Using the power of the theatre to transform young lives. 

At Mousetrap Theatre Projects, we believe passionately in the power of theatre to transform young lives. Our mission is to engage, educate and inspire children and young people through theatre. We achieve this by providing opportunities to attend London’s outstanding theatre supported by innovative education projects for schools, youth groups, individuals and families.

We serve over 15,000 children and young people each year, focusing on those who experience disadvantage – whether economic, social or through a learning or sensory disability. We run 18 distinct programmes which impact young lives in a range of ways:

  • We break down barriers - which prevent young people from enriching their lives through the arts. In a world where most young people receive all of their media through screens, live performance becomes a rare and magical experience.
  • We expand and challenge young minds – theatre immerses us in lives and situations beyond our daily experience. It helps make us inquisitive, open-minded and creative human beings.
  • We use drama to build confidence, self-esteem and aspiration - in young people who live difficult lives, such as young carers, homeless, young offenders.
  • We provide uplifting, joyful theatre experiences - to families, children and young people facing the daily challenges of living with special needs and disabilities or on a low-income.
  • We nurture creativity - through education projects in schools delivered by arts professionals who connect classroom learning directly to careers.

Who are your beneficiaries and why do they rely on you

We serve children and young people who are disadvantaged, working mainly with 11-19 year olds, plus younger children through our family projects. The majority of the young lives we help are disadvantaged through financial or social deprivation. We reach these young people through: schools with a high percentage of students on free school meals; youth groups in deprived areas and estates across London; families on low-incomes – connecting with them through social services, housing associations and other charities.

We also serve young people experiencing particular challenging circumstances for example the homeless, refugee groups, young carers and students excluded from school.

Young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are another key beneficiary group, including deaf and visually impaired young people, those with learning disabilities, autism, Asperger’s and emotional and behavioural difficulties. Many also have other associated physical disabilities.

We provide them with magical, uplifting, educational and inspirational theatre experiences which would otherwise be beyond their reach. Teachers, parents and youth workers consistently tell us that their children would miss out on London’s rich cultural life and its incredible impact on their outlook and aspirations, if it wasn’t for us.

How did the charity start?

The clue to our origins lies very much in our name. Our founder and Chairman, Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, purchased the production rights to the world’s longest running play, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, when it was in its 45th year in the West End. He believed it was time the play ‘gave something back’ and so he set up an education charity to bring disadvantaged young people into the West End to experience theatre.  The Mousetrap Foundation for the Arts was registered in 1996 and began operating under the helm of Susan Whiddington in 1997.

Over the last 18 years we have taken nearly 150,000 young people to the theatre.  We have developed 18 different theatre access and education programmes throughout that time.  A few of these are no longer being offered or await a re-birth if the demand arises, but most are still going strong, with the need and demand stronger than ever.

We changed our name in 2007 in celebration of our 10th anniversary, to better reflect what we do.  Mousetrap Theatre Projects became our new operating name with a tag-line, “inspiring young people”.  This is what drives us and is what we try to live up to every day.

Charity statistics 

Since our foundation, we have taken nearly 150,000 children and young people to see top theatre across London. Here are some statistics from the last year:

  • 2015 was a record year for us, as we served over 16,000 children and young people
  • We took young people to 60 theatre productions across London and the West End
  • We worked with 380 state mainstream and special schools, mostly from Greater London.
  • The average % of students eligible for Free School Meals at the mainstream secondary schools taking part in our programmes was 45% - the national average is 28%.
  • For the primary schools, the average percentage was even higher, at 56%.
  • We served young people and families in all 32 London boroughs and for some of our very specialist projects, participants came from across the UK, from as far as Northampton, Dorset and Coventry.

Case Study or success story

Our Envision theatre days are for blind and partially sighted young people. Patrick has been an Envision regular since he was 13. Here is his story:

At 19, Patrick has just started a BTEC in Theatre Management, and hopes to pursue this as a career. Although he loved watching the shows, it was the opportunity provided by Envision to learn about the workings of a production, go on stage for the touch tour and meet West End theatre staff that inspired him to choose this path. His mum, Helen, said, “his love of theatre began with these days.”

Patrick has limited vision and Envision was the only activity he did specifically aimed at people with visual impairment, and he found it to be a real confidence boost: “You feel like you’re in a little community and you’re not the only one … being around other VI people that understand how hard it can be to be independent.”

Attending his last Envision day at Memphis The Musical was a personal milestone. For the first time he felt confident to travel to the theatre by train on his own, a “huge step forward” says his mum.

Why vote for you?

Voting for Mousetrap Theatre Projects won’t save a life, it will help make a life worth living. Expressing ourselves creatively and finding joy and fulfilment through the arts is not a luxury but an essential part of our humanity. Yet there are thousands of children who miss out on experiencing and participating in the arts, with top quality theatre especially remaining largely inaccessible to all but a small privileged section of society. A vote for Mousetrap will give thousands of young people the chance to experience the magic and wonder of theatre and be exposed to, as our one of our founding trustees Richard Attenborough put it “a glorious passport to greater understanding between the peoples of the world.”

Our work with schools is more important than ever in a school system which has downgraded the perceived value of the arts by excluding them from the EBacc, leading to the subsequent withdrawal of arts courses, especially drama and performing arts, in many schools. Yet the continued success of our fast growing Creative Industries sector, now worth £77 billion annually to the UK economy, relies on a workforce with creative abilities.

A vote for Mousetrap will also help us harness the power of drama to give young people, especially those facing a difficult start in life, opportunities to develop much needed self-esteem, confidence and aspirations. As 15 year-old Tyler said of his Mousetrap experience “It inspired me to follow my dreams.”

The Mousetrap Theatre Projects Website