Members of Stage Beyond, the award-winning Northern Ireland theatre company led by adults with learning disabilities, have showcased their talents for a visiting Jordanian government delegation in Belfast.

Stage Beyond performed an extract from their acclaimed recent production, ‘The Great Dictator’ as part of the delegation’s itinerary aimed at the transformation of social care for persons with disabilities into community-based, inclusive services.

The performance was hosted by NI-CO’s Support to Social Protection in Jordan Programme. Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas is a not for profit, public body owned by Invest NI, part of the Department for the Economy NI. “Direct links with Government departments and public sector institutions across the UK and Ireland allow NI-CO to offer its client base a unique mix of practical training, institutional capacity building and consultancy in a diverse range of areas from Governance and Accessible Justice to Healthcare and Agriculture”.

Dee Conaghan, Artistic Director of Stage Beyond which is supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, thanked the organisers for the opportunity to showcase the company’s ground-breaking work and accessible arts. The Derry-based theatre company’s recent adaptation of the Charlie Chaplin satirical movie masterpiece ‘The Great Dictator’, tackles the challenging subject of eugenics and discrimination against people with disabilities in Europe during the 1940s.

Aine Morrison, Chief Social Worker for NI, was among attendees who enjoyed Stage Beyond’s performance as the Jordanian delegation prepare to resettle people with a learning disability from long-stay hospital care.

The performers included Bernie Shiels, who has been an actor with Stage Beyond since the company was established just over 20 years ago. She also addressed the guests about her own lived experience and embracing new opportunities both as a member and Board Chair. Last year Bernie was awarded the ‘Inspirational Trustee’ title by Arts & Business NI and was a guest speaker at their cultural governance conference held at The MAC in Belfast.

Commenting on the unique opportunity to perform with Stage Beyond for the Jordanian delegation, Bernie said she was delighted that the visitors got to see at first hand the importance and transformative potential that drama has to offer so many people with learning disabilities across the world.

She also welcomed continued links with the delegation and any other organisations wishing to reach out to Stage Beyond to help improve outcomes for their service users.