The story of ‘Stori’


STORI aims to reduce isolation, improve connections and wellbeing; and enable participants to increase skills to access pathways to employment, volunteering, education, and training.

The project has been using a participatory approach to give vulnerable people and those with complex needs from Rhondda Cynon Taff and Merthyr Tydfil a ‘safe space’ to have a voice and learn from each other, through workshops, participatory theatre, and training.

Over the three years 2022- 2025 we aim to

  1. Strengthen the capability of 2445 people of all ages to reduce isolation, loneliness, and impact of Covid-19 2.
  2. Increase the capacity of 75 young and older people to develop specific personal wellbeing goals. Support them to achieve these goals.
  3. Develop interaction of older and younger people. Bring 30 groups together over three years.
  4. Support 400 people in overcoming challenges of Covid-19, those with low level mental health issues or affected by digital poverty

Funding from the National Lottery Community Fund has enabled us to


In This financial year , Spectacle Theatre delivered :

  • 289 wellbeing workshops to 2769 people of all ages. Thereby reducing isolation , loneliness and supporting people to overcome the  impact of Covid 19.
  • We produced 22 performances to 1340 people with accompanying workshops and educational resources.  Thereby providing support for those with low level mental health issues or  impacted by ACES.
  • We brought together 12 groups , to enjoy socialising or attend an artistic event. These groups were intergenerational in nature.
  • We ran 7-day trips to open spaces and theatres in South Wales.
  • We supported the making of two films , Headway and Eye to Eye counselling.
  • We provided 35 people with a warm space and food.
  • We employed 3.5 staff.
  • We employed 1 trainees staff member.
  • We engaged 8 volunteers.
  • We employed 8 freelance personnel , two Welsh speakers.
  • We  collaborated with 15 organisations.
  • We attended 8 local based forums .
  • We   provided continued professional development for all staff and Trustees.

Highlights of the year 2022-2023



Enabling  our Monday night Youth group and the adults from Peoples First to attend and perform at the Viva Festival in Merthyr. They created short plays, based on their lives, that explored people’s perceptions of disability. The people involved were particularly vulnerable during Covid 19 and many were shielding.


‘’I like working for Spectacle because the staff are brilliant and really make you feel part of the family. They are always there for me if I have home problems or life problems. I also have passion for helping kids find a better way in life because I’ve changed my life around because of this company.’’ ‘’ I love the company and how they treat you. And any changes, let will let you know, they never leave you in the dark’’.  Volunteer and participant of STORI



Ystrad and Penrhiwceiber Old Aged pensioners groups.

Spectacle attended Ystrad Old Aged every Monday afternoon ( 18 sessions .

We brought this group together with Penrhiwceiber old aged,  three times during the year.

The young people’s group organised a fundraising benefit to repair the roof of the Ystrad Old Aged building. They raised £650.

‘’Because the groups and I wanted to become more active. We are all a certain age and need to keep ourselves fit. We all wanted to try something different. You see, many of the ladies here used to sing and dance. And really miss it. I’m no dancer mind you’’.

‘’We can’t thank you enough for the last few weeks. We’ve had laughter, dancing, musical knowledge. I particularly enjoyed the film of the Women of Rhondda. What I really liked with the chair dancing was that people really went for it. C and M especially. One of the best things too, was that we didn’t have to pay for it. Because we couldn’t have afforded to do it otherwise. So nice to see C enjoying, coming alive with the music. Because of the dementia, she doesn’t always join in. But she was really going for it. We all went from here with a smile on our face. It’s been excellent. We’ve had a real laugh’’.

Mary , Participant in Ystrad Old Aged.

Summer Of Fun

During the summer of 2022 we undertook seven trips to castles and woods. To encourage young and older people to socialise and  enjoy being outdoors.

‘’ Volunteering with Spectacle Theatre makes me feel like I’m helping young people to be more creative. In acting or art or in writing. I hope this will encourage them to try new things and create’’.  Robbie , Volunteer with the STORI project


Pilgrimage Walk

Spectacle staff walked the Penrhys pilgrimage trail. Over three days we walked From Llandaff cathedral to Penrhys.

At the end of the walk , Lloyd from the young people’s group performed his one person show about the history associated with the walk.

We undertook this walk prior to running a four-month children and youth drama group in Penrhys United Reformed Church.

The walk gave staff time for reflection on the project and helped in team building .



