BBC DIY SOS The Big Build Transforms a Building for Newcastle's True Colours Theatre
With the help of the BBC's DIY SOS team and the local community, a derelict building has been transformed into a fully-inclusive performing arts school
True Colours Theatre is an inclusive theatre school and registered charity for children and young people that live in the North East. It was founded in 2014 by Alisar-Jane (Ali) who is also one of the class teachers, after her niece was diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis (a life-limiting condition). Ali was inspired to create True Colours so children and young people had somewhere to go where they could experience performing arts in an inclusive, non-judgemental environment.
‘We’re an inclusive charity and we work with children and young adults with (for example) autism, ADHD and mental health issues, and we focus on confidence building through performing arts and social activities,’ Ali explains. ‘My niece has complex needs and I noticed a lack of inclusivity. I had a diagnosis of autism and ADHD as an adult and I would struggle in trying to fit in in certain places too.’ True Colours teaches dance and theatre skills to 500 children and young adults weekly, many of whom have additional needs. As well as hosting classes, they also work within the local community and in educational settings to deliver sensory workshops and offer palliative support to children with life-limiting conditions.
'We’ve had amazing support from the local community and trades; their help has been absolutely outstanding'
‘We have proud moments every single day,’ Ali says. ‘Every single time one of our members achieves something new, steps out of their comfort zone, and grows in confidence. We’re really proud of the fact that they’re able go out into the world and be themselves.’
The school has grown more and more over the years, outgrowing its existing space in Wallsend, meaning True Colours would have to turn away new members if their waiting list became too long. True Colours were given the keys to a run-down building with lots of potential, but it had no electricity, heating, natural light or disabled access. That’s why Ali and her team applied to DIY SOS for their help. Cue Nick Knowles and his team of builders and volunteers. Without the help of DIY SOS, the building conversion wouldn’t have been possible – Ali was given a £90,000 quote just for the first stage of the project. ‘It would’ve cost us a vast amount so having this opportunity was pretty awesome,’ she adds.
Nick and True Colours put a call out for local tradespeople and suppliers to donate their skills, materials and time – and the community really came together. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Ali and her team; and Nick, Gaby Blackman and hundreds of volunteers joined Strictly Come Dancing stars Anton Du Beke, Katya Jones, Graziano di Prima and Luba Mushtuk ahead of the big reveal. ‘We’ve had amazing support from the local community and trades; their help has been absolutely outstanding,’ says Ali. ‘They’ve helped us massively, and they’re still there now! It’s been really lovely to see how many people out there want to and are willing to help.’
Ali and the members of True Colours weren’t allowed near the building until the work was complete so the big reveal was extra special. ‘This building means that the young people and their families now have a safe space – a space where they feel like they belong – because a lot of the people who come to us don’t necessarily always have that,’ she adds. ‘True Colours is just going to keep growing. We’re now going to be able to continue what we’re doing and offer what we can to even more people. Most importantly, we can now provide the safe space we’ve always wanted. I’d like to thank everyone who helped us throughout, they’ve all been absolutely amazing and they’re friends for life now.’