The Albany Theatre

Good news for The Albany Theatre's Heart n Soul as they receive £60,000 from the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

Good news for Deptford’s The Albany Theatre-based creative arts company and charity Heart n Soul this month, as they receive £60,000 from the City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust. The project to which the funds have been awarded is one that helps young people to develop new skills.

The as-yet-unnamed project comprises both one-to-one and group sessions that encourage young adults to make new music, art, and learn techniques for stage performance.

Although Heart n Soul’s regular club nights moved online during the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021, live events are beginning to return. They provide a platform for those involved to put their new-found skills to the test in front of a live crowd.

“Getting involved with Heart n Soul helps people to make new friends and try new things so they don’t feel lonely – for some it’s the only thing they get to be involved with,” said Heart n Soul Taking Part Assistant Ono Dafedjaiye, Speaking to

“During the coronavirus, people have been feeling more isolated and it’s affected their mental health. This project is about giving people the chance to stay connected with their friends and to build their confidence and skills.”

Based at The Albany Theatre, in Deptford, Heart n Soul was founded in 1985 with the aim of giving people with learning disabilities a safe place to be themselves. Director/Chief Executive Mark Williams, who was at the time a humble musician, wanted to explore new ways of music making and using art to make a difference.

Originally called The Group, Heart n Soul has come a long way in the last 30 years. In 2017, they created The Big 30 archive, for which people with and without learning disabilities were recorded talking about their lives, creating a unique archive of learning disability culture. The Big 30 archive has been permanently added to prestigious Wellcome Collection in London Euston.

Sebastian, 17, from Bromley, has been attending Heart n Soul at The Albany Theatre since 2018.

He says: “If you ever wanted to do art or singing, Heart n Soul is the best place. You can share your creativity and ideas and make your ideas bigger than you’ve ever imagined.

“I feel like I’ve changed as a musician, and I feel more accepted now and more determined. I can put my own creativity into it and make my own music.

"We’re still continuing to show our creativity during Covid-19, so nothing can really stop us.”

As part of the project, participants present a monthly radio show on online community station Soho Radio, while one member, Danielle, recently launched her second EP, Lovesheart, at the charity’s Squidz Club night.

City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said: “For over 35 years, Heart n Soul has been giving young people with learning disabilities opportunities to explore their creativity, learn new skills and make new friends.

“Like so many charities, during the Covid crisis it has provided a lifeline for many people, and this funding will help it to continue this vital work through the pandemic and beyond.”

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