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Chris Chats – Dramarama

January 31st, 2024

Bringing to life Chris’ dream to be a podcast host! Chris wrote a letter to our CEO asking for the opportunity to work for Aspire with his new project. Well here it is! Chris’ Chats!

Revisit our episode ‘Aspire and Aspirations’ from 31/01/24, where Chris discusses his hopes for the future of the podcast.

If you have a topic you’d like us to discuss, email


CC: Hello, good morning and welcome to Chris’ Chats. This is my first interview, this morning, with the Dramarama and their co-founder, Becci.


CC: Becci, would you like to introduce yourself and Dramarama?

BB: I would, Chris, so my name is Becci Barker and my role within Aspire; I do a lot of the online activities and I also teach a lot of performing arts. And beside me are two of our amazing cast members from Dramarama, would you like to introduce yourselves?

S: Sara

BB: And?

D: Darren

CC: Becci, what is Dramarama?

BB: So, Dramarama is our performing arts group in the South of Aspire, and it is for adults with learning disabilities, and it is lead by adults with learning disabilities. And we have everybody in that group, from people who have Downs Syndrome, people who have Cerebral Palsy, we have people in our group that are wheelchair users and some of those people are non-verbal, who only have capacity over using one part of their body, and it’s about looking at what people can do, not what they can’t do. So that’s what Dramarama is for me, and we work towards loads of different productions for Aspire throughout the year. We do lots of musicals, don’t we guys? And we just have a tonne of fun, don’t we?

S/D: Yep

BB: So, we rehearse every Friday, all day, and I go home feeling like I’m on top of the world after I’ve been with you guys! So that’s what Dramarama is!

CC: There we are! Becci can you tell us how many people are in Dramarama?

BB: Well, including Darren, Sara and myself, I think we’re at a cast of about 15 people at the moment.  But we are looking to expand that cast a little bit later on, but I’ll explain that a bit later on… we won’t give the secrets away yet, Chris!

CC: Mmm! So why did you start Dramarama?

BB: Well I started Dramarama, we started doing theatre many years ago when I first joined, when it was Leeds City Council Adult Social Care, so many, many years ago and Dramarama was started by myself and a colleague who’s now retired. Would you like to hear the story?

CC: I would!

BB: SO we had a manager called Steve, who was based in the south of Aspire, and he worked with a lady called Jackie and Jackie always wanted to do drama and singing and dancing, but she needed someone to do it with. So, Steve gave me a ring and he went “what do you think to teaming up with Jackie and setting up a performing arts group, so you’ve got something official?”.
So, we went for it and all these people can along, and Darren and Sara have been here from the beginning, haven’t you?

S/D: Yeah!

BB: Most of the people that are still in the group are the original cast members, and me and Jackie went about setting up Dramarama and it went from there! And then Jackie retired a few years ago, didn’t she?

D: Yeah

BB: But this year, Chris, it was fabulous! She came to Armley Mills to Down Memory Lane Day and we had a cast photo together didn’t we?

CC: Wow!

BB: All the original crew! So it was really lovely to see Jackie, and yeah, a lot of what we do, we owe to her for helping to start the group all those years ago. So, if you’re listening Jackie, a big thank you to you.

CC: Thank you, yes!

D: You!

CC: So, Sara and Darren, what do you like about Dramarama?

D: Like doing Dustbin Men! Bin Men!

BB: So, you like the ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’, is that your favourite song to do?

D: And Dustman!

BB: And what do we do that one for?

D: We did with bin lids!

BB: Yeah, but what production was that one for? Is it for Down…?

D: Memory Lane!

BB: Down Memory Lane and where’s that?

D: Armley Mills!

BB: As part of Learning Disability Week. Isn’t it? And what about you Sara?

S: I like Sister Act!

BB: Is that your favourite one? But I think apart from the shows Chris wants to know what else do you like about Dramarama? How does it make you feel?

S: Happy! So happy! Happy!

BB: That’s made me smile.

D: Happy.

CC: Sara and Darren, what show do you remember doing?

D: We did Grease.

BB: That was one of our first! My goodness me! I didn’t remember that.

S: When we did Grease!

BB: That was one of the first and we did it for, hang on, it’s coming back to me… Leeds Town Hall and it was for the launch of Aspire, in 2015! My goodness me! It’s all come back. I mean we did stuff years ago, when we weren’t Dramarama, when we were the big day centre and we used to do shows back then, and we did loads of different things, like throw them together didn’t we? But Grease, I think, was our first official!

