A fundraising appeal to build the UK’s first bespoke performing arts centre specifically for autistic people with complex needs has soared past a key fundraising milestone.

Our Let Me Shine Performing Arts Centre fundraising appeal has reached the £1m mark thanks to scores of individuals and organisations showing their support.

Once open in the 2024/25 school year, the unique centre will feature adapted facilities to support autistic young people with complex needs to access opportunities in music, dance and drama and the life-enriching benefits this provides.

The £1m mark was passed over the past month thanks to significant donations from The Gosling Foundation, The Cadogan Charity, The Alchemy Foundation, The Gerald Palmer Eling Trust and The Beatrice Laing Trust.

And dedicated individuals taking on fundraising challenges:

Natalie Norris, Prior’s Court Fundraising Manager, said:

This is a fabulous achievement to have passed the £1m mark in the fundraising campaign for this vitally important centre. Thank you to every single person and group who has made a donation to this appeal and played a part in supporting autistic young people with complex needs to be able to better access the transformational power of the performing arts.

Autistic individuals face many barriers to accessing the arts – from light and noise sensitivities to understanding of social rules – and one aim of the centre is to mimic theatre environments to prepare more young people to access arts venues in the community successfully. 

young person dressed as a scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz

This is in addition to having the opportunity day-to-day to express themselves creatively in a dedicated, bespoke space within the specialist learning and residential provision at Prior’s Court, where families can also attend performances.

There is around £115,000 left to raise for the project.

Natalie added:

This £115,000 is about creating an outdoor performance space – something which is vital to this unique appeal as so many young people here can struggle to transition to an indoor space. An outdoor space would provide the right area they could use to begin their performing arts learning journey.

Our ambition is to also use the centre to research best practice around providing support to access the arts, and sharing these learnings with others in the education and performing arts sectors for the benefit of autistic people, and their families, across the country and beyond.

Work is well underway on the build for the project which is transforming an existing building at the Prior’s Court site into the bespoke performing arts centre.

Get more information about the arts centre appeal

Check out our performing arts centre project blog