Funding level: £10,001 to £25,000


Square Peg Performance is a multi-dimensional, interactive project designed to boost inclusivity, diversity and creativity in the arts. Six short plays, written specially by neurodivergent (ND) playwrights, will be toured around special schools, hospices, residential centres and community inclusion groups, with accompanying drama workshops for pupils and residents. The performances and workshops will show the talent of ND artists, as well as engaging and inspiring creativity in the ND community. The project will end with a professional showcase of the plays.

Mainspring Arts is dedicated to creating opportunities in the arts for ND people. ‘Neurodivergent’ means having a brain that functions differently from what society considers ‘typical’. Our last major project, Square Peg Stories, mentored eight autistic writers through the process of writing a short story for an anthology with a foreword by novelist David Mitchell.

For Square Peg Performance, six plays will have been written as part of a separate project, in which six aspiring ND playwrights will be mentored by professional playwrights to write their own plays. All of our projects aim to increase inclusivity of ND & disabled voices in the arts: not just stories about them, but by them.

Square Peg Performance will do exactly that! The workshops will be interactive, diverse, fun and accessible for all levels of need: a sensory and engaging experience. They will enable people with different needs to refine, direct, act and write plays that have been created by people with similar conditions to their own. This is not only extremely important as a creative process for the playwrights themselves, but also as a tool to inspire the next generation of creative talent from a group that is often not considered when it comes to the arts.

We strongly believe that all voices and experiences should be represented in the arts, and our project will help these voices shout a little louder. We want to deconstruct the myth that people whose brains work differently to the 'neurotypical' are not capable of creative talent, and we want to show the world what they can do. There is amazing talent out there, and currently it's shockingly underrepresented. By working directly with these communities on a professional production, we aim to make the arts world seem friendlier, more inclusive and more adaptable to individual needs, rather than something inaccessible and unachievable.

We’d use the AVIVA grant to employ ND actors, directors and facilitators so that the workshops provide both employment for a marginalised group, and role-models and inspiration for those participating in them. We would visit six centres in total, which would result in over 200 participants from the ND and disabled community being involved in a positive project that uses their ideas and experiences as a basis for creativity. There would be no costs for the centres involved. At a time of funding cuts and slashed budgets, creative projects are suffering.

The second part of our project is professional performance. The workshopped plays, refined by participation and creative input from the communities we visit, will be professionally performed in a public showcase. It will show the mainstream arts world a new set of voices, all angled from a different perspective.

The showcase will be open for all to come and watch, and will be a professional production entirely produced by the ND & disabled community. All of our workshop participants will be invited along to see their ideas and suggestions made real in a professional staging. It will be a confidence-boosting, inclusive, exciting, interactive, diverse, creative explosion of talent!

Vote for Square Peg Performance - because everyone deserves the chance to develop their talent. We need new voices, a refreshing and different take, and more inclusivity. There’s so much unfound and unappreciated talent out there, and it deserves a chance to shine.

Project Video

Mainspring Arts

Moment of Pride

The participants make us proud. They each overcome serious mental and physical barriers to be able to engage and participate, but their hard work, tenacity and talent takes our breath away. We are so proud to be part of the development of their talent and to help bring it into the world with them.

Location: Oxford