Theatre group launches new community project

A story can reveal so much about the world and one community theatre group aims to give people with learning difficulties and mental health issues a bigger voice through its workshops.

Paul Brandreth, of Theatre By Numbers, creating a story script during the Graphic Stories workshop
Paul Brandreth, of Theatre By Numbers, creating a story script during the Graphic Stories workshop

Theatre By Numbers is holding sessions entitled Graphic Stories over the next few Sundays at Preston Guild Hall, for people who have low literacy skills and/or mental health concerns to build confidence and explore story telling.

The Graphic Stories workshops are part of Theatre By Numbers’ communities work, in partnership with Chorley Council and Preston Guild Hall, to create a project designed to encourage exploration of the arts in low engagement areas.

Funded by Awards for All, the sessions are designed to assist individuals in exploring their relationship with literacy, public speaking and self-confidence.

Members of Theatre By Numbers working on a previous project

Through the supported workshops, participants will have their work published in an anthology, which will be launched later in the year.

The group will be facilitated and led by Charlie Mortimer and Paul Brandreth, who have a passion for story-telling and working with new people.

Charlie, artistic director and performer, says: “This is initially being held for the next three or four weeks but if we get a high level of engagement, the scheme has the potential to grow and we can work in other places.

“The idea for this came from working with Preston charity Curious Minds. We have always wanted to work with people with learning difficulties and mental health concerns with our performances. It seemed natural to put the two things together.

Members of Theatre By Numbers working on a previous project

“We are working with people who have a voice, but do not have the confidence to perform.

“We are aiming to take those barriers away by these drama and storytelling workshops.

“All participants will have their stories printed in the anthology and invited to its launch once completed.

“To get participants’ creative flair going, we have come up with the notion that Paul and I were wandering around South Ribble searching for new tales to tell when we came across a hidden cave just east of Avenham Park.

“On the walls of the cave, we could make out six paintings on the wall.

“Suddenly the light went, the wind grew and a swirling voice was heard to say ‘tell stories of these paintings, as many as you can find, for hidden inside each one, is a friend with which to bind.’

“We are on a mission, from Chorley to Preston, to find storytellers, as participants are invited to create their own stories and scripts.

“We have held three workshops so far and it has been very productive and an exciting process.

“It is a great way to build confidence and make new friends. We are inviting people with low literacy skills or mental health concerns to have a go.”

Theatre By Numbers, based in Brinscall, was formed more than 10 years ago by David Allen, with Paul Brandreth, as executive director and performer, and Charlie as artistic director and performer.

As a theatre company, it produces work throughout the North West, creating and developing theatre and engage artists, audiences and participants.

The group provides tailor-made theatre for all ages and genres, which can be taken anywhere and everywhere to entertain and enlighten all who encounter its members.

Charlie adds: “We have done lots of different projects, working with new writers in the North West, including Manchester and Preston. We have created museum pieces for Astley Hall, in Chorley, and Harris Museum, in Preston, and been working with various groups and charities, in particular people with learning difficulties and mental health concerns.”

Drop in sessions are on Sundays 1pm to 5pm at The Guild Hall, in Preston. The next one is on March 19. For more information visit