I will develop during a 2-month residency at Grange School in Manchester a performance that will be presented at Manchester Art Gallery engaging directly with autistic children. This performance will be presented as an installation/performance piece for Autism Awareness Week event.

This projected is supported by Manchester Art Gallery.


Developing technical skills and abilities

To develop skills and abilities in plate spinning I facilitated three workshop sessions at the school with a range of ages and abilities. The first session was more focused and started by introducing the prop in simple ways such as spinning the plate on your finger or on the floor like a rotating globe. I introduced minimal verbal instruction such as the words ‘plate’ show the prop; ‘spinning’ show the action. The stick and plate were introduced soon after this to allow faster learners to try the prop out. To encourage children who were less interested in the plate and stick I introduced more materials in session 2 such as small hoops, toy merry go round, smaller plates & sticks, rolls of tape, light up lanyards, torches, tubes, and mirrors. All abilities contribution where important to record to be part of the final piece and we filmed the children’s different approaches to spinning in their own way.

Developing performance understanding and communication

To encourage play and performing around the idea of spinning I created an open sensory environment that used blue lighting, the climbing frame, textured fabrics, neon papers, colourful tapes, play mats, luminous plates with an accompanying soundtrack. I wanted the session to be open, free, child-led play with the materials to observe how the children would perform. Children would perform on their own and some would make small groups with their friends, the support workers and myself. I followed the lead of one of the students and we started to play follow my leader whilst spinning a plate. This action encouraged more students to join in and we walked together around the space taking turns at being the leader.

In the studio space as the room was set with blue lighting this projection of light would create shadows of the performers onto the wall. This created a visual reflection of the individuals and groups that became a focus to perform in front of it. In our third session, I showed the film we had been making which documented the children’s work and this was a valuable learning resource to see each person’s development. There was a sense of excitement in the students, and a feeling of pride seeing oneself on film on a large projected screen. For the group, the supporting staff and myself, I felt seeing this film gave a sense that we were building and creating the early stages of a performance for an event.

Developing a public performance

Session 3 at the school was focussed on creating a simple performance sequence based on my observations of the student’s work. We performed as a larger group together in front of the projected film a simple sequence of actions 1. Walking in a circle  2. Spinning in front of the wall  3. Collectively bringing our plates together in the center. We repeated this sequence multiple times to embed the performance visually and physically by walking it through. At the end of each session, everyone clapped and I personally praised everybody’s performance. Session 4 was a gallery visit to introduce the building and space we would be performing to the students. This was also a chance for students who couldn’t make the final event to attend a performance rehearsal and still be part of the development process in a public space. The rehearsal offered a research visit for the staff and support workers to get a feel for the gallery space.

To continue some of the visual elements from the school into the gallery I installed materials such as neon paper and silver foil sheets with the plates and sticks. I created a temporary stage as a focus for the performance a visual marker to walk around, a circle in the middle and a gap in-between the stage and the wall that offered clear spaces to perform within. Although we struggled with the AV equipment we used the sound as a guide to the performance sequence, which we walked through. Repeating the performance at the school and at the gallery for everyone involved helped us collectively visually and practically see what the event would look and feel like.

The final Spinning performance was originally going to be presented on a smaller scale in the private studio space. Although I felt really strongly that this work should be seen in public as often workshop activity, especially with vulnerable people, are hidden from public view. After talking with the teacher and seeing how well the performance was developing I wanted it to be presented in the public gallery space. I felt well supported with that decision through the relationships I had developed with the students, the staff at the school and the gallery that was achieved through a focused artist residency period at the school. The gradual building of the performance in workshops through to a rehearsal at the gallery before the event helped manage some of the risks of making work on this scale in a public space.


