How it started
The company was founded by Jane Jessop in 2005, as part of Winchester Mencap, with one part time drama teacher supported by volunteers.
In 2009, we were able to employ our first Artistic Director. In 2013 the company became established as a fully independent registered charity. In 2014, we were able to employ our first, full-time, Manager to work alongside our Artistic Director, Choreographer and Administrator.
Volunteer support has always been vital to the success of the company.
Their help is crucial to the delivery of over 400 drama and dance workshops a year for over 70 members, in addition to two professional theatre shows and one touring production each year. We are greatly indebted to them.
What we do
Through producing high quality theatre, dance and film we aim to challenge prejudice and transform the lives of people with a learning disability.
Blue Apple is based in Winchester, Hampshire but performs nationally with an ever expanding touring network. We strive to build effective partnerships regionally and nationally, sharing our approach as an exemplar of good practice.
We plan to continue to raise the profile of our inclusive work and of the talent of our members, and to challenge attitudes to disability across the country.
What we've done
Blue Apple have produced 24 original theatre productions since 2005. These have included full company productions of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (2010), ‘The Government Inspector’ (2011), ‘The Snow Queen’ (2013), ‘Arabian Nights’ (2014) and ‘The Selfish Giant’ (2015).
Major touring productions have included the ground-breaking, anti-hate-crime show, Living Without Fear (2011-14); Hamlet (2012); and Much Ado About Nothing (2015).
Hamlet went on to be the subject of William Jessop’s hour-long BBC3 documentary ‘Growing up Downs’ which won the prestigious Creative Diversity Network Most Ground-Breaking Programme Award for changing perceptions of disability and was nominated for an International Emmy.
Much Ado About Nothing gained standing ovations across the South, including performances at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and Jersey Arts Centre.
Blue Apple’s dance performances have been commissioned for festivals, conferences and prestigious events nationally.
Blue Apple is influencing national agendas through its live performance and films by tackling challenging issues head on.
Living Without Fear performed in 42 venues to over 5,000 people, including to ministers and MPs in Parliament. This resulted in changed Police practice and led to a commission by the Police to produce a training film, Paul’s Story. A new film, similarly based on the theme of disability hate-crime, will be produced for school-age children, in 2016.
The film, Freddie’s Story, responded to the national Mencap report Death by Indifference and is being used nationally for training medical staff within the NHS and private health care sector. The film has currently sold to 35 Health Trusts across the country.
Blue Apple is leading a study to measure and demonstrate the impact of its work.
By identifying the effect its work has on the social and personal development of its members it aims to bring about widespread change in attitude towards the capabilities of learning disabled and their ability to contribute to society.
Blue Apple believes that its work enables and empowers its performers, challenging perceptions and changing expectations.
Letter from patron Heidi Thomas
The emotional power of theatre never fails to move me. It is an art form entirely about interaction – actor with actor, actor with text, actor with the audience. It is about trust, collaboration, and the development of bonds. Yet it also allows each individual to shine, with every performer adding something precious to the mix – be it humour, vocal power, physical grace, or the simple ability to make the watcher weep.
The work Blue Apple exemplifies and celebrates all that is most valuable in drama. It brings people together, and lets them reach out. It inspires and it stimulates, it speaks, and it is heard.
The achievements of these talented, passionate young people deserve to be seen and celebrated. I am therefore thrilled to be supporting this exciting performance at the Globe. However Blue Apple also deserves to flourish and grow, so that more actors – and a wider audience – can be enriched by the experience it offers.
I do hope you will join me in supporting this wonderful company as they expand, embrace new challenges, and move forward into the future.
Heidi Thomas is one of the UK’s foremost dramatists. Her award-winning theatre work has been produced internationally, and performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company and on Broadway. Heidi’s television credits are extensive and distinguished. She created, writes and executive produces the hit TV series Call the Midwife (Neal Street Productions) for the BBC. The show frequently features stories centred on issues of diversity, disability and inclusivity, and is currently the most watched drama on British television.
Trustees & Directors of Blue Apple Theatre
Jane Jessop - Founder
Blue Apple was founded 10 years ago by Jane Jessop to provide opportunities for those with learning difficulties to participate in theatre and dance to develop social ability, behavioural and performance skills of individuals with a wide range of learning disabilities, with no ceiling on our expectations of them. Over the last 10 years Jane has led the company, and now as Founder continues to champion those with learning disabilities, and challenge society's preconceptions.