D: Yeah

BB: Wow Darren! Wow that brought some memories back, Chris!

CC: Wowzer!

BB: Goodness me!

CC: What role did you play in Grease?

D: We did, first, we did, did Greased Lightning.

BB: We did, but who did you play, Darren? Do you remember? You were… Danny Zucko’s best friend… Wasn’t you?

D: So… Zucko

BB: So you were Kenickie weren’t you?

D: Kenickie.

BB: And Sara who were you? R…

S: Rizzo

BB: Rizzo! Which is actually quite lovely because, Kenickie and Rizzo are a couple in the show, in the stage show and, in the film, and Darren and Sara are engaged in real life!

S: Yeah

BB: Do you want to show Chris your rock?

CC: Beautiful! Congratulations!

BB: Look at the size of that! Must have cost Darren 6 months wages, that Chris!

CC: Wowzer!

BB: Yeah, it’s very lovely, so quite nice that you play a couple on stage and then are a couple in real life.

CC: Wow! So Becci, maybe you can give me an answer, what do you think that the audience like about Dramarama?

BB: Well for me, I mean at the AGM this year we had a standing ovation didn’t we, this year I mean? I don’t think we’ve ever had that! Every single person in the audience was on their feet clapping and cheering, weren’t they? It’s very hard to give feedback from an audience perspective when you’re not an audience member. Because I sit and watch them back, and I know how it makes me feel seeing you guys perform on stage, and it’s like I’m a proud mum of 20 people-

S: Yeah

BB: And it’s, yeah, there’s no feeling in the world though that could ever match how I feel when you guys are performing. I’ve got a bit, I’m getting a bit emotional now, but there isn’t. There’s no feeling that can match that for me. But how do you think your parents feel when they see you perform? Because they come to every show and watch, don’t they?

D: Yeah

BB: How do you think your mum and dad feel? And your mum? When they come and watch you?

D: Happy

S: Happy

BB: Yeah, and there’s a word that begins with the letter P. Pr-

S: Proud

BB: Proud, that’s it!

D: Proud

BB: Proud is the word! I think they feel yeah. And I think that you get that a lot, yeah, from a lot of our audiences.

CC: Mmm

BB: And we have a lot of staff that come up to us afterward after, don’t they? And they congratulate you all and tell you how amazing you are.

S: Yeah

D: Yep

BB: And that’s all you really want from a performance, is to get up there and feel good.

S: What we’re put through, what we put through

BB: The hard work that goes into it, they can see it can’t they?

S: But they don’t know what we’ve done.

BB: They don’t! And that’s what we say isn’t it, if it goes wrong, what do we do?

S: Just get on with it!

BB: We keep going, because if we, the audience never know what we’ve learned.

S: Nope

BB: So, if something goes wrong then the audience wouldn’t know!

S: Nope

BB: So, we just carry on, don’t we? Yeah! And as well, I think like, from an audience’s perspective we’ve had people get in touch with us, haven’t we? After we’ve had people watch shows and I think it was a member of the board of disabled people in Leeds who get in touch and asked us to perform at an event, because they saw just how creative we are as a group, and just how diverse we are as well. Everybody’s different in that group and that no two people with a disability are the same.

CC: No

BB: Everybody’s unique, we’re all different and that’s what makes us individual doesn’t it? And for someone to sit there and see what we’ve done and want us to perform at an event because of the diversity we’ve got in that group, and we show how it gives people with learning disabilities a voice, that “I can perform. Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I can’t dance” and that’s the message that I like to kind of sent out there. Every body dances, as in your body, every body dances in some way or another.

CC: So, everyone, what is your favourite shows that you have performed.

D: Oh I’ve, I’ve been Kermit!

BB: Yes, when we did the Muppet Show!

S: Yeah

BB: Oh wow! That was for, what event was that for? For the Cultural…

S: Awareness Day

BB: Awareness Day! Yeah, that we hold at the… where do we hold that?

S: [muffled]

BB: No, it’s at the Ir-

S: Irish Centre

BB: Irish Centre

D: Irish Centre

BB: Yeah! And it’s an event that we hold every year don’t we and the theme was famous faces that year, and we decided to do the Muppet Show that year, and you were Kermit the Frog weren’t you? Tap dancing Kermit, of course! It was amazing! What about Sara? What’s your favourite we’ve ever done?

S: Greatest Showman

BB: Showman, and that was again, for our World Culture Day, wasn’t it, this year? Erm, and the theme was ‘The Greatest Show’, so obviously we had to do The Greatest Showman, Chris, it goes without saying. And who were you, can you remember who you played? The Woman in…

S: White!

