An arts organisation in south London has received new funding for a scheme which harnesses the creative talents of young people with learning disabilities.

Deptford-based Heart n Soul has received £60,000 from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder – for its Expandable project.

The project features one-to-one and group sessions enabling young people to develop new skills, make new music and art and hone their performance techniques.

It also includes regular club nights giving attendees the chance to perform and socialise together, which moved online during the pandemic.

Heart n Soul Taking Part Assistant Ono Dafedjaiye said: “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.

“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 arts centre, in Deptford, Heart n Soul was founded in 1985 with the aim of giving people with learning disabilities a safe place to be themselves.

Through 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.”

Sebastian, 17, from Bromley, has been attending Heart n Soul since 2018.

He said: “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.”

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