Lifeline for disability-led theatre company celebrating 25 years


The future of a theatre company which empowers adults with disabilities to take to the stage has been secured, thanks to a six-figure funding boost.

North London-based Face Front has just celebrated its 25th anniversary, but faced the prospect of having to close or pause its activities due to lack of funds.

Now, the charity can continue its work thanks to a £120,000 grant over three years from City Bridge Foundation – London’s biggest independent charity funder.

The grant will fund the group’s disability-led Blue Sky Actors group, and reach thousands of young people through touring productions in special educational needs schools across London.

Ray Downing, Face Front artistic director and co-chief executive, said: “Being a part of Face Front is really important for our participants’ social development. It improves their emotional wellbeing and confidence, and a lot of them have gone on to be professional actors.

“It’s getting increasingly hard to get funding and without this grant there’s a very good chance we would have to close or put our work on pause.

“The funding is terribly important. It gives us a sense of a future and is the bedrock of everything we’re going to do over the next three years.”

Thomas, 28, from Hackney, has been a member of the Blue Sky Actors Group since 2022 and taken part in three productions, most recently ‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Ex-mas’. His sister, Emma, said joining the group had brought ‘endless benefits’ to her brother’s life.

She said: “I’ve never seen him so dedicated to a performance before. He was absolutely committed and dedicated to this role. I could feel his excitement in the build-up to the performance, he had told nearly everyone he knew about it.

“The programme empowers Thomas to have something of his own to take ownership of in its entirety and it gave him something to talk about to friends, family and carers which is something we don’t know about. It helps him to explain with context and wider vocabulary, speech and language than he’d usually use.

“Blue Sky is now embedded in his life, as well as his immediate family and, his carers and mine. It offers the full package – independence, communication, fun, accountability, freedom, fun, safety, thinking ahead and awareness of others. It enhances an array of his skill sets, socialising, ownership and so much more.”

Face Front expects to recruit around 75 new participants or volunteers over the next three years and perform its touring production, It’s My Move, to over 3,500 young people.

The play is aimed at helping young people make the transition from school to adult life and improving their understanding of the education, health and care plan which sets out their needs and the support available.