Alan Lovell DL - Patron
Alan Lovell had a career in business, much of it as a restructuring specialist; he also held senior roles in renewable energy and insurance. He is now Chair of the Consumer Council for Water.
In Hampshire, he is Chairman of the Blue Lamp Trust and the Hampshire Cultural Trust, both of which he founded, and of the Mary Rose. He is a Governor of the University of Winchester and a Trustee and Member of Council of Winchester Cathedral. He was High Sheriff of Hampshire in 2010/11 and was appointed DL in 2012.
Georgiana Robertson - Chair
Georgiana Robertson has just left Hampshire County Council after 25 years where she worked for Adult Social Services in many capacities, most recently in developing four new Extra Care Housing schemes, and before that as an operational manager in services for people with a learning disability.
She grew up in the world of professional theatre as her parents were world- class puppeteers, performing alongside the big names of stage and screen. She has two daughters, both in education in Winchester (at time of writing). She is delighted to be a trustee of Blue Apple Theatre and is looking forward to playing a part in its continuing success.
Nick Goulding - Trustee
A graduate of King's College, London and a Chartered Accountant and Tax Adviser with KPMG until retirement, Nick acts as honorary Treasurer or Trustee for a number of non profit organisations and charities including Lord Wandsworth College, St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital, King's College London Association, Chartered Institute of Taxation, Tax Advisers Charitable Trust, Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators, and Winchester St Lawrence with St Swithun upon Kingsgate PCC. He is a member of the Honorary Treasurers Forum and this year is Master of the Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers, a City Livery Company. He has lived in Winchester for twenty four years and is keen to assist local charities with financial guidance and expertise.
Stephen Hanvey - Trustee
Currently Manager of the Witness Service at Winchester Crown Court, Stephen has a professional background in social work. He worked initially in social services, and then with various family support organizations, including Barnardos and managed a cancer charity supporting those affected.
Stephen has facilitated self-help groups for survivors of sexual abuse, and co-authored A Community-Based, Approach to the Reduction of Sexual Reoffending; Circles of Support and Accountability, published in August 2011 by Jessica Kingsley. Stephen has lived in Winchester with his wife and two children for the past sixteen years.
Susan Morris - Trustee
Susan studied at Durham University, graduating in 1980 with a first class degree in English and in 1985 with a doctorate. After working in the publishing industry, Susan joined Debrett Ancestry Research Ltd, which she now runs.
In the 1990s she co-founded Alresford Community Theatre Society in which she wrote, produced and performed for several years before moving to Winchester. Her younger son Lawrie has been a keen member of Blue Apple since 2009 and as a volunteer Susan has helped provide music for some of the recent productions.
Alistair Marsden - Trustee
Based in Winchester, Alistair is a chartered accountant and qualified programme manager. He has worked in industry for over twenty years, most recently as EMEA Corporate Controller of Covidien and Chairman of their UK trading company.
He has a passion for performing arts, especially at the local community level. He is a member of management committee at Stanmore Community Association and has been an active campaigner to improve arts provision in the area. He has just completed studying for an MSc in Major Programme Management at the University of Oxford and has just started his own consultancy and interim management business.
Rebecca Sheppard - Trustee
Following her degree in Drama and Politics at Exeter University, Rebecca began her career in the Third Sector after a brief spell working in financial PR and CSR for a global risk management firm.
With over 14 years of experience in fundraising, marketing and communications, Rebecca has worked for large national charities such as the NSPCC and Addaction as well as grassroots organisations in the international development arena.
In 2009 under the auspices of VSO (Voluntary Services Oversees) Rebecca secured a placement as a Fundraising Consultant with a HIV NGO in Kenya, living and working within the local community. On completion of her placement, she went on to provide consultancy to the United Nation’s Millennium Village Project in Tabora, Tanzania.
Having been a committed volunteer to both Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Chicken Shed Theatre Company in the past, Rebecca is thrilled to be combining her professional expertise with her passion for the arts as a Blue Apple Trustee.
Married to David, they have one daughter Bethan and live in Winchester.