Purple wigs, oversized fairy wings, cloaks, glasses, penguins – all things you would associate more  with a dressing up box and not a training session. At the Training and Conference Place in Stevenage today, that’s exactly what was being used as part of a training session.

I Want To Break Free (Victory Over Asperger’s Syndrome)” is a training event like no other, using art, drama, comedy and song, based on Artist Aron Glasser’s collection of paintings ‘My Journey with Asperger’s Syndrome’.

The audience, who came from various organisations such as JCP, Work Solutions, Mencap, and Earthworks to name a few, watched Aron’s paintings come to life as he and ‘The Professor’(played by Ali Jones) took them on a journey through time to tell his remarkable story, ably supported by friends Oliver and James and The Pioneer Approaches team. Pioneer Approaches Ltd is a not for profit company who offer specialist and innovative creative support with emphasis on music and drama in leisure, personal development, life skills and employment.

The event held today is commissioned by Herts County Council and offers value to anyone interested in creative person-centred approaches and to those who are associated with people across the autistic spectrum and/or with learning disabilities. During the performance,Aron and Ali use sound effects and animation to his paintings, drawing on Aron’s interest in sounds, comedy, and cartoons. Aron goes back to his childhood, to times of transition, relationships, the anxieties and isolation that he has struggled with and the strategies that have eventually helped him to lead a happier and more meaningful life.

Ali Jones said that “HCC have been very supportive in this mission to push the boundaries and take risks by commissioning a programme that is led by the people with the experience, those who live with aspergers and autism. The Training and Conference Place is an excellent space to deliver the session, the staff are so friendly and welcoming.”

As if this innovative training performance wasn’t enough, The Training and Conference Place were also visited by a small group of A Level media students from Adeyfield School in Hemel Hempstead, who came to film a corporate promotional video as part of their course work. Teacher Georgina Harwood said “This is a fantastic opportunity, the students are very excited to be given a live brief and really like what the project (The Training and Conference Place) has been set up to do, to help give disadvantaged people training, support and work experience. We’re thrilled to be part of this, especially to see the project in action hosting an event”  Dario Delmastro is a student who visited the project said “It’s brilliant to have a real customer and gain the work experience. I want to pursue a career in television production so it will be great to be able to add this promo video to my portfolio.” 

Rebecca White is the Manager of The Training and Conference Place, her comments of the day were “this has been absolutely amazing, to have Ali and Aron come and deliver the training performance, to have an audience of guests who have clearly thrown themselves into the day has made our work a real pleasure. It’s been really good fun and to have the students here today too, just brilliant, I’m sure that they’re going to produce an excellent video, I can’t wait to see it and put it on our website, facebook and twitter pages. It’s been a lot of fun to host something different, this is an amazing project, we really look after our customers and love what we do, and it’s been great to show off how flexible we can be. I would also like to make a special thank you to The Wine Society who were so kind and allowed our customers to use their overflow parking facilities today, it’s really lovely that in one day, so many different organisations came together and supported one another. ”

After the performance, Aron, Ali and the Pioneer Approaches team members held a questions and answers session so that the audience were able to talk to ask about their own experiences. In the afternoon everyone was divided into smaller groups for the workshop activities, which included a lot of dressing up and even more laughter!