Past Projects

In celebration of our coming of age, we will be presenting 21 ‘key’ projects which we feel have unlocked doors and show the range and diversity of our work:

Lantern Walks

Lives Worth Living

Lives Worth Living looked at the relationship between two young people.

Mark, 26, is learning disabled, Joe his older brother is recently unemployed and since the death of their mother has been Mark’s full-time carer. Mark is now due to move into his new residential support home where he will learn to live independently. He does not want to go. He would rather, much to Joe’s annoyance, continue to live with Joe and his partner Tracy.

The play took place on a trip to the beach on the very last day of their holiday. The play lasted 45 minutes followed by a 45 minute workshop where the school students got to meet the actors in and out of character and explore the issues raised. There was an accompanying guide for teachers for follow-up work. The play was toured throughout schools in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear and over 3500 young people saw it during this time.

New Hartley Banners (2011)

A commission working in partnership with Blyth Valley Arts and Leisure and National Union of Miners saw Headway Arts work with Hartley Community Association and Seaton Sluice Middle School to design a new banner to commemorate the Hartley Pit Disaster. Sessions involved artist visits and research supported by Woodhorn Museum. The banner was informed by the traditional forms and atmosphere of existing banners in the Woodhorn collection. Smaller silk banners were made by local families and born on a procession which followed the route of the funeral of those lost in the disaster.

CoCreART (2011)

CoCreART explored the concept of ‘CoCreation’ as a tool for enhancing the participation of disadvantaged adults in lifelong learning throughout Europe. The project explored how this concept was interpreted in the creative working practices of different countries, through visits and practical workshops with disadvantaged groups from partner countries. The project challenged the preconceptions that surround disadvantaged groups and raised the awareness of the contributions they make to the community at local, nation and European levels. It also contributed to the acquisition of key competencies for lifelong learning and enhance European co-creation. Partners from UK, Spain, Turkey, and Sweden learned from each other, involved learners at all levels, shared ways of working, and offered enriched outcomes for disadvantaged learners empowering them to make informed choices about future goals.

Loose Ends

Loose Ends was a visual arts project exploring colour, hopefulness and the things that make us happy. The project was developed from an initial meeting with Women’s Health Advice Centre (WHAC) in July 2012 and was followed by further meetings, with the addition of the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation as a partner and finally, the submission of a successful bid to the Big Lottery.

The group worked enthusiastically, working in paint, mixed media and Swedish needle felting with artists from Headway Arts.  The final exhibition of work took place in Spring 2014. 

Opening Doors

Opening Doors was an European cooperation project with partners in Malta and Belgium with the aim of creating opportunities for disabled people to participate in the arts across Europe. Supported by Headway Arts, Learning Disabled artists from Northumberland travelled to Malta and Belgium and took their work to over 500 people at St James Centre in Valetta and the Cultural Centre in Leopoldsburg.

Random Young Peoples Theatre

Random Young Peoples Theatre was a fully inclusive group for young people aged 11-18 of all backgrounds and abilities. Meeting weekly, they devised and performed their own work and everyone got a chance to try out new ideas. They worked as a creative team choosing the way it went and helping to run the group. Random offered the test out all types of theatre from acting, lighting, writing, set, costume design and creation.

Better Acquainted

Better Acquainted, part of Headway Arts’ Knowing Me, Knowing You project, was a symposium exploring contemporary artistic practice within participatory arts. Headway Arts invited 30 artists and creatives interested in examining new forms of working together for three innovative days of collaboration, connection and co-creation.

Midsummer Night’s Dream

Midsummer Night’s Dream was a collaboration between The Seven Stars and Headway Arts weaving their powerful magic together to re-interpret Shakespeare’s most enchanting story using drama, puppetry and mask.

There was a full midsummer moon when our tale begins in a northern town in the 1960s. The folk are restless and dreaming…

By day a group of mechanics fix machines in the local factory and by night rehearse for their beatnik band. Their first gig at the wedding of the factory boss’ daughter could be their big break. As the wedding party prepares for the big day, four other friends think about love.

The strange faerie-like flower children encamped in the old woods are having a domestic and their weird hippie happenings are magically mixing it up. When all these paths cross in a cycle of clangers, bungles and faerie mystification, chaos follows…


Omnibuzz was Headway Arts’ innovative solution to lack of facilities in remote rural regions. It was to convert a single decker bus into a touring venue (with a spectacular paint job).

