Opening door to arts events

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DASh opens doors to arts events H ave you ever wanted to see a play, watch a film or listen to some music, but been unable to because you did not have your own transport?

Help with transport is now enabling more and more people to attend arts events in rural Shropshire, explains ROBERT BULLARD

Or been put off going because you • "But i t is always good to have one's did not fancy the late-night journey suspicions confirmed, with supporting evidence." home? i So, in partnership with the District Well, do not despair. There are initiatives that will help. And that will Council, DASh set up "Bridgnorth transport you door-to-door i n the "Arts for A l l " , which arranges transport to arts events, to encourage more good company of others. For the last few years, Disability people to attend; "But we did not want the old model Arts i n Shropshire (DASh) - but no, this project is not just for disabled of disabled people turning hp i n a people - has been running initiatives •bus," said Mike. "That would have merely reinthat arrange your transport for you, first i n Bridgnorth and how North forced their isolation. And anyway, we became aware that other groups Shropshire. Back i n 1999, DASh got funding were also excluded." Transporting several people at a from the Arts Council to research^ what factors would make arts events time also fitted i n with the council's more accessible to disabled people. environmental objectives of promot" I t wasperhaps no surprise that ing community transport. the answer was transport," said And now the project's results are DASh's Mike Layward. beginning to speak for themselves. r

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I n the pilot year, 30 people used the transport. But now, i n its third year, the number of users has doubled. Meanwhile, a similar initiative i n North Shropshire, in its first year, has already recorded 40 users. To find out more I went along to meet 11 users - mostly women over 70 - who travelled from Market Drayton to an event in Wem. I t was no ordinary evening. The women were treated to a performance from the Warsaw Village Band just back from a visit to New York "It's excellent for us to be able to get out.and to have a good natter," said Olivia Matthews, excitedly. Olivia cannot drive, having lost her sight a few years ago. Others too chip in with reasons for using the transport

"Going with others means you are not a stranger when you arrive," said Frances Robinson. "Coming with DASh means I can have a drink or two," added Lesley Durling, a keen folk enthusiast. The only man among them, Eric Poutlon, had his own views. "They like to have a man with them - as someone to go to the bar in the interval!" Helen Battersby, Bridgnorth District Council's Arts Officer, is equally pleased with the results. "Demand has really picked up this year," she said. "Now the message is really getting through to people." But while next year's funding is assured i n Bridgnorth, the decision still has to go before councillors i n North Shropshire. "At the moment they seem to be cutting everything for the elderly," warned Olivia. And with that they head off to the taxi. For now, being chauffeured door-to-door for £1 a round-trip, is too good adealtoignore.

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