BB: The Woman in White! And you looked fabulous, you had all, big white tentacles that come under your arms didn’t you and it was brilliant that costume.

S: And I had like a wedding thing.

BB: You did, you had a veil and a big white puffball skirts we use for Grease didn’t you? And oh, she looked fabulous. And I think my favourite… it’s really hard… I mean we did Joseph this year for the AGM and I think that’s got to be up there for me.

S: And we did that thing with the skeletons

BB: That was Cinco De Mayo, wasn’t it? I enjoyed that one. You’d think that would be my favourite, being a horror actor as well, but I think for me it’s got to be Little Mermaid.

S: Oh

BB: Little Mermaid was my favourite

S: That fish that I was doing

BB: Yes, Sara was, actually, a puppeteer in that one.

CC: Wow!

BB: Yeah, we had a Flounder from when I was a little girl, and we made handles on him didn’t we? And Claire was our mermaid, wasn’t she? Now Claire’s complex needs, and we made the rock look like she was laid on the rock in the middle of the sea. And Sara was Flounder but when she was interacting with Claire, even though Sarah was up here, Claire and Flounder interacted, it wasn’t Claire and Sara. So, you got her to interact with the fish, which was a really hard thing to do, cause puppetry is very difficult and oh you did amazing with that. And I think that’s my favourite because it reminds me of being a little girl and my childhood and when we put together it was just, yeah, Disney magic and for me that’s yeah, I think that’s got to be my favourite.

J: And Chris have you ever seen Dramarama perform?

CC: Once, yes, at the Culture Event.

J: Which Culture event was that?

CC: This year’s Culture Event.

J: Do you remember what they performed?

CC: I believe that was The Greatest Showman.

BB: It was! And one more that we did, can you remember? If me and Sara do the moves, do we know what that one is?

CC: Oh, I also believe that would be Sister Act.

BB: Spot on, sir!

S: Yeah!

BB: Well done!

J: And what did you think Chris?

CC: I thought it was very impressive and I also thought I could do that!

BB: Would you like to do that?

CC: I would!

BB: Well…

CC: So Becci, what is the future of Dramarama?

BB: The future of Dramarama, well Chris, we could go anywhere couldn’t we guys?

S: Yeah

D: Yeah

BB: I mean we could go on the West End tomorrow; I think we’d be ready, wouldn’t we? But we’ve done a lot of productions this year, and when we start, we’re having a little break now at the moment, because I feel as though sometimes all they do is work and I think everybody deserves a break Chris, especially when they work as hard as they do.

And what we do in November, when we’re back, is we’ll start working on our production for the Cultural Awareness Day, which is in March. But when we get, when I’ve been given the theme, I’ll think of a few different productions that we could potentially do, and then when we start back, we have a team meeting don’t we?

S: Yeah

D: Yeah

BB: And these guys will vote then, on what production they want to do. So, it’s all co-produced. So, it’s not just me that produces it and directs it, they produce it and direct it as well. So obviously they lead the dancing, we’ll do something different. So, I’ll say “So with this song, how does that make you feel?” and you’ll find that you get different dance moves from people that you’ve never seen before, and then you’ll think “oh we could use that” and then we’ll choreograph it in won’t we?

S: Yeah

BB: And they help with the costumes, don’t you? They help with the props.

D: Yep

BB: It really is a coproduction between me and the cast.

S: And we help with customers

BB: You all help each other, onstage, don’t you? And just before we start rehearsing again, in November, we will, on the 3rd  November at Rothwell, we are going to hold an audition day for the South. So, we chatted about the East and the West, and we realised that we at Dramarama could do with a few extra cast members, couldn’t we?

D: Yeah

BB: I think we were ready, weren’t we? As a team to open our door a little bit and say, “come along south people, let’s see what talent we’ve got that’s undiscovered”. So, on the 3rd November we’ll hold an audition day and then we’ll expand our cast. So that is our future now.

CC: Wow

BB: So very exciting stuff, isn’t it?

D: Yep!

S: Yeah

CC: Well, Becci, it sounds like you’re really, really busy!

BB: I am, but I’ll be honest with you, I’m not as busy as these guys.

S: No

BB: When we’re rehearsing, we are full on aren’t we?

