to raise a further £2,500, we will be doing this through crowdfunding. We are looking forward to being able to build a community of supporters for Secret Diaries and will be announcing how you can be part of the Secret Diaries team very soon.

Equity Foundation: – The Equity Foundation connects donors and supporters with local causes to help local people to feel proud to call their community “home”. Our model of community investment is different. We believe that great ideas already exist within our communities, and by sharing our commitment and our resources we know that we can achieve far more than if we worked in isolation. We therefore invest support and funding in community groups and charities that work to strengthen and improve neighbourhoods and communities across Trafford, South Manchester and Stockport.

Granada Foundation: – The Foundation wishes to encourage and promote the study, practice and appreciation of the fine arts, including drawing, architecture and landscape architecture, sculpture, literature, music, opera, drama, cinema, and the methods and means of their dissemination.

Arts Council England: – Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections.


We will also be developing a new website and so please follow us on twitter @artwith_heart and like us on facebook for updates.

Posted in Art with Heart blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How can the arts be more BSL inclusive?

After thinking about how we could work more inclusively at Art with Heart to make sure every person who sees our work can experience it equally, I joined Graeae Theatre Company ( for the day…

I’m currently completing my A-level equivalent in British Sign Language (BSL). I am learning more and more about how hearing and deaf cultures differ and how difficult it is to access the arts as a non-hearing person. For most, those who use BSL, English is not their first language and reading captions is tiresome and lacking in expression. I have come across some fantastic interpreters, but also some who I feel, don’t really capture what is happening on stage, meaning that even though a BSL user has access they end up having a lesser experience to their hearing peers.

I have always been fascinated by how spoken words, multiple meanings, chemistry, inflections and nuances can take us on a journey. Just a look, movement or rhythm of a performers speech can change everything. In our rehearsals we are always trying something now, we say that if you’ve done something once, don’t do it again. Don’t act, just be. Be in the moment – enact. Respond to the space, moment and other performers. Sometimes the movement of one object in an opening scene can set off a ripple which means something is different by the end scene. The core is always there, what we call ‘The Centre’, and we all work from it, but performers need to be in the moment, just as we all are as humans. So how does this practice translate to an interpreter, who is usually isolated on one side of the stage, not watching the performers but in turn becoming them, performing themselves, creating each person and speaking for them. How can they enact without being in the action?

Whenever possible I go and watch performances with a BSL interpreter. It is usually only one night and large scale pieces in main spaces or musicals. This is not where my regular theatre ticket money goes, I am much more a studio, intimate space kind of audience member which means if I wasn’t hearing, I could hardly ever access this work. When booking venues for Secret Diaries tour, one of the highlights of conversations with programmers was about our BSL interpreter as part of our team. Venues welcomed it being part of a studio tour, and highlighted how rare it is.

We want to make sure our BSL using audience have an equal experience to our hearing ones, something Graeae Theatre Company have been doing for a long time; they don’t just have an interpreter but BSL is fully incorporated and woven into their work.

Graeae’s work is very different to ours but I wanted to spend a day in rehearsals with them to see, how working with deaf, hard of hearing and hearing actors together worked. I had seen it look effortless in their performances, but what was it like in rehearsals? I was about to find out.

On the 7am train to London I felt nervous and excited and like the day would start to inform a new way of looking at our future work. As soon as I arrived I felt welcome. Stephen answered hundreds of my questions openly and within a few minutes I’d been made a coffee and had a seat. As they worked though Iron Man, it was an intense start to the day ensuring that every movement was so precise, especially when movement is joined by music. It became more and more clear how much easier and efficient it was for other members of the company to sign, even just a little, especially the director. At one point one of the deaf actors touched the speaker to feel the vibrations for timing her cue. It suddenly dawned on me how useful music is for both the hearing and deaf actors.

The Iron Man has puppeteering, moving set, music, musicians, interpreters all working together. There is so much to think about, including sound and visual cues yet they all seem to work so well in sync and supportive of each other.

Lunch time allowed me to think about us, how we could work in this way and start to think about new work. It is so refreshing to be in a rehearsal room where everybody signs, at least a little bit. I started to think about the way we work and how you never really know where someone will be on stage because we are feeling our way through the moment, but this would not accommodate lip-reading and visual cues at all.

