Funky Llama, TRP’s flagship project for disabled adults, celebrates its 10th year with 10 events
Across 2023, Theatre Royal Plymouth is hosting 10 events to celebrate Funky Llama’s 10th year.
Funky Llama is TRP’s platform for disabled adults to develop wellbeing, reduce isolation and enhance life skills. It’s about raising aspirations, creating opportunities and challenging perceptions.
The project started life as a six-month pilot in 2010, culminating in a sell-out cabaret night in The Drum theatre.
In April 2013, Funky Llama was launched as a project thanks to Esmée Fairbairn funding. The first club night (an inclusive nightclub event) was also held in 2013, transforming TR2 through a takeover of the building. In the lead up to the event, TRP worked with Plymouth Music Zone and Attik 360 to mentor disabled artists and DJs to perform.
The project then secured National Lottery Funding, and a steering group was set up to help improve the accessibility and inclusivity of events such as festivals and nightclubs.
The first Funky Llama Festival took place in May 2014 in the TR2 car park. The event featured national and local performers, community workshops and stalls from service providers in the city. Year on year, the learning around delivering inclusive and accessible events grew. Funky Llama worked closely with disabled and non-disabled performers to explore accessible ways of programming performances, whilst always considering access for festival goers.
In 2015, TRP ran a national conference at TR2 called ‘Differently Abled Driving Change.’ This was an opportunity for service providers, practitioners, artists and anyone interested in inclusive arts in the South West to come together to share best quality practice.
The conference featured presentations, open forum discussions and practical workshops led by some of the UK’s most innovative disabled-led arts organisations.
Another key milestone of the Funky Llama project was the launch of the ‘buddies’ scheme, which sees a disabled and non-disabled person paired up to attend events. First piloted in 2015, it took inspiration from the Stay Up Late campaign and Gig Buddies initiative in Brighton. Funky Llama started with three buddies and this evolved with each event. TRP has worked with 12 buddies in total and they are coming back together this year to attend the various events taking place.
Many disabled artists have been supported by Funky Llama over the past decade. Luke Lundin won an emerging artist commission with Drake Music, Ally Bryan composed the music for the Green Space Dark Skies film and Spike Brooks is presenting his play about his experience of autism in The Lab at TRP this Summer.
Some of the events that are taking place this year to mark the 10th year are a Cabaret Night in The Drum in June, a Club Night at Pryzm Nightclub in October and a circus residency in November, in collaboration with Extraordinary Bodies.
Funky Llama participant Spike Brooks said: “Funky Llama is a platform for people to be who they want to be and an example of what the disabled community can do. We are thrilled to have been a part of this movement for 10 years.”
Sara Rhodes, Associate Director for Co-Curated and Outdoor Work, said: “Funky Llama has been a significant project for the Theatre and the disabled community in Plymouth, the South West and nationally. From its conception, the project has been co-created with the most incredible team of people who bring their own experiences and knowledge to the table. This team, which has grown over the years, passionately advocate for inclusive and accessible, innovative and joyful activities and events that people have come to know and love as Funky Llama. I don’t think we could’ve anticipated 10 years on, the impact this project has had.
“The learning of the Funky Llama project has transferred into the makeup of how we do things in the theatre too, putting lived experience front and centre. It’s had an impact on access performances, on our website and flyers, relaxed performances, collaborations with companies such as Graeae and Extraordinary Bodies and our inclusive practice in community work.”
To find out more about Funky Llama’s 10 year celebrations, visit theatreroyal.com/take-part/funky-llama