D: Yeah

BB: Because you arrive at 10 don’t you on a Friday and we rehearse ‘til half past 2. We have breaks, obviously we have breaks, we have a lunch hour, we have a break in the morning for juice and a break in the afternoon for juice, because obviously as well, when you’re dancing it’s very important that you keep hydrated. You all bring a bottle of water, or a bottle of juice don’t you, to rehearsal.

D: Yeah

BB: But that’s an important bit. But yeah, always busy

S: Yeah

BB: But life is busy, isn’t it? And I’d rather be busy and see all these amazing projects come to life, than to be sat there twiddling my thumbs thinking, “I don’t know what to do with myself”. I like to keep busy. And you lot keep me busy, don’t you?

S: Yeah

D: Yep

CC: Good! So, Sara and Darren can you tell me what your favourite rehearsal is?

D: Elvis Presley, in Joseph

BB: Oh, you enjoyed rehearsing Pharoah.

D: Yep

BB: So Darren was Pharaoh, Chris, when we did Joseph. Oh, it was excellent, wasn’t it? Because Darren had the Pharaoh costume over the top of his brother costume, while we was on stage, and he just rocked it didn’t you?

S: And me! I’m the camel.

BB: You were the camel, weren’t you? You brought the camel out and you stole Joseph with the silver coins. Were they your favourite rehearsals moments from Joseph?

S: Yeah

CC: So, Sara and Darren have you made any good friends?

S: Yeah

D: Yeah

D: Loads of friends

S: Lots of friends

BB: Every gets along really well, don’t they? I don’t think we’ve had anyone fall out with each other or say anything inappropriate.

S: No

BB: I don’t think we’ve had anything like that Chris, everyone seems to get on pretty well.  Um, for me, it’s magic moments. That’s why I do performing arts, because you get these moments in theatre, that you would never get anywhere else in the world. And I’m going to get a bit emotional now Chris, sorry, um, this year at Down Memory Lane, there was a video that one of our colleagues captured and it was put on our Instagram page, and I was sat at home at the time when I saw it, because I’d finished work, it was the end of the day. And it was a video of one of our cast members, Lisa, and Claire who is one of our ladies who’s complex needs, Claire’s a wheelchair user and Claire’s mop cap, which is a little hat that we wear, was coming off and Lisa went over to hear, put her arms around her, fixed her hat and kissed her on the head. And that for me was one most magical things that I’ve ever seen happen. Because they’re moments that I don’t see from offstage. Because I’m running round everywhere, trying to sort costumes out, trying to get Joseph off stage and I’m here there and everywhere, and that was lovely for me.

And there was another one this year as well, again with Claire, again, which was at our Star Awards (which is our staff awards). We were doing our- what set did we do guys, do you remember?

S: I Am What I Am

BB: I Am What I Am, and the Y-


BB: Yeah, we did our PRIDE set didn’t we?
And when we all march forward, we make the PRIDE flag with our t-shirts on stage. And on “I Am What I Am” we all started with our heads down and our hands on our knees and nobody was supposed to sing. And Claire just started singing the first verse out of nowhere and she brought the house down. There was not a dry eye in the house was there? There really wasn’t!

And then one of the funniest things from this year, was actually very recent, it was at our last performance at the AGM, and Simon come, and I says “He’s got one slipper on one foot and one trainer on the other foot” and I says “Where’s your other slipper?” and he says “It’s at home”. I says “Where’s your other trainer” “It’s at home”. I said “you’ll have to go on stage like that” and he was Joseph. And he did Joseph in one slipper and one trainer and that was one of the best moments for me out of this year.  And that’s the thing, things always go a bit wrong, but you have to make it happen, you have to make it work and he absolutely rocked Joseph, didn’t he? You all did! I mean, our camel, our Pharoah, and it was just wonderful but yeah, some really really magic moments between our more ambulant and capable people, as opposed to our people that have-

S: When you put the coat on as well, with me

BB: Yeah, with the coat, and the belt

S: You did it wrong

BB: Yeah, I did, yes I got the belt back to front. Sara did notice that. Nobody in the audience noticed though Chris, but Sara did.

S: I did

BB: She told me off after, didn’t you? But we were all laughing about it backstage, wasn’t we? But for me it’s the magic moments of how Dramarama support one another on stage, because that’s what it’s all about. It’s about supporting one another. I mean, like yourself, you’ll recognise that some people need a little bit more support than others and everybody’s treated the same, which is how it should be.

CC: So thank you again for joining us. Um, I’d also like to thank um, Becci, Sara and Darren for joining us and before we wind down, Becci is there anything you’d like to say?

BB: Well thank you for having us, to start with, Chris

S: Thank you

D: Thank you