Who we are
Flute Theatre change the lives of autistic individuals and their families.
Kelly Hunter MBE has been working with autistic individuals since 2001, creating unique sensory games based on Shakespeare's heartbeat that allow actors and participants to share how it feels to be alive. She founded Flute Theatre in 2014 to bring her work to the worldwide community of autistic individuals. In 2020, Flute Theatre was awarded the WhatsOnStage Charity of the year. Watch here to understand our work:
As we emerge from the pandemic, we will continue to support autistic individuals and their families whose lives are adversely affected by autism, poverty and Covid-19. To do this we aim to develop six Centres of Excellence across the world for our specialised artistic work. These centres will be in Peru, India, Spain, US, Hammersmith London and St.John's College Brighton. We have existing projects in each of these places and we aim to develop each project over the next three years, allowing autistic individuals and their families to grow in confidence, health and well being through regular performances with us.
"Each learner, each individual is treated as their own entity"
Joanne Horsley Head of drama, St. John's College, Brighton.
Our story in Brighton
Situated in the diverse city of Brighton, St. John’s College provides young people and adults, aged 19-25 years, specialist expertise to acquire knowledge and skills that enable them to achieve significant life enhancing outcomes.
We first played with autistic learners from St. John's College Brighton in January 2019 when Jo Horsley, head of drama, brought groups of autistic leaners to our specialised production of A Midsummer NIght's Dream at Chichester Festival Theatre. After the success of these unique performances the staff of St. John's invited us to create a residency of performances at the college's theatre in May 2019. During this week of performances we found a real home for our work thanks to the vision and talent of Joanne Horsley and the extraordinary outlook of the college itself, where every learner is respected and treasured for their individuality.
Together, Flute theatre and St. John's College then began to plan for and create a long term partnership project . In March 2020, our project was critically affected by the pandemic, however Kelly Hunter was determined to carry on working with their worldwide community of autistic people and created new and extraordinary ways to reach those who were most marginalised.
"Our personal heroes, during lockdown – are Flute Theatre. During this crisis, they have helped us and the entire autistic community EVERY SINGLE DAY, WITHOUT FAIL". Lisha Aquino Rooney. Parent
During the pandemic Flute Theatre adapted our work to be accessible online for those most at risk of isolation and increased mental health issues; we gave 976 live online performances across five countries in three different languages.
320 of these performances were at St. John's College Brighton.
Now as we emerge from the pandemic we are performing again onsite with the learners at St. John's and planning a three year long term partnership project together. Our work will comprise of performances during the school year onsite at the college, and an opportunity for the learners to perform with us at venues across the Brighton Festival every summer. For many of these learners this will be their one opportunity for artistic engagement.
We are now raising funds to support the project for the next three years. The cost of each year will be £45K. Your contribution today will go directly toward the cost of running the project. With your help we will continue to play with the incredible autistic individuals and their families who live in Brighton and the surrounding area over the next three years.
"Dear Flute Theatre
My name is ‘innocent’ otherwise known as Ava. I have autism. I was the cheeky one.
I would like to tell you that you were really good performers in Pericles. I really liked your faces, especially the actor whose eyes were coming out of his head, and Hepzi, who stuck out her tongue.
My favourite game was when I was the assassin and I had to hide and say ‘Zsa Zsa Zsa Zsa Zsa’. I liked this game because it was naughty and mischievous like me.
I also liked going right up to the screen and giving you ‘The Look’. I liked dancing the Tango and spinning and running at the end.
The play made me feel really happy and excited. It was so much fun. It also made me feel very relaxed.
This play is important to people with autism because during lockdown there is a lack of routine and stimulation and structure. Everything is upside down, everything has stopped and it can make you feel stressed and anxious. Using different movements and facial expressions is a way for people express themselves in a way they can’t verbalise. It takes you away from the stress.
Thanks for coming to St. John’s.
"Each performance was unique to the individual and catered for their specific needs and communication style. The learners responded with great enthusiasm; enjoying the interaction and engagement with the actors, and joining in with play, singing, listening, sound, language, emotion and movement opportunities. It was a welcome break from the restrictions that had been imposed on them during lock-down, which had seen many of their freedoms curtailed and was resulting passive and withdrawn behaviours. in The learners connected extremely well with the online format, and were quickly immersed into the world of ‘faces’. It was a great privilege for each learner to have a bespoke one-to-one session, where actors could perform directly to them and make them feel valued and special. Some were offered a second opportunity to do the performance, and they all accepted enthusiastically. I felt that most would have benefited from repeating the experience at least one more time to build familiarity and develop skills . As is always the case with Flute Performances, there were some learners who demonstrated creativity and interaction that as teachers, we have never seen before. It’s like they have been unlocked and given permission to express themselves in a truly authentic way. All learners engaged and found an aspect of the performance that appealed to their sensory preferences, whether that was listening to beautiful voices singing their name, enjoying the feedback from the physical movement, or embodying character and emotion".
Joanne Horsley, Head of Drama.
To read fully about our work Pre Covid-19
To read fully about our work during the pandemic
Our work is unique. We impact the lives of autistic individuals and their families whom others turn away from. Please give generously to help us change the lives of autistic individuals at St. John's College, Brighton.