Orchard Art – The Bulmer Foundation
Launched in 2011, the Orchard Art project is a partnership, managed by the Bulmer Foundation, between orchard owners, caring organisations, and professional artists. Orchard Art enables people with learning disabilities to spend quality time in some of Herefordshire’s many orchards in the company of a wide range of artists and then showcase their work to the wider public.
Orchard Art has two identified benefits: Firstly, there is the experience in the orchard for people with learning disabilities who receive a rare opportunity to be outside in the rich, safe environment provided by an orchard. Secondly, by working with others, the Bulmer Foundation has been able to provide places for people with learning disabilities to demonstrate their skills to the wider community, and to share enriched experiences together.
In the Summer, Orchard Art soared to new heights with a play about the value of orchards created and performed by students at Echo’s About Face Theatre Company based in Leominster. The play, Five Fruit-trees make an Orchard wowed audiences. The actors, all with learning disabilities, recited from memory extensive passages of seventeenth century prose describing the social, environmental, economic and spiritual values of orchards. The actors interpreted those values in their own ways, delivering a stunning and emotional rollercoaster of a performance.
Five Fruit-trees make an Orchard was described as “a triumph”, “truly amazing and inspirational” and “a rare and special event”. Audiences also left with more than having experienced a uniquely entertaining and emotional play. The audiences learned about the importance of orchards, their sustainable value and some of their history, as well as about the abilities of people with learning disabilities and what they can contribute to wider society.
The Bulmer Foundation is evaluating the impact of the project and will be working with others to build upon the shared interest and insights that the performances have fostered.