With just 30 sleeps ‘til spring, it is getting harder to remember the indulgences of the festive season that saw pounds pile onto our waistlines and disappear from our wallets.

Yet it was just a couple of months ago, when the days were at their shortest, that the arts scene in York was enlightened with a poignant theatre production directed by our very own multitalented member of staff, Matthew Wignall.

Matthew is a support worker and job coach at United Response, and last December he hosted an intriguing new independent theatre project in York, which consisted of five plays. The sell-out shows took place at the According to McGee venue and gave three people we support paid hospitality work.

The production created the opportunity for five emerging directors (including Matthew) to interpret a central idea of social boundaries in their own way, offering them the autonomy to realise their own creative visions.

Exploring social boundaries

The five plays featured a cast of 14 actors and were based upon thought-provoking concepts that encouraged the audience to challenge some of the intrinsic realities of modern life. Each of the plays merged into one another and the stories concluded at the same place they had begun.

Here’s a taster:

Matthew wanted to explore the boundaries that social conventions place upon us. He said, “I believe it is still a painfully depressing fact that one’s gender, ethnicity, social class, learning ability, nationality or – to put it more succinctly – accident of birth will do much to shape the opportunities, or indeed lack of, that pervade a person’s life.”

The theatre meets supported employment

Matthew was keen to incorporate his personal labour of love with his professional role as a job coach and support worker. He knew that some of the people we support have hospitality experience and were searching for paid work opportunities, so he decided to employ three people as front-of-house staff serving refreshments and greeting audience members.

“Adriano, Jamie and Chris secured the job as they all had previous experience and they were all fantastic,” Matthew explained. “Their public-facing roles sparked people’s interest and presented the opportunity to explain more about the charity’s work. As a result, many people gave generous donations, which raised £200 for United Response.

“I was really impressed by the people I employed because every single one of them was enthusiastic and they all want to do similar work again. I’m now talking to local businesses in York to find out whether there are other opportunities for the people we support to get involved.”

Matthew could not praise the support he received from his colleagues and managers at United Response highly enough. He is incredibly grateful to his colleagues for generously giving their time and he credits the success of the production to their joint team effort.

Vicki Arogundade, marketing development officer.

Having a job can make a real difference to your life: it can help you become more independent, build confidence and start new friendships. If you’re interested in our supported employment opportunities, click here to learn more about how we can help you.