Hear Our Voice



Known for its energetic street spectacles and live music, Galway’s cultural scene poses some challenges to the autistic community and people with complex needs. Galway Autism Partnership‘s Hear Our Voice invites autistic people and those with developmental difficulties to be co-creators in cultural experiences that work both for and with them.

This Small Towns Big Ideas project began with a series of training workshops headed by multi-sensory theatre pioneer Tim Webb in collaboration with artist Phillida Eves, musician Michael Chang and Gary Kelly of GK Media. In July 2019, Hear Our Voice travelled to twin European Capital of Culture, Rijeka in Croatia to work with Rijeka City Puppet Theatre in delivering a batch of performances. After a successful venture abroad, Hear Our Voice is now ready to bring the immersive production to schools in Galway – starting with Galway Educate Together National School on 11 October, followed by St Joseph’s Special School on 16 October.

The Hear Our Voice experience takes the form of an immersive camping trip, with sensory elements of smell, sound and touch. GAP coordinator Aisling Colreavy says, “The show makes those camping experiences accessible to autistic children from the security of the classroom. They will set up a tent, collect pine cones and even make their own fantastical fire from safe materials. There will be original music throughout to create the atmosphere of the camp under a moonlit sky.”

Galway Autism Partnership have a saying: “If it’s autism-friendly, it’s person-friendly.” While the focus is on autism, Hear Our Voice opens up new discussions about sensory diversity. For those interested in making culture more accessible in Galway, Aisling has a powerfully simple piece of advice: “Seek the input of autistic people. For artists and cultural workers, it’s such an educational experience working with people who communicate differently. The take-home message of our performances and hopefully, our upcoming documentary is that we need to stop talking and listen.”

The project takes a unique stance on language, one of the key themes of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture.“When we think of language, we think of English, Irish, Croatian but there is so much more to language than that. The Hear Our Voice visit to Rijeka was a brilliant reminder for us, not being Croatian-speakers, of just how much we rely on non-verbal communication, and how much can be said through body, sound, image.”

Whether through apples, songs, crafts or camping, Galway 2020’s Small Towns Big Ideas partners are bringing people together and platforming voices that need to be heard. Following the sentiment of Hear Our Voice – when plain language fails to connect us, we can always find a home in creativity.

Here are some pics of the immersive production’s visit to Galway Educate Together National School last week.