Later we designed our fabulous inflatable venue ‘Headway’s Arty Clarty Theatre Tent’

Glastonbury (2011)

Headway Arts took their fabulous inflatable venue ‘The Arty Clarty Theatre Tent’ to Glastonbury’s International Festival of Performing Arts to run a programme of participatory arts.

Through the Wardrobe

Through the Wardrobe – was inspired by the book The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It was performed as a strolling performance within a massive immersive installation. Allie transformed the Old Drill hall in Blyth into a sparkling Narnia using 500 metres of white fabric (kindly donated by Burberry) and actual falling snowflakes. 25 deaf actors of all ages performed this beautiful piece in British Sign Language and also used intricate masks, dance and physical theatre to tell their tale.  Aslan the Lion was a magnificent 12ft high giant puppet – who could actually sign. This landmark performance was filmed by the BBC and shown on See Hear.

The Releasing Potential Project (2000- 2001)

This was the ground breaking award winning project which first brought together the dream team of Fran and Allie! Our creative training project funded through the European Social Fund enabled unemployed people of all ages to produce and tour a community play based on their interests. It was designed to give voice to and meet the needs and interests of individuals. The emphasis was on building creativity, confidence and motivation whilst learning new (and recognising transferable) skills together within a fantastic creative team. It later led us to write a unique certificate ‘Releasing Potential -Creative Problem Solving’ accredited by The Open College. This model has been used by many arts organisations since to design their projects.

Mark Labrow of Theatre Cap A Pie said ‘Headway Arts wrote the book’

Community Drama Course

Community Drama Course(s)/Arts Apprenticeships were designed to offer professional development for emerging artists and others looking to use arts techniques in work with groups or established artists looking to develop a socially engaged practice.  These courses, apprenticeships and mentoring have offered people a chance to actively learn through hands on creative training. Being mentored by and working alongside experienced artists on a range of community projects including, visual arts, outdoor arts, community theatre and music and specialist practice in working with learning disabled people and hard to reach groups. Through applying reflective practice evaluation this learning could be accredited by Open College. We are proud to say that over twenty years we have trained a generation of socially engaged artists who have embedded these practices within their current organisations and also in their work as independent artists across the country.

Seven Stars (1997 – present)

Seven Stars are Headway Arts’/ Northumberland’s Learning Disabled Theatre Company. Check them out here

Satellites Dance (2014 – present)

Satellites Dance group is part of our New Worlds Arts Council England Grants for the Arts project. Satellites meet every Monday to explore different types of movement. You can find more about them here

Centre of Curiosity and Imagination (2002 – 2003)

Centre of Curiosity and Imagination was a fantastic opportunity to build on our work with pre-school children. The CCI was developed in partnership with Sure Start in Blyth to provide children up to 4 years old and their families with an innovative space and an exciting programme of activities to develop their creativity and imagination. The centre was housed in Blyth Sure Start’s premises and an outreach programme of activities began with the aim of encouraging communtities to be involved with the Centre at the outset and to shape it’s development.

Getting About (1999 – 2000)

Getting About was a magical performance piece created form a unique collaboration between groups from Hexham ATC, Seven Stars Performance Group and Prudhoe High School facilitated by artists from Headway Theatre Co (now Headway Arts). Getting About culminated six months of process drama workshops and brings together people of all abilities and backgrounds. It was a show for everyone.

Rosemary’s Birthday

Rosemary’s Birthday was an animated film exploring the notion of secrets. Funded by the Northumberland Learning Disabilities Development Fund, artists from Headway Arts worked with 24 Learning Disabled Adults from West Northumberland to devise and create the film which went on to win best animated film at the D’Oscars 2010.

We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of all our funders which currently includes:

  • Arts Council England
  • Blyth Town Council
  • Community Foundation
  • Edward Gostling Foundation – RW Mann Trust – Shears Foundation
  • Erasmus+
  • Great Northumberland
  • Hadrian Trust – High Sheriff of Northumberland – Rothley Trust
  • Heritage Fund
  • National Lottery Community Fund
  • Northumberland County Council
  • Postcode Community Trust
  • Sir James Knott Trust
  • The 1989 Willan Trust – Wellesley Trust
  • the Coalfields Regeneration Trust