Seeing how it works with hearing and deaf performers in a rehearsal room was so refreshing and by the afternoon I had forgotten that this isn’t like every other rehearsal room. Seeing it in action would benefit anyone, reminding us all that we’re all human and moving towards the same goal in rehearsals; to make something great. We will always find a way to communicate, whether you sign, lip-read, gesture, once you realise that, it starts to become irrelevant if someone is hearing, non-hearing, able bodied or not. As long as we’re all on the same page then we’re winning.

  • Sarah Evans
Posted in Art with Heart blog | 1 Comment

We are under construction…

Under Construction

Wow. What a year 2014 has been! We’ve had our heads swimming in an exciting sea of planning after our performance at Square Chapel that we haven’t had a chance to update you all.

We had some incredible responses from audiences in Halifax, including a teacher from a school who came to see Secret Diaries in the afternoon:

“Interesting, well done and carefully put across. It was great to see a play which involved the issue of coming out aimed in a non-patronising way. I was so glad my students were able to see it and felt all identified with the characters, gay or straight.” - Sowerby Bridge High School

The Lord Mayor of Manchester had some wonderful things to say about us too:

Art with Heart works with young people using theatre and creative workshops to engage with them and to help break down prejudice and foster understanding. Inspiring young people while promoting diversity and instilling a passion for the arts is certain to improve the lives of everyone involved with Art with HeartLord Mayor of Manchester Councillor Naeem ul Hassan

Some young people in our audience also told us Secret Diaries helped them:

“Understand how gay people feel and we shouldn’t judge them”

“The effect of this occurring in real life, and what to do if you’re in that situation”

“The workshop helped me to understand some cases of my life”

We are currently working towards Secret Diaries on tour, and there will be so much to talk about, we decided that it was high time we smartened up our website, so we’re working towards something pretty fancy and we cannot wait!

So, at the moment follow us on twitter @artwith_heart or on our facebook page /weareartwithheart for updates and we’ll see you soon!

Rachel in a box

Posted in Art with Heart blog | Leave a comment

Our new year updates!

SECRET DIARIES announced as winner of 'Theatre Production of the Year 2013'

SECRET DIARIES announced as winner of ‘Theatre Production of the Year 2013′

We should start by saying HAPPY 2014 and THANK YOU to everyone who voted for us in these awards, we cannot believe we beat giants Wicked an The Pride to the top spot. We cannot thank you enough.

Today marks one month until the performance of Secret Diaries at Square Chapel. Please do book your tickets in advance from Squarechapel

We have SO much to catch up on to blog so we’ll start from when we went to visit one of the youth groups at LGBT youth north west who told us some shocking and heart warming tales of how they have experienced both homophobia and support. We asked them, if they had the chance, what would they say to some of those bullies. One that stuck in my mind was:

“Love is love, no matter what their gender is”

We hope to carry that through our work. We also asked them what advice they would give to others who are coming out, and to those who are:

“Always stay true to yourself, no matter what they say”, “Tell yourself first”, “Expect a mixed reaction”, “People might surprise you”, “Be proud of who you are”

It was fantastic to spend some time with them and to listen, something which we often don’t get a lot of time to do, but LGBT Youth North West work hard to give these young people a safe space to talk, to listen, and to ask questions.

We then went to Newall Green High School and spoke to some teachers about how they deal with homophobia. The school has been highlighted as one of the most active in Manchester to challenge homophobia and so we wanted to know what advice we could take from them to pass onto other schools. The sentence that came up time and time again was, communication is the key, we have regular meetings and help each other help the students

We’ve also just confirmed that we will be working with the brilliant Co-operative Academy of Manchester to work with them on Secret Diaries and also our schools workshop and education pack which the brilliant Tamzin Forster is currently illustrating for us!

We then were extremely fortunate to spend a week developing the workshop and education pack with Chris Cooper from Big Brum Theatre Company in a very specific Bondian framework. It was an incredible week and set us up for our first week of rehearsals before Christmas. One of our actors said 

“This work we’ve done this week will change the way I approach my practice forever. It’s been an incredible week!”

And it was! The company are geared up and ready to come back together after our Christmas break after having the best Christmas gift of all, our award for Theatre Production of the Year!

We’ve had production, design, bsl translation, publicity and education meetings among all the excitement and cannot wait for you all to see the performance. Please book your tickets here: Squarechapel and whilst the page is loading, crank up the volume and get a load of this…


Posted in Art with Heart blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t assume and LGBT Youth North West


Tomorrow I’m going to have some time with the youth group at LGBT Youth North West; an organisation close to our hearts who have helped us a lot. Earlier this year we did some work with them to develop SECRET DIARIES and tomorrow evening will follow on from that. The young people are incredible, the staff and volunteers are dedicated and together they are helping to make a change to lives.

