Stepping Out Theatre – empowering change, from Bristol to Uganda

Stepping Out Theatre is a social welfare charity that works with people in the Bristol area who have long-term and severe mental health problems, often compounded by physical disability and alcohol or drug misuse.

The charity has over 100 members, many of whom are socially isolated and live in areas of high deprivation, often have minimal educational qualifications and little or no job experience. Stepping Out works with them to tackle the stigma of mental health issues and supports those with the most acute needs to prevent future crises.

Supported by theatre professionals, Stepping Out produces live theatre and runs a range of creative activities to empower and motivate participants to develop their skills and confidence, and make positive changes in their lives. By using the medium of theatre and the arts, the charity’s primary aim is to build a strong supportive community to address the issues of isolation, marginalisation and disadvantage that their members face in many areas of their lives.

The Covid pandemic forced Stepping Out to suspend its workshops, support groups, social trips, rehearsals, theatre productions and one-to-one meetings, which impacted hugely on all those who benefit from the programme. Although the majority of the services were available online, many of the charity’s members had difficulty accessing them.

In April 2021 the charity applied for a grant that would enable members to access a new dedicated online programme of theatre, artistic and social activities. SMV provided £3,000 towards the purchase of reconditioned mobiles and tablets, and broadband connectivity for members. The grant allowed the members to take part in two exciting online theatre productions and a new collection of poetry and artwork about the experience of Covid. All participants involved in the projects said that it was an uplifting and inspiring experience.

Stepping Out’s rejuvenated programme has since gone from strength to strength. The members elected to make their Christmas show a fundraiser, in recognition of the benefits that they have received from the theatre group. The show raised just over £3,000 for SALVE International, a charity working with street children in Uganda.

“In the midst of crisis themselves, it was a moving and inspiring experience for our members to reach out to a group whose current situation is even more difficult than their own.”

 – Steve, CEO of Stepping Out Theatre, about fundraising for SALVE International