Hear Our Voice

Festival time in Galway is famed for its exuberant ambiance. It’s an extraordinarily busy time of year, with the streets filled with tourists and theatres packed to the brim with excited anticipation.


This time of year, however, can be extremely challenging for those with autism – the noise and the bustle simply be too much to bear.

“There’s such a vibrant arts and culture scene in Galway, and obviously, that’s very attractive to those who have a grá for it,” says Galway Autism Partnership (GAP) Coordinator, Aisling Colreavy. “But imagine what that experience might be like for a child with autism. Being out and about in Galway in the middle of July can be a very challenging time for a child with autism. Even if they desperately want to engage with art, it can be very frightening.”

With this in mind,GAP, (in collaboration with artists Phillida Eves and Gary Kelly of GK Media), as a part of Galway 2020’s Small Towns Big Ideas programme, has created Hear Our Voice, a multisensory theatre performance and short film to be toured in local schools and festivals. Hear Our Voice seeks to give a voice to those who are non-verbal or have difficulties with language, by empowering the individuals, their families and their community to explore creative expressions of ‘language’. As a part of the project GAP will collaborate Galway-based artists in addition to Bamboozle Theatre in the UK.

One of the aims of the project is to make the cultural aspect of Galway accessible to more people, says Aisling.

“What we love about living in Galway is the art and culture – the community is so vibrant and we think it’s very important that people with autism can access that and really make their own mark in it. With Hear Our Voice, we wanted to bring something unique to 2020, but also very accessible to people with disabilities.”

The initial stage of Hear Our Voice involves theatre group Bamboozle, who specialises in sensory theatre for children and adults, delivering training to local and EU artists in Galway. When the artists are trained, they will work with the GAP community to create a theatre piece for everyone – something that appeals to all people and all ages.

“The training that will be delivered by Bamboozle will allow artists to develop sensitivity to sensory issues. They will explore how to make theatre sensory friendly – which means being very relaxed and manageable. People of all ages with autism just want to feel like they belong. We want to create environments where, if those with autism behave in ways that other people find strange, that they won’t be judged cruelly. If we create a space where they can be themselves, they can be a lot more comfortable. That takes a huge amount of social pressure off children and adults with autism and their families.”

Meanwhile, Gary Kelly will train a group of young people in documentary making, by creating a ‘behind-the-scenes’ short film based on the process of delivering the project.

“The documentary making will not only allow these young people to express themselves through creative arts, but will also allow them to put their mark on something tangible,” adds Aisling.

The initial training for this project will be carried out this Autumn, and production will take place early next year, with the first showing of the film will take place around July 2019. “It’s early days,” says Aisling, “but we’re really, really excited to have been given this opportunity for the autism community in Galway”.