Scen:se - Art for an audience that rarely encounters art


Experiencing different types of art is a human necessity. For children and young people with complex needs, this is far from their reality. Focusing on sensory methods, the art project Scen:se is therefore creating productions exclusively for this particular audience. These are performances and exhibitions where the audience are involved regardless of their abilities, both on stage and off.

Below you can read an article we published in 2020 for theme track FUNKTION and the collaboration Bibu had and continues to have with Folkteatern Gävleborg and the project Scen:se. (The 2020 festival was cancelled due to Covid.)

For three years, Folkteatern Gävleborg and the project Scen:se collaborated to create performing arts for children and young people with complex needs. 

This resulted in the performances Stranden and Shakespeares Hjärtslag, which both performed all over Sweden with the national touring theatre Riksteatern Barn och Unga.  

The performance Stranden is part of the program of theme track FUNKTION within Bibu 2022.

Please watch the two short documentaries about each performance. They provide an in-depth insight into the processes and in the perspectives that have been the starting points in the artistic work of reaching and meeting the audience.

About Stranden (The beach):

About Shakespeares Hjärtslag (Shakespeare’s Heartbeat):

The films are made by Michael Tebinka.


Article from March 2020:

“Creating accessible culture is not just about having wheelchair ramps and hearing loops. It’s all about meeting and engaging, in way that the audience is comfortable with. As far as children and young people with autism or disabilities are concerned, it’s extra important to create spaces in which the audience feel comfortable. Being visited by someone from the theatre or seeing pictures of actors and stage settings before going to the actual performance are important parts of the concept,” says Anna Thelin, producer at Folkteatern Gävleborg, one of the collaborators in Scen:se.

The aim of the three-year Scen:se project is to boost and promote culture and art for young people with neurodiversities. Anna Thelin describes the provision of such culture in Sweden as extremely limited in comparison with other countries. She therefore challenges everyone working in state-funded cultural institutions to shoulder their responsibility to produce culture for this audience too.

“It’s part of our job, to create art for everyone. As regards what is on offer for special need schools, cultural activities made for these children are not available to the extent that we would like. Music and dance are offered to a certain extent but, as far as theatre is concerned, there’s practically nothing. Seeing a performance, or actually taking on a role, is a fantastic tool for practicing emotions. Drama can create so much curiosity. For an audience that can be quite reserved, theatre experiences add valuable elements to their emotional life,” explains Anna Thelin.

The audience is the most important element in all performing arts
Eva von Hofsten, initiator of and project leader for Scen:se, also emphasizes that art and culture enrich their audiences by way of new emotions and atmospheres. Within the framework of its mission, Scen:se have produced two performances and one exhibition, all of which have toured all over Sweden. The performances have been created by artistic teams from England; Stranden is directed by Tim Webb, and Shakespeare’s Heartbeat by Kelly Hunter. Both these directors have long experience of working with these audiences, and the productions are full-scale, with high levels of ambition and quality.

“Children and young people with complex needs too often take part of performances, or go to exhibitions, that are neither appropriate nor accessible. For example, they are frequently offered productions for very young children. The key to access for these audiences is for them to be offered art that has been created specifically for them, on their own terms. The audience is for me the most important aspect in all performing arts, and even more so in this specific field. This audience sometimes do not know what a theatre is and cannot put the concept into any context. To gain successful communication and a high-quality artistic experience, the director and ensemble must, right from the start, create theatrical art where the audience is the key element,” says Eva von Hofsten.

During this year’s Bibu, under the theme FUNKTION, much focus will be placed on theatrical art for audiences with neurodiversities. A number of seminars will be organized and, in addition to Stranden and Shakespeare’s Heartbeat from Scen:se, there are many other productions in the programme.

“After three years with Scen:se, we can see a fantastic drive and ambition, with considerable interest in creating more, as well as better, art for these audiences. Audiences, performers, technicians, pedagogues and musicians – everyone emphasizes how the productions have enriched them in different ways. And that has given us the appetite for more,” says Eva von Hofsten.

Text: Anna Bergling

Photo from the performance Stranden, Scen:se, photographer: Martin Skoog


Here you can find the program for Theme track FUNKTION

Published: 2020-03-02