My name is Paul Tarling and I have worked at National Star since 1997 and held various learning support and teaching roles within the organisation. My current role is StarArts Coordinator. My passions are for developing communication skills through the arts and telling and sharing real stories; to work with like-minded individuals and organisations to create, communicate, enrich, educate, provoke, inspire and include.
National Star works with young people with complex disabilities and acquired brain injuries, offering innovative programmes that are tailored to meet individual aspirations and abilities, with a strong emphasis on creative and performing arts, sports, communication skills and life skills. Learning environments are created to meet individual requirements and promote autonomy.
I first met Rachael Savage of Vamos Theatre on an unseasonably warm autumnal day in 2000 at National Star College. Sunlight shone in through the theatre windows spotlighting Rachael in full creative flow as she engaged, enthused and included our National Star learners in a drama/mask theatre workshop. Her energy and enthusiasm coupled with her empathy towards and encouragement for our client group left a lasting impression on me. As a result when I discovered she had established Vamos Theatre in 2006 I had to get her back to Star. OK, my memory is not that detailed – it was a long time ago. The point is that Rachael made a huge impression on me and the students. We were all buzzing during the mask workshops – and for a considerable time afterwards. Since 2006 the shows that have come to Star are; Nursing Lives, Much Ado About Wenlock, Finding Joy, The Best Thing and Finding Joy again last year – plus mask making workshops with art students, creating a resource for college, and numerous workshops with students over the years introducing the wonder and skill of full mask theatre.
So why does Vamos Theatre's work resonate with National Star? The use of masks and the telling of stories without using words connects people. It is such an inclusive art form. Students of all abilities engage with the story telling, the gesture, the music, the movement. Vamos Theatre promotes an understanding of the world we all share through its work. National Star is part of that world and shares the vision.
Students have enjoyed both the workshops and the performances. The typical responses from students are that they have had fun taking part in workshops. They laugh, they volunteer, they support their peers, they contribute, they engage. Students also acknowledge, often with a little surprise, that a story can be told with no words.
The partnership with Vamos Theatre is a special one – long may it continue!
Photo: Neil Smith /SOS Photography