A message from Richard Vallis, Honorary President and co-founder of Lung Ha Theatre Company
Many years ago, in the late 70's and early 80's I was a volunteer at the Action Group, a support group for people with learning disabilities and their families. After helping there for a couple of years I took on running the drama group there. I was also helping at the late lamented Theatre Workshop doing set construction. Some of the members at the drama group wanted to go further and do some acting on stage so I asked a few professionals in both theatre and learning disability for their opinions, with one exception, Pete Clerke, they all said it could never be done and go away. So we didn't go away and we did it. In October 1984 Pete brought in some of his theatrical friends and I brought in some of the drama group members and we started workshops then rehearsals. Word got around and very soon we had almost 50 keen actors.. I'd been reading the Indo/Chinese book 'Monkey' and we liberally adapted it for the first show.
The second show, 'The Odyssey' was filmed by STV and Channel 4 .
Lung Ha had arrived!
A few years later, after saying to other people with disabilities "Yes you can"
I was diagnosed with bone cancer and made my own transition from 'ability' to 'disability' and had to apply that to myself. I strongly believe that my own experience was far easier because of this.
Meanwhile Lung Ha was developing from a 'crazy idea that'll never work's into a highly successful professional led theatre company, having put on almost fifty productions throughout Scotland as well as abroad.
Many of the Company's members and their families have told me how much Lung Ha has helped improve their self-esteem and confidence in their lives outside theatre.
It's unfortunate that society often still finds it difficult to accept people with disabilities, Lung Ha, Birds of Paradise and the Janice Parker Project have helped immensely to reduce this refusal to accept disability and their work MUST continue. I sincerely hope that Creative Scotland find it in themselves to reverse this unwarranted decision
Co-Founder (with Pete Clerke) and Hon President
Lung Ha Theatre Company