Challenge Wales

Spectacle enabled 10  young people from the Rhondda to engage with Challenge Wales. They learned how to sail a sailing ship. It improved confidence and provided a meaningful challenge.

“I think this club is very interesting, it’s helping me express myself.”

Tyler, participant in Creative Zone group (Thursday)

People seeking sanctuary project .

This project was a collaboration between Spectacle Theatre , Community Cohesion team, Masegwynne , Penpych , and Pentre schools.

During the ‘boat game’ pupils form all schools joined in and members of the audience were also invited to play- much to the delight of the pupils. Pupils facilitated the game very well with assistance form Spectacle staff members. This game highlighted desperation, as everyone scrambled to get onto a mat (boat). During the boat making exercise the audience were asked to write a note to a loved one left behind. Responses included “Till we meet again, I will miss you and love you always”. Another read “I hope you are all safe”. Pupils also took part in a role play activity where they wore Berets and were presented as a commander character. 2 pupils took on this role. This was also perceived very well as both pupils and some audience members were invited to line up and were told they cannot board the ship due to age/gender. Men over the age of 13 were asked to sit back down, as they had to ‘stay and fight’. People were also told what they could and could not bring aboard, one pupil being told to leave their pets behind. This activity was also engaged with very well and further prompted empathy.

Another key moment was when the video clip ‘Shelter’ was played and then the coral was acted out by a handful of pupils. This allowed the importance of the message of the video to be emphasized through role. Pupils enjoyed taking part in this sequence and audience members were able to see that there was a communication struggle between the boy in the video and the person of authority that was questioning him. Key elements being “Where are you from?”, “Where were you born?” and “If you do not speak English, I cannot help you”. With the boy in the videos reply being “I was born in war”.

We were fortunate to have guests including refugee families. Mr Osmani bravely shared with the audience about the story of himself and his family. He described how they fled Afghanistan because of war and how they were resettled in the Rhondda Valleys. He shared that his children have settled in schools here and that they are progressing very well. This was a very significant point in the performance as it added to the reality and the purpose of why this event took place.

Extract from show report of People Seeking Sanctuary performance evening .


High lights for Individuals during the year .

Lloyd became the chairperson for Peoples First, chairing meetings with organisations such as RCTCBC.

Heather accepted a place in further education in Carmarthen and became a member of the National Youth Theatre of Wales.

Joel and Holly , maintain their weekly Podcast and radio show about cooking.

Rhys , gained employment with Marks and Spencer’s and volunteers with Spectacle.

Kacey , following a work experience placement with Spectacle became a  trainee company member.

‘’Before I became a member of the Spectacle team, I severely lacked confidence in myself. The job opportunity came at a time in my life when I really needed it. I was sat in the local job centre, and I saw Spectacle were on the list for a scheme I entered, providing support into employment pathways. I had always had an interest in theatre and drama, so I decided to go for it!

I had remembered seeing Spectacles work during my school years. The one performance that stayed in my memory centred around many issues, especially bullying. I will never forget the lump I had in my throat at the end of the performance, I really resonated with the play. In a hall of many pupils there was a few times during the play that there was such silence that it was almost chilling.

The initial placement with Spectacle was for 6 months. Following this I was employed as a trainee company member. I was overwhelmed by this, as the more time I stayed in the company and witnessed what the work was about, the more I wanted to stay. I knew that I was going to continue to try my best to develop as a company member to reach my full potential. The training and support that I have received since being here has been great and friends and family members have commented on how much difference they can see in me in terms of confidence.

I love being able to work with a wide range of people every day. Hearing their opinions and stories, because we all do have a story that is individual to ourselves. The work we do allows both me and the participants to see things from different perspectives and to also give a safe space to change our minds.’’

How we involved people from our community in the work we do

Over the past year Spectacle has involved many people from its community in providing direction to the project. In response to community members, we set up an adult (18+) group to explore writing . They wanted to learn the craft of writing. The group comprised of community members , professional writers, and actors. This group has led on to Spectacle becoming involved in the Rhondda Arts Festival as a vehicle for the group to have a platform to share its plays.

A future development ( MAY 2023) is a partnership with University of South Wales , widening engagement project. This is an outreach learning project. This is a nine-week course to learn about creative writing. Spectacle will continue with the group after the course concludes and support people to access other learning and employment opportunities.

