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Building begins on Prior’s Court’s new Performing Arts Centre





Building work has commenced on a new performing arts centre exclusively aimed at young people with complex autism.

Hermitage-based autism charity, Prior’s Court, has begun transforming an existing building on its site into a unique centre featuring adapted music, dance and drama facilities for young people with complex needs — believed to be the only one of its kind in the UK.

The location for the dance studio at the centre
The location for the dance studio at the centre
A concept artist's impression of the bespoke new Performing Arts Centre
A concept artist's impression of the bespoke new Performing Arts Centre

Autistic individuals face many barriers to accessing the arts — from light and noise sensitivities to understanding of social rules.

One aim of the new centre is to mimic theatre environments to prepare its pupils to successfully access arts venues in the wider community.

Prior’s Court’s director of learning, Sue Piper, said: “It is hugely exciting to see work to create the centre progressing.

“We believe there is nowhere else in the country which has an arts centre built specifically to meet the needs of autistic people with complex needs.

The foundations for the new foyer area
The foundations for the new foyer area
Inside the Performing Arts Centre, currently under construction
Inside the Performing Arts Centre, currently under construction

“Up to 80 per cent of young people at Prior’s Court are pre-verbal and the arts offer a powerful means of communicating needs, expressions and feelings.

“Being autistic with complex needs should not be a barrier to accessing the transformational power of the arts, whether that is performing on stage, watching a performance or simply having the space to explore arts in one’s own way.

A floor plan outlining the facilities of the new Performing Arts Centre
A floor plan outlining the facilities of the new Performing Arts Centre

“A huge thank you to every foundation, trust, corporate supporter and individual donor who has played their part in getting the project to this stage.”

The charity also plans to use the centre to research best practice around providing support to access the arts, and share its learnings with other bodies in the education and performing arts sectors to benefit autistic people across the country.

It hopes to open the new centre for the 2024-25 academic year.



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