Beyond the Square was formerly called Workshops in the Arts for People with Disabilities (WAPD). The WAPD program was established in about 1995 due to an expressed need in the community for performing arts classes for people with disability. Long time ‘Friends of Riverside’ volunteer Val Squires with the support of John Haynes, the Lord Mayor of the time, together with the General Manager of Riverside Theatres, Heather Ramsey, applied for an arts grant from Parramatta City Council (PCC) to start these workshops. They were successful in receiving a grant of $1000 to run these workshops which went towards hiring the tutor.
The workshops started as one workshop in drama that took place in Rafferty’s Theatre at Riverside. By the year 2000 there were two workshops with about 10 participants in each. Val says that, ‘The workshops grew, they got a lot of enquiries and were very popular.’ So Val & The Friends applied again for funding from PCC & received a four year grant for $1000 each year to run the program after funding from PCC ceased The Friends would fundraise on their own in order to keep the program running. What money The Friends could not raise the program was supported by Riverside.
12:30 am 2001 – 2003Nicole Traynor was WAPD co-ordinator, and Veronica Whelan was tutor. There was an end of year performance on the main-stage at Riverside (unsure as to whether this was the first end of year performance) and this tradition continued each year.
12:29 am 2004With the coordinator & tutor leaving the WAPD program did not run for most of this year.
12:28 am 2005The program was overhauled & coordinated by Riverside’s producer, Camilla Rountree & Western Sydney Dance Action’s (WSDA) Artistic Director, Kathy Baykitch and given more of a drama focus. The workshops were not working at Riverside due to lack of space so were moved to different other council run buildings in the area such as town halls & community centres. Ursula Good was the tutor and also Rebecca Devine for a brief period, assisted by Anna-Lee Russo and briefly Natalie Smith.
12:28 am 2006Camilla Rountree was the sole coordinator for the next 4 years when Kathy Baykitch left WSDA. Ona Nurkkala became the tutor with Adam Kennedy & Melanie Taylor as assistant tutors.
12:28 am 2007Adam Kennedy became a co tutor with Ona Nurkkala, and were still assisted by Melanie. The tutors were given an extra three hours per week for any administrative tasks that were required for the program particularly in the lead up to the end of year performances.
12:27 am 2008 – 2009Ona & Adam were co-tutors and co-ordinators. Melanie Taylor was still assistant. Two guest tutors came for two weeks in 2009 – Craig Anderson (clowning workshop) & Angela Hill (contemporary dance).
12:27 am 2010Kay Harrison joined as co-tutor with Ona, with Melanie assistant. Ona left in April, and Adam came back to replace her. Kay & Adam were co-tutors for the rest of the year. Kirsty Fromholtz also joined in April as the assistant tutor with Melanie and by this stage we were doing six workshops over Tuesdays, Thursdays & Fridays engaging between 40-60 people with disabilities in dance and drama. The local business community also started to get behind the program and initiated Get on Stage a fundraiser lunch taking place on Riverside’s mainstage to raise money for the program. This is continuing on each year.
12:25 am 2011Funding was sourced by Alison Richardson from ArtsNSW and matched by Parramatta City Council to employ her four days a week for three years to coordinate & develop the WAPD program which was rebranded to Beyond the Square. Maurie Barlin and Kirsty Fromholtz were employed as workshop tutors in drama & movement with assistance by Melanie Taylor. The workshops began at numerous council run venues but were soon moved to the one venue, Granville Youth & Community Centre. The program had five workshops and has moved in 2012 to having six workshops in drama and movement engaging about 60 people with disabilities. There was an end of year performance on Riverside’s mainstage and a courtyard party with a free BBQ, live music, karaoke and dancing.
If you have any more information as to the History of WAPD please contact Sophie at: [email protected]
Val Squires, a long time ‘Friends of Riverside’ volunteer starting taking pics circa 1995, below you’ll find a selection from the early days!