Spectacle started a children’s and young people s drama group at the United Church in Penrhys, set up in partnership with the church. We collaborated the provision with Valleys Kids Above and Beyond project . Following meetings with the church, the three organisations agreed to provide a shared provision. Above and beyond will provide a music and dance provision. This collaboration will continue to offer a shared provision over the next two years.

Spectacle will pick up the drama provision when Valleys Kids and Above and Beyond finish their project in Summer 2023. Spectacle will maintain contact with the young people during the break of six months. We will provide one off event to enable children and young people to keep in contact.  An example of this will be the CAR PLAYS at the Penrhys golf club in June 2023.



Headway , an organisation supporting  people with acquired brain injury have started to run a group in Trehafod community centre.  Spectacle were in Trehafod consulting with people about woodland management. Several people that attend Headway recognised the  Spectacle staff. We had run a project with some of the participants previously in Cardiff.

In discussion with the staff , we set up 8 weekly sessions. The response from the group was fantastic and has led to Spectacle working with other Headway groups.

“There is no right and no wrong.”  “ They’re very good at controlling the situation in a not very controlled way. In terms of they are good at initiating things and then just throwing things out there and starting the ball rolling and then other people get to kick the ball around themselves.”  Participant in the TREHAFOD HEADWAY GROUP



Spectacle has invited participants and members of our community to attend training with the company. Several volunteers and participants undertook Cultural Competency Training with Diverse Cymru.


As part of our continuing partnership with Peoples First, we were invited to the Viva Festival. This produced a partnership of adults with additional learning needs working with our youth group.

This year ( 2023)  we will be extending this practice to work in schools and communities. We will partner with the Community Cohesion Team , Peoples First and schools in RCT and Merthyr.


Spectacle have become members of Caru Porth , the town centre regeneration group. It is our intention to develop projects with this group to support regeneration of Porth. Through our base in Porth , we have been able to develop relationships with local business. Emma , who worked for a local café , became involved in our adult group sessions, and is now employed on a part time basis to support marketting in the company. We are developing a relationship with Hen Llyfergell. Spectacle supports what they are trying to achieve with the venue and are in discussion of additional ways we may work together this autumn.


Spectacle worked with young people and Interlink as  a part of the Mind Our Future bid. This group went on to develop a short play about the Cost-of-Living crisis. This was presented at Interlink and Spectacle Theatre AGMs.

This consultation developed into Spectacle setting up a Thursday night youth provision for young people in Porth and Maerdy ( summer 2023) , with links to Interlinks provision in Tonypandy.


We attend several local forums where we share information about the project and seek referrals and co-collaborations.

  • Cwm Taf Mental Health Forum
  • RCT Children, Young people and Family group
  • Caru Porth
  • Neighbourhood network Porth
  • What’s Next Cymoedd
  • Climate Action Network RCT

Through these networks we have publicised the project and invited others to feedback.

We have worked closely with

  • Interlink
  • Arts Factory
  • Valleys Kids / Sparc
  • Make IT
  • Town Centre Group RCT
  • People and Work
  • United Reform Church Penrhys


The differences we have made (both big and small)

“ I like to do more.”

“I really like laughing with my friends.”

“I feel more confident.”

The biggest differences we have made are in connecting people , providing safe and warm spaces. All our separate projects have brought groups together to connect.

Young people have benefited from our provision of food at events. They often take food away for later. This winter was long and cold. A place for young people to safely be, with food was invaluable.

People are beginning to come out again to socialise . Our activities provide this purpose.

Then they take over and provide the leadership for the projects.

Spectacle has linked Ystrad Old Aged with our Monday youth group. The young people have learned how to set up a fundraising night to raise money to repair the roof of the old peoples meeting room. This brings together groups.

  • Interlink RCT GWIRVOL
  • Ystrad Rugby club
  • Residents
  • PCSO’s
  • Local councillors
  • Local businesses (providing the prizes for the raffle),
  • Professional acts performing
  • Money Manage Wales.

The event takes place on the 21st of April 2023. Following this , the young people that organised the event will present the funds raised to the group. £650 was raised.

The young people have learned about how to organise events for others , to see where need is and to use their skills to meet that need. They have learned about the organisation of events, raising funds and project planning.

