Blue Teapot performance arts students graduate in Galway

Galway 2020 Capital of Culture participation in sight for artists with intellectual disability

WHEN student Aoife King applied for a place on a performance arts course three years ago, her family had no idea how much it would transform her life.

But then Blue Teapot Theatre Company’s training is out on its own, as one of the only programmes of its type in the State.

"Creative, fun . . . with outstanding tutors" is how Aoife's father, Jack King, sums it up.

Ms King (26) was one of seven participants with intellectual disability (ID) to receive graduation certificates in performance arts at a ceremony in the G Hotel, Galway, on Thursday.


Along with classmates Alan Keady, Amy Clarke, Damien Graham, Eilish Lee, Katie Dillon and Maitiú Quinn, she is among the second cohort of graduates on the Blue Teapot training programme initiated six years ago.

“Drama is the main focus, but it embraces dance, mask-making, puppetry, costume design – all underpinned by the performing arts,” the company’s director, Petal Pilley, explains.

The QQI certification to level two and three ensures the highest professional standards, and the graduates can then join the Arts Alive programme, established by the Brothers of Charity in Galway.

“It means there is a progression, and the whole experience has given Aoife an inner and outer confidence, and an independence – along with a knowledge and appreciation of the arts,” Mr King says of his daughter’s experience.

Blue Teapot was initiated by Fiona Coffey and Claude Madec within the Brothers of Charity in Galway in 1996.

Creative outlet

The aim was to provide a creative outlet for adult clients, and one of the company's early highlights was Millennium Fable, which played in Galway and Limerick and received a Better Ireland award.

Since then, the company has established its own theatre space in Galway’s Munster Avenue, and has staged shows at the Galway International Arts Festival and Dublin Fringe.

Productions have ranged from Shakespeare to the company’s first specially commissioned work by Christian O’ Reilly.

The playwright's romantic comedy Sanctuary was written in collaboration with participants .

The company receives no Arts Council funding for its training, and relies on grants totalling €6,000 annually from Galway city and county councils, along with fundraising.

“We just keep going with what we do, as it is too important not to,” Ms Pilley says.

Blue Teapot is collaborating with like-minded arts organisations for people with ID across Europe to stage a special festival during Galway's 2020 European Capital of Culture year.

The Crossing the Line festival in Galway will involve companies which have also pioneered inclusivity in the arts, including Mind the Gap in Bradford, England.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times