Entelechy Arts was founded in 1989 at the request of the Lewisham and North Southwark Health Authority, to support the resettlement of people with learning disabilities from the old ‘mental handicap’ asylums to communities in South East London.

A key aim of this transition was to enable individuals to become respected and contributing members of their communities. Artists were engaged to support this process, forming the heart of Entelechy Arts’ approach.

Our early work responded to the findings that many founder members were unable to use conventional forms of communication such as talking and many were traumatised by years of institutional abuse. Projects used music, participatory theatre and dance as a means of communication and exchange.

Nearly three decades later and the practice is still growing. We continue to devise and innovate ways of listening to people whose voices are not heard; we continue to forge meaningful artistic relationships between strangers.

In 2000 we pioneered a cross-generational practice to explore preoccupations shared by young and old in the inner city. Older institutional survivors contributed to this work, which became a key component of Home Office Community Cohesion Projects.

In 2006 our elders’ performance company ‘Seven Ages’ was formed. Seven Ages, reflecting the diversity of its home communities, uses theatre, dance, writing and video to explore themes of identity, diversity, memory, risk and change.

Between 2007 and 2009, we were responsible for the artistic direction of London’s Capital Age Festival, which culminated in the pan-London ‘Big Chair Dance’. This event brought together over 250 older performers from 12 London boroughs, taking centre stage in one of Europe’s largest performing arts centres, Southbank Centre.

In 2010 we were one of 12 UK arts companies taking part in a UK / Brazilian Government cultural exchange, ‘Points of Contact’. Creative relationships are now being forged between older Entelechy artists and elders in Brazil. In 2015/16 we contributed to the development of an ongoing exchange of creative work with older people between arts organisations in the UK and Japan.

In 2014/15 we worked with 39 artists with 12 artist residencies. 28 performances reached 4,000 plus people, with 14,000 plus reached through 2 exhibitions. Attendance on learning programmes was above 4,000 sessions. Participation was primarily from people in Lewisham (72%), and Southwark (10%). A further 8% came from other London boroughs and 10% from other parts of the country. Our work was also supported by 39 volunteers.

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