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Heather's Story: What a Difference a Year Makes

Heather, Liberdade

"In April 2016 we got our new building - Gosforth Civic Theatre. We moved in June and opened it to the public in late August. Liberdade took on Gosforth Civic to be able to provide real work opportunities for the people who they support. So far it’s been great.

Our first event was a film screening, the director came up himself to show his film and talk to the audience afterwards. I hadn’t heard of him before, but my mam had and a lot of other people too, the event sold out, we had an audience of 260 people.

‘Ken Loach is an award winning film maker, the film he showed was a documentary about how people came together after the war and made life better for each other. And in a way by taking on this building we are doing a similar thing. Bringing people together and showing the world that the people here have the potential to work, contribute and make a difference.’

Creating opportunities is what this place is all about. Here is what it’s done for me.

In September I started work experience on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings in the Coffee shop from about 9:30 till lunchtime. Now I train here two full days. Each time learning something new or getting better at what I’ve already been shown. It’s about getting experience. My first ever job was restocking the drinks fridge and wrapping cutlery, I wasn't ready to serve people or use the coffee machine, I just wasn’t ready for that. But now I am and i can do a lot more. I can use the till and handle money which makes me confident as you need to use money on a daily basis, I can take people’s order and serve them food and drinks. I can make Americanos and lattes, hot chocolates and pots of tea. This makes me feel like I have achieved something, I feel proud, it gives me a sense of purpose and this is good for my wellbeing.

There is a lot of information to take in and now I’ve used the coffee machine loads I can remember that information more accurately and precisely. I started taking card payments a couple of weeks ago. I feel like this is a lot of responsibility. There are a lot of skills I have learnt while working in the coffee shop. e.g my communication skills have improved a lot and I feel more confident talking to people in the coffee shop and staff that work here. There is still plenty more to learn and I’m looking forward to working events where I can learn how to measure wines how to put spirits out of the jars into the glasses, most people don’t do this on a Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. I’m looking to getting some experience working in the evening and listening to some good music.

Heather - Liberdade"

Gosforth Civic Theatre gives people like Heather the chance to get valuable, real-life work experience, an opportunity not often afforded to people with learning disabilities or autism. Heather is a wonderful example of what we hope to achieve as a venue; keeping people with learning disabilities at the heart of what we do, showing that they're just as valuable as everyone else and giving them the chance to belong, work and get involved in the arts and their community.

To find out more about volunteer and work experience opportunities visit the Liberdade website or drop us a line at

To help us receive funding to provide more support to Heather and other volunteers please vote for us in the Aviva Community Fund, you could make a massive difference!

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