The People Seeking Sanctuary project, brought together Community Cohesion Team RCT and Merthyr, three primary schools ( Penpych, Pentre, and Maesgwynne) to create a performance that explored the experience of asylum seekers. This was presented to families of refugees from Afghanistan ,Cabinet members and Councillors , Education staff , families of the young people taking part, community organisations.

Children and young people involved saw how the simple games we played , the concepts that were explored through imagination , related to the experience people have when seeking sanctuary.  The impact was profound. It created a strong bond between Spectacle and the three schools. We continue to work with the pupils who have now left primary school and have moved to secondary schools.  This is a strength of the project , Spectacles ability to remain connected with young people as they move through the school system and outside school activity.

People Seeking Sanctuary responses.

  • ‘I am nervous because I am going to comp. I am nervous to meet new people and new teachers?’
  • ‘I am going to miss everyone I know so much’.

The young people related seeking sanctuary to transition to comprehensive school.


We are going to take the learning from this project and the Perceptions of disability project  to create a new project and collaboration for Hate Crime week 2023.

There has been a lot of individual progression in the Stori project. Young people moving from young people to adult groups. Young people progressing to volunteering and further education or employment. Working with other groups like Little Shed in Tonypandy,

Spectacle has built strong relationships with the Educational Psychology Unit RCT, South Wales Police, Youth Service YEPS, and the URDD apprenticeship programme. This has developed through our workshops in schools around Healthy relationships and ASB. It supports our community approach to ACES provision. This has benefits for the Stori project in that we build relationships with young people and can refer them to ours or other provision in the community. It builds a trust , that enables young people to access provision outside of school. This is significant resource in this period after Lockdown.

We know our provision has helped by the feedback and data that we collect.

The STORI project is a conversation. We record what people say and do. It is this that provides the direction we plan for .

What participants have said.

Ystrad Old Aged pensioners Association stories:

Context- where we live, shops .


Press the play button to hear stories about where people live.

Responses from participants in Headway project Quotes from Headway Film.


 “ They take you out of yourself. It’s immersive”. “ It certainly opened up my knowledge about other people. It was good to see other people open up. You know quiet people were suddenly being quite noisy.”  “There’s a lot of fun involved. There is no mistake making. You can turn anything that you might think is a mistake into something that’s actually funny. And turn things around really.”  “There is no right and no wrong.”

“ They’re very good at controlling the situation in a not very controlled way. In terms of they’re good at initiating things and then just throwing things out there and starting the ball rolling and then other people get to kick the ball around themselves.”


“I didn’t know what to expect.”  “The more it went on, I wanted to get more involved with it. I was getting more relaxed and confident.”


“ My favourite part of the sessions was everyone getting involved and mixing. Putting you ideas in. No one felt embarrassed, because everyone was doing it.”

“ As a group we all created a scene that made us laugh. We fully enjoyed it. I felt I could express myself. I’ve got the right to express myself and not be ashamed to have a brain injury,”

“You can muck around. It’s not wrong to mess around. It’s not wrong to get things mixed up. You shouldn’t be embarrassed of who you are.”


Link     Headway Cardiff & Southeast Wales – Spectacle Theatre


To see full response to Spectacle working with headway press the above link.


What we learned

Spectacle has gained a lot of learning about the impact of Covid and lockdown on our community this year. This learning has come from interaction through workshops sessions and discussion with young and older people , their youth workers, teachers, and other professionals.

Whilst we do not claim to fully understand the impact or its actual cause. What we have observed is the following :

  • Young people cannot concentrate for as long as they did prior to Covid 19 and lockdown. This is supported by colleague is education.
  • Young and older people have a higher incidence of low-level mental health challenges.
  • Boys seem to be less resilient.
  • Older people’s groups appear to be affected more by loss and isolation.
  • People generally appear to be different physiologically , less confident.
  • There is an increased fear of being locked down again.
  • The fear of ‘no future’, aggravated by cost of living and war in Europe.
  • Young people not attending school,  where are they ?   We are aware that CAMHS provide online sessions to reach young people, instead of face to face, in an effort to reach young people.
  • Young people – ‘stashing food to take home’.
  • There appears to be a different relationship , post covid , between young people and adults. It appears to be one of less trust.


We have evidence , gained from feedback and collecting data that our interventions are helping improve the lives of those we work with.




The debrief of the  initial project with young people suggested the following action.

  • Deliver an initial workshop to get to know the group prior to the performance.
  • Spend longer developing a trusting relationship with groups prior to initiating the play and workshops.