For our final session in the school, the plan was to set-up the film we had made, then explore performance sequences in pairs building towards performing as a group. However, on arrival there was already a group in the 4D space and we had some technical difficulties getting the film started that meant children were arriving before we were set-up. As an artist who identifies as neurodivergent, the change in times and sequences can affect my confidence and I wasn’t sure how to start my session as I am a facilitator/performer who often doesn’t like to lead. This may sound contradictory, however, I have found my open approach to creative sessions lets people express themselves in their own time and way, although I really was struggling and I could not see how to bring the focus in the room back to the start. I just said that ‘this isn’t working’ and Katy and Sarah quickly came together to support me in re-starting the session. Sarah told the group that we were going to watch the film first and then perform, following my lead, with the plates. The simple plate spinning sequence was informed by what I had seen in previous sessions, performance actions such as ‘follow my leader’, walking in a circle, watching our shadows on the wall and grouping our plates together.

We re-started by watching the film together and then as it played for the second time, I instructed the group to follow me. Slowly we found our rhythm together with the music and we then carried out the following actions completing the sequence. It felt really good performing in a large group and I could see that the children were enjoying themselves and were getting lost in the immersive environment. One student said in session that: ‘this is a beautiful paradise’. It has been a pleasure working at Grange School with the children, teachers and support workers in such a high-quality learning space but how do I translate this back at the art gallery event for World Autism Awareness Week?

Our last session was at the gallery, which was a chance for some of the students to explore a new public space and have a performance rehearsal. Once again we experienced technical issues, this time with the projector. However, we could still perform using the soundtrack, which enabled us to get the session started. My challenge is to work with what materials are available at the gallery in an attempt to recreate a sense of the environment at the school and I will experiment with introducing blue lighting, colour film and develop a temporary textural, luminous stage.


As the school is on half term this week I have had some studio time to reflect on additional elements to introduce into our sessions. I am now thinking about the view of the audience when they watch the film and spinning plates from floor level at our upcoming event at Manchester Art Gallery. Could it be fun and another way of seeing to have something to look through like a tube or tinted colorful acetate? I played around with materials that where in my studio space such as metallic sheets and yarn cones that could be made into spectacles. I really enjoyed looking at the textured colours of the image at the end of a tube with the light being refracted back inside the metallic cardboard cylinder. There was a tube I had used in one of my last sessions that I wrapped around the outside with textured glow in the dark tape that was of interest to some of the children, which has got me thinking about inside and outside textures.

Thinking beyond these small frames I am now considering how the children and there families enter the performance space and leave. From my experience of working at Grange School with Sarah she introduces the work we will be doing before the children enter the space verbally and visually. Last week I attended autism awareness training for the arts session at Manchester Museum with Nadia Peters and Lorna Downer and one of the main points I took away from this was the importance of social stories for the autistic community by using images to introduce the sequence of activity for that day. This has got me reflecting on my responsibility as an artist to the people I am working with and how I lead them into a new, unknown space. In my performance practice I often use sequences although the communication process of visual stories is making me expand this sequence further beyond the studio to the other side of the door. How will people move from one space to another within the art gallery and through the visually busy hallways, which lead to the studio entrance? How can I incorporate this into the lead into the performance?


For my second session I wanted to focus on a practice plate spinning area and used the climbing frame as a curtain with different textured materials draped, framing sections of the structure. From the intro session the blue and red colours worked really well together and I added neon orange paper. I feel very lucky to be able to use the 4d space at the school as a studio although I am using it in a different way using the colour setting instead of surround video. I introduced some colourful hoops, smaller plates + sticks, torches and paper till roll for floor work. I composed a soundtrack of electro, atmospheric music, which built up to, a fun digital fairground sound and I wanted to see how this would effect the atmosphere of the room and what the children’s reactions would be. The idea was to work with the same children however the school where eager to encourage more people to experience the space.

The first group of 7 children where of various ages which was quite a large group for one artist to work with although I was curious to see what would happen. Working with some of the older children I was surprised that all of them where into the idea of spinning a plate as there was always a chance that this could be seen as a bit uncool especially with younger children in the room at the same time. Part of my research to create some structured mini performances where challenging to get started as there where so many new people who just wanted to explore for the first time and freestyle their own way around. Although we did try some loose ideas such as bringing the plates together, dropping them at the same time, working with the steps and follow my leader around the space.

