Agency or Dependency?: The Mixed Peppers Theatre Arts Training Project for young people with disabilities

Brenda Winter-Palmer

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This article provides a reflection on my past practice as Creative Director of The Mixed Peppers Theatre Arts Training Programme. Drawing upon discourses of Disability Studies it considers how this ostensibly emancipatory project that sought to provide access to theatre activity for young people with physical disabilities living in Northern Ireland was flawed, and was eventually disbanded, partly due to a failure on the part of its non-disabled leadership to address imbalances of power in its relationship with its young disabled constituency. The article is framed within a survey of recent debates that focus upon the historical lack of a sustained, indigenous, disability-led theatre activity in Northern Ireland and the recent efforts by non-disabled professional arts practitioners to establish such activity in the region. It offers, as an exemplar to current discussion, an analysis of how the choice and agency of the young members of The Mixed Peppers were compromised by the well-meaning but potentially oppressive practices of its leadership. It questions whether the project was unduly influenced by parental desire to see their disabled children `normalized' in a high-profile theatrical production. Finally, it considers how The Mixed Peppers' institutional situation, as a project controlled and administered by a disability charity, was implicated in the premature demise of the initiative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-259
JournalJournal of Arts and Communities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Arts
  • Engagement
  • Adolescents
  • Health
  • Hospital
  • Practice Models


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