Following intervention by Spectacle , performance, and workshops with young people. Feedback from staff , stated that people not normally identified as impacted by Aces, started to disclose.

The young people started to approach staff members and talk about impacts of ACES. This surprised the staff and allowed them to engage with the young people.  We are aiming to work with family groups as well as youth-based groups in the next year.

  • To do this we will develop a new project ‘In the Dark Wood’ The new project will pilot in July 2023.



R is a person who has been impacted by many ACES. They struggle to cope with any form of transition. The following pattern of behaviour and support is normal for this person. Trust has been built over many months. R first encountered Spectacle through its performance work in a pupil referral unit. The intervention changed Rs view of themselves and outlook on life. They said it helped them to stop being involved in serious risky behaviour.

We have learned about the impact of Covid and lockdown on people . There is a greater incidence of social anxiety within our communities. There is a slow re-integration back into using services and social space outside the home. It appears to have affected young people’s ability to look forward.  There are young people that have never done exams before being asked to sit them. The latter is only one example of  change that has happened to young people.

R was offered the opportunity to become a volunteer with Spectacle on this project. The aim was to use their lived experience to support other youth. Initially this was welcomed, and they looked forward to participating. They were given clear instruction about the role of volunteering and the opportunity offered.  However, because they have Aspergers , the ability to retain information is limited and often leads to confusion. They misinterpret what the situation is. They then start to blame themselves. This starts a downward spiral and leaves them feeling ashamed of themselves.  This has led them to talking about suicidal behaviour. During one session they asked to speak to a member of staff. That person was there for them to speak with. A result of this their mood improved. They were referred to counselling. We checked with them about other support they might need. They continue to be a volunteer on the project. They continue to be supported by the staff. The example of this case study recognises the fluctuating moods that can affect people with ACES.   That staff need to be supportive over longer periods of time to enable people to develop coping strategies to build resilience.

Our project has thrown up questions about the digital world and how much it may be needed.

We are seeing the Impact the use of digital technology has on younger and older people. Is it healthy?  Does the digital world include or exclude ?  Learning from our project suggests that use of digital technology by young people during lockdown, has excluded them more.  They are less likely to engage with others face to face. Their ability to concentrate has shortened . They can watch a film or a play whilst needing to be on their phones . They retain an  amazing amount information about the content and can answer in depth. They use the phone as a way to deflect from feelings.  Young people say they spend 8-10 hours a day on TIK TOK.


We will change our practice in the next twelve months to the following-


  • Provide shorter sessions , that vary more to support people’s ability to engage.
  • Develop the ACES provision.
  • Develop a project that targets boys.
  • Co-produce a project supporting older people with loss,  grief and isolation.
  • Develop the outdoor work , to support people by providing physiological benefits.
  • Use two teams with different roles for each group.
  • Provide training in Diversity and cultural competence.
  • Raise our own awareness regarding our carbon footprint.
  • Support people to come out by providing social events locally.
  • Provided food at events and workshops. Support young people to have food outside of sessions. Young people – stashing food to take home.
  • Collaborate with local organisations to understand where young people are , when missing from school.
  • Develop a project around hate crime with Peoples First , Community Cohesion team and pupils in secondary education.
  • Digital technology has a beneficial impact as well. We have seen greater access for vulnerable adults and young people by using technology. The Innovate Trust app has increased its membership by 1000+ people . Peoples First are now members. We continue to deliver online services to this app.





The STORI project is developing many connections between people and organisations.

It is having an impact in reducing loneliness and isolation. It is achieving the outputs and outcomes we projected.

Following working with Spectacle young people said –

  • “I go out more I think” “It has gotten me more active” “I feel better about myself”.
  • “sociallging” (socialising), “seeing me friends more” “It makes me happy”.
  • “I feel more confident around people” “confidence”.
  • 1 young person reported 10 hours of increased walking per week since ending the wellbeing project. Another reported an increase in vigorous exercise of 6hr 50m per week.

There is much more to learn about the impact of Covid 19 and how it intersects with the Cost-of-Living Crisis, and impact of war in Europe.  We need to do more research and  consider and be prepared for the impact of long winters and what is needed.

We need to learn more about what is happening to boys and the attainment gap.

We need to maximise the opportunities offered by the Eisteddfod in RCT.


Spectacle Theatre's Response to COVID-19