• Arts;
  • drama;
  • music;
  • participation;
  • social inclusion

Accessible summary

  • • 
    This article is about research with young people with learning disabilities who took part in music and drama groups.
  • • 
    The groups were held in a local disused cinema.
  • • 
    People greatly benefited from being a part of this work.
  • • 
    Joining in with arts activities can really help people with learning disabilities to feel a part of the community.


The Stage Life was a participatory arts programme for people attending a day services provision in Nottinghamshire. The uniqueness of this programme was that it was provided in a local disused cinema acquired by the local authority for community-based activities amongst disadvantaged groups. The Stage Life aimed to build the community arts capacity for young adults with learning disabilities by introducing approximately fifty people to participatory arts activities over a period of 2 years. The research evaluation reported in this article was conducted by external academic researchers over this period. A multimethod ethnographic approach was used to phenomenologically capture the impact of the Stage Life upon individuals’ lives, as well as capturing people’s opinions and ideas regarding taking part in the activities. The research attempts to describe, both at the individual level and at group level, the effects upon people who are engaged with the programme. Very positive benefits are reported both on a personal and on a social level.