The afternoon group started mainly on the floor with lots of repetitive rolling of tapes, plates, papers, and cardboard rolls across the room. I prepared more floor-based activity reflecting on last weeks session and often I would lye down on the floor spinning a plate. The ceiling in the 4d room is adorned with planets, which is really fitting with this work and it has got me thinking about using the floor more and how a performance could be experienced from a different perspective. I stumbled across this resource on Facebook by Unlimited an ideas list for developing venues understanding of access which mentions fluid performances and being able to lye down http://weareunlimited.org.uk/rest-reset-recharge/. I found a great free downloadable music website http://freemusicarchive.org and created a playlist inspired by the opening music in films, the fairground and the aesthetic of the space that had a gentle pulsating lifting feeling which could motivate movement or simply listened to.

I am working with Jake Ryan a filmmaker for the first time, which feels like a total luxury although essential to capture all of the children’s contributions in our sessions. Often I have lots of ideas for using video/photography, as there is so much potential in using the documentation as material. Jake also took some beautiful portraits and having an official documenter was of intrigue to the children who where very happy to have there picture taken. I would like to use this camera focus, as this did seem to pull some of the children together from free play into the lens and encouraged performing to camera. Reflecting on these images is making me think about the different visual perspectives of the performer in a space, and I question how will the audience experience the work, how can we experiment with blending video, live action and music.



I have been developing my performance practice working with families & children in public & private, domestic spaces. In 2016 I performed #work a performance that involved my family within a domestic set where I first used a spinning plate. This was developed further at Z-Arts, Haphazard family friendly performances & Neuro Aesthetics event facilitated by Ellie Griffiths & Greg Sinclair supported by Live Art Development Agency for a class of SEN children, Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry, 2017. Manchester Art Gallery invited me to research and develop a new strand to their 2018 Open Doors Programme that is specifically designed for children with autism, SEN & their families. From my experience of working at The Herbert Gallery with SEN children it was clear that this particular group benefit from relationships developed over time within their school environment with an opportunity to experience the gallery’s public spaces.

From my experience of spinning a plate and working with children as young as 3 years old highlighted the potential accessibility of this simple gesture & prop. Autistic children can respond to repetitive movements and it can have a feel good factor giving a sense of grounding. Neuro typical and neuro diverse people can enjoy watching objects spin, I know for me personally I feel a sense of peace walking with a spinning plate and it can offer a visual focus. The aim of the proposed performance for Autism Awareness Week is to enable participants marginalised from arts activities by promoting self confidence & shared experience with a high quality aesthetic. My artistic enquiry is: How accessible is the plate & stick prop? How can we work together to make a performance? Is this work suitable for a public gallery environment, performed to camera or a combination of the two?

This week myself and Katy McCall the Gallery Learning Manager visited the school to meet some of the children we will be working with and for the children to see us for the first time. From our classroom visits it was clear that there where some children who where happy to sit in a focused setting and others who wanted to roam freely with individual separate activity. I learnt the importance of trays, a resource I hadn’t really thought about before these particular ones where colourful for one child’s needs that where filled with different textured wet materials such as cooked spaghetti, liquids, small gel shapes.

We where shown the 4d room to work in and I set-up a focused space to start introducing the idea of the plate and stick with simple actions around the theme of ‘spinning’. The first half of each mini session with 2 small groups of 4 would start in the set space and then leak out to the rest of the room. By pure chance the background of the computer projected screen was blue which set a really cool aesthetic with some of the plates glowing in the dark. I had lovely dual moments with a few of the children and I was surprised that at some points in the session there was a line of us spinning plates, moving in our own way near each other making a very loose but connected structure.

Group 3 in my later session was completely different and I worked with two children who where slightly antagonistic but had a playful relationship with each other. One boy only wanted to move on the floor and was not interested in the plate and stick although he was fascinated with a roll of masking tape, which he continually moved across the room. The second boy I worked with found it difficult to focus or spin a plate independently although liked to echo singing the word ‘spinning’ and intermittently we sang this to each other. For a while I thought the session was falling apart however all three of us ended up passing different roles of tape to each other which felt like we somehow came together even if it was for a few moments.