Wanstead teenager Grace Wolstenholme invites you to watch her YouTube channel for an insight into her life with cerebral palsy. In the second of a series of articles, the aspiring actor talks about Chicken Shed Theatre
I’ve been acting from the age of seven at Chicken Shed Theatre. I started in children’s theatre and took part in some Christmas shows, then I moved up to youth theatre and took part in a few more performances. My favourite show was Feel The Love because it was about all kinds of love and saying everyone’s equal, but I especially enjoyed the nightclub scene because I love a good party!
Chicken Shed changed my life. Before joining, I hated leaving the house as I was embarrassed for people to see me because I was ‘different’. Every time my mum tried to get me out of the house I would have a meltdown. I actually remember her forcing me to sit in my car seat to get me to my primary school, and one day, I was so strong she couldn’t physically get me in the car!
Then Chicken Shed called saying there was a space for me. My mum was in shock because she heard the waiting time can be up to 10 years. The reason I got in so quickly was because my mum took me to the children’s workshops on the weekends and they saw how bad I was. They thought Chicken Shed would really help build my confidence so they invited me to a week called Summer Shed. I remember kicking, hitting and biting my mum when she was trying to get me into the room. The lady in charge was expecting me, so when she heard screaming and crying, she knew I was there and came over. I even kicked her. Then she introduced me to my one-to-one and I went to the group, but I didn’t join in.
After a few months of going, I started getting more confident. After a year, you couldn’t get me away from Chicken Shed. I was enjoying it so much. I was only seven, but from that age, I knew I belonged and fitted in and I went to my primary school saying I was leaving and going to school at Chicken Shed, but that wasn’t true because it’s a college.
I went to a special needs secondary school, which at the time was the best school, but after two years of being there it really changed. When I started, most people were like me, physically disabled, not mentally disabled. But that changed and most people were mentally disabled, so again, I just wanted to study at Chicken Shed. I was 14, so I still couldn’t go, and it got to a point where I wouldn’t go to school because I didn’t fit in.
Because my school was attached to a mainstream school, I used to talk to the ‘mainstream’ pupils through the fence. Then at the age of 15, I applied for Chicken Shed, and one day after school I got home to a letter saying I had an interview. My school did everything they could to help because I was quite naughty there, so the staff couldn’t wait to get rid of me! Three months later, I got another letter saying I got in. So, June last year I left school and started college. I finally felt I was getting somewhere in life.