“Why should severely disabled kids be denied theatre?” This is the question which motivates Oily Cart, one of Britain’s leading theatre companies, and one of the eight Guardian 2012 Christmas appeal charities.

It specialises in creating spectacular productions for young people with complex disabilities. These are vivid, multisensory and interactive performances, using touch, taste, smell, sight and sound, designed to appeal to youngsters with a wide range of abilities.

The company uses unusual settings and props: hydrotherapy pools, trampolines, water and bubbles, paper fans, perfume sprays and ultraviolet lighting. “We’ve invited audiences to taste bread baked live on stage, sing along with hip-hop DJs or to dance with colourful balloon flowers,” said Oily Cart’s artistic director Tim Webb.

Webb said the company’s main aim was to communicate with youngchildren who are thought of as “hard to reach” because of sensory or cognitive impairments.

“Deploying these multisensory approaches in a close-up and interactive way, we overcome the barriers between us and our young audiences, often to the astonishment of the adults who live and work with them everyday,” he said.

Oily Cart will unveil its next production, entitled Tube, in the spring. It is described as a kinesthetic adventure during which the audience are seated in leaf chairs, in which they can bounce, swing, spin and sway, surrounded by gentle breezes, scents of the natural world and kaleidoscopic colours.

Funding is tight, and the Guardian Christmas appeal donations will be crucial: “There is great and increasing demand for our work for young people with complex disabilities, but in these times of financial stringency it can be difficult for