Along with lots of youth services, they look to the public to make donations, especially after all the cuts. We have been lucky enough to see them in action and believe us, they are a worthwhile organisation to donate to. They also run a campaign which I cannot express he importance of called ‘Don’t assume…’ – and lets face it, we make assumptions about people, but it is important to know the impact of those assumptions. The importance of this was highlighted for me last week when I met someone who DIDN’T assume, which is SO rare. After asking if I had a partner (no mention of gender…), I replied “yes, I’ve been with my girlfriend for nearly 4 years” and to my surprise she became the first person EVER to follow this up with: “So, are you gay or bi?”. Blimey. I always prepare myself for the ‘… but I’m not gay, I’m bisexual which means…’ but I didn’t need to. Here was a 26 year old nurse ASKING me, not ASSUMING. I took a deep breath and I could feel the tension in my shoulders ready to answer questions or defend my sexuality, just fall away; it was so refreshing! I said to her that it was wonderful that she asked me rather than assuming, as most people do and she told me that she thought it was important not to assume, and she is SO right.

I’m proud to say that we’re working with LGBT Youth North West who are doing everything they can to ensure more and more people don’t assume, and for that they need your help. Follow their social networking pages, champion their work, request for them to come and do some training where you are and also help them function and continue their work by donating to them here:

We’re really looking forward to talking to the youth group who will be helping us shape our education work with SECRET DIARIES so we’ll blog about it afterwards so watch out…

Posted in Art with Heart blog | Leave a comment

We love Mcr, flyers, posters, video and growing excitement!

We love Mcr

We have exciting news! The Lord Mayor of Manchester’s charity ‘We love MCR’ have given us some funding to deliver workshops in an academy school! We’re really proud and excited!

Today has been a brilliant! Not only are we excited about our extra work with the Lord Mayor but the flyers made it to Square Chapel, the posters are coming tomorrow and I’ve been editing a promo SECRET DIARIES video…

So much is happening and I feel so excited. We can’t wait to start challenging homophobia in schools and as I added some quotes we’ve collected from reviewers and audience members from our development performances to the video I felt my heart swell with pride. We have been surrounded by such a huge amount of positive support for SECRET DIARIES so thank you to everyone who has supported us; audience, young people, mentors, company members, organisations, funders, bloggers, sharers and retweeters – THANK YOU!

Posted in Art with Heart blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rachel Moorhouse on working with Big Brum…


Rachel Moorhouse – Secret Diaries Director

There aren’t many things that can get me out of bed at 4.45am on a rainy Monday morning. However, the prospect of going to see the wonderful Big Brum Theatre Company perform their new piece ‘Touched’ in Birmingham, has myself and the rest of the ‘Secret Diaries’ team, (bar a poorly Jen) bolting down the M6 before sunrise. 

We arrive at 8.30am where we are greeted by the lovely Chris Cooper, Artistic Director of Big Brum, who leads us into the space. 

I have never seen Big Brum in action before, having only watched video footage of their work. As soon as the company step onto the stage to introduce themselves and begin to discuss what we are about to see, I’m hooked, as are the rest of the audience – 120 lively students who thought they were in for an easy morning.

Big Brum, make it clear to their captivated audience that the next few hours are not just about fun, they expect the students to work too. And when they say work, they mean work. Big Brum ask the audience to explore ‘What it means to be human?’. They ask the students bold questions such as ‘What would you die for?’. It’s challenging for the pupils, however this is what I love about Big Brum’s approach – they never underestimate the intelligence, integrity or insight of young people. They ask complex questions and treat their young audiences with respect, and in return they are given respect.

‘Touched’ is a fantastic new piece of drama, which warrants response and discussion and lends itself well as stimulus for a fulfilling workshop. The Big Brum team really are some of the most skilled facilitators I have seen, and over the space of an hour they create an environment which is open, inclusive, challenging and stimulating. Their approach appears effortless,  and yet the responses they evoke from the young people are remarkable. 

After the workshop we spend the afternoon with Chris who gives us a little more insight into Big Brum’s processes. We also start to discuss plans for our workshops with Chris in December, looking at ways to approach ‘Secret Diaries’. I leave feeling focused and inspired. The excitement has started to kick in.

Posted in Art with Heart blog | Leave a comment