Despite these times of equality and opportunity, it remains unusual to see people with learning disabilities perform music concerts to the paying public and rarer still for them to be allowed to grace the most famous stages and concert halls in front of thousands of people. Why? The answer is simple: Low expectations. We don’t expect people with learning disabilities to be able to attract large audiences and to maintain their attention. We don’t expect them to have the ability to communicate through music. We don’t expect this because all we see is disability. However, The Music Man Project is changing this perception and showing the general public what can actually be achieved when expectations are high – really high!
June 21st 2015 will be a very special Sunday Night at the London Palladium. It will showcase the talents and creative passion of hundreds of children and adults from The Music Man Project – the UK’s first full time music education service specifically for people with learning disabilities and Special Education Needs. The production, called ‘Music is Magic at the London Palladium’ will see performers entertain, inspire and move audiences to tears through the magical gift of music.
The performance will feature students, schools and colleges from The Music Man Project’s inaugural region of South Essex, including Kingsdown School, St Nicholas School, Glenwood School and The Westcliff Centre. Composers and new Music Man Project patrons Dan and Laura Curtis have written a song especially for the Palladium, to be sung by Music Man Project students and West End performers. The original London Palladium Tiller Girls will re-form for one night only and make a special appearance on stage. The spectacular concert will also feature original music from the Music Man Project Songbook, specifically written by founder and director David Stanley with additional music and lyrics by co-tutor Jenny Hitchcock. The singing, signing and wide range of musical instruments will all be supported by the specially formed Music Man Project Community Choir.
Such exciting opportunities are in stark contrast to the historical backdrop of abuse, neglect and prejudice that characterised the daily lives of people with learning disabilities only a few decades ago. It has taken a long time to overcome centuries of ignorance about disability, and although great strides have been made in the understanding of physical disability as a result of the Para-Olympic movement, people with learning disabilities remain the forgotten people, the last group of society to be truly embraced by the masses.
Music is Magic at the London Palladium will feature the world premiere of a brand new musical called ‘From the Asylum to the Palladium’ by David Stanley. The work will be uncomfortable to watch at times, as the students themselves tell the journey of their own people who were historically shut away in large psychiatric hospitals alongside anyone else who was ‘different’: the mentally ill, single mothers, homosexuals and the physically disabled. The true horror of many of these institutions is only just emerging, where heavy sedation, electric shocks and lobotomy were common treatment for patients. However, the journey from the tragedy to opportunity, from patients in the asylum to performers at the Palladium is truly remarkable and testament to the courage of the people themselves and their families. For many this battle for a brighter future continues today.
The Music Man Project will return to the London Palladium on 15th October 2017. Click here to book your tickets from the Palladium box office.
Featuring the world premiere of the new musical “From the Asylum to the Palladium”