Sensory Theatre Symposium – how to create performances for people with sensory needs

16 Jan 2024


Leeds-based Interplay Theatre is bringing together leading artists, researchers and facilitators at the Playhouse to share their expertise in creating performances for people with sensory needs.

Its first Sensory Theatre Symposium for artists, programmers and companies who specialise in work for learning disabled audiences is happening in our Bramall Rock Void studio space on 1 February from 10am-4pm.

Attendees with PMLD (profound multiple learning disability) and/or complex needs can experience the symposium through all the senses, with interactive installations, shows and sensory sessions running all day. The event is also offered digitally via a monitored Zoom stream, which means participants who can’t attend in person can still contribute to the day’s discussions and events.

With new and emerging companies entering the industry with different approaches to making sensory theatre, Interplay Theatre aims to bring together networks from across the UK to discuss these perspectives in collaborative sessions, paying particular attention to the wants and needs of audience members.

Artists appearing at the event include:

  • Jeremy Harrison, an artist and researcher from Playground (Kent) and Rose Bruford College, who is an industry leader in Sensory Theatre practice
  • Mind the Gap artist JoAnne Haines who has recently toured her sensory show Dancing with Colours to learning disabled and non-disabled audiences across Yorkshire
  • Diane Thornton from Tenterhooks, whose show MESS, a performance for young people with complex needs, has just finished an SEN Schools tour with National Theatre of Scotland and Imaginate
  • Lucy Garland and Amber Onat Gregory, Joint Artistic Directors of Frozen Light, who create multi-sensory theatre for audiences with PMLD in theatres and arts venues nationwide

They will be joined by people from a wide range of organisations, including Interplay Theatre, Leeds Playhouse and Oily Cart, who have been making and touring sensory theatre since 1981, and audience representatives from Buzz, the Playhouse’s creative programme for young adults with learning disabilities, John Jamieson School East SILC and Broomfield South SILC.

Delegates will also be able to see Interplay Theatre’s My Life With the Wave, a show about friendship beneath the waves which uses music, movement, digital technology and physical interaction to help engage audiences in a multi-sensory, accessible and inclusive performance. Both the symposium and the show are part of the Playhouse’s Beautiful Octopus Club Festival, a four-day celebration of fun, friendship and creativity for people with learning disabilities.

Kirsty Pennycook, the new Artistic Director at Interplay Theatre said: “We are really looking forward to the symposium to share practice with other artists and companies, and welcome venues and programmers from across the UK. With the support of Leeds Playhouse, we are ensuring that this day is accessible to people with learning disabilities and sensory needs, and their presence on our panels will be instrumental.”


    Arts Council
  • Leeds City Council
  • LTB Foundation
  • Principal Partner

    Caddick Group
  • Principal Access Partner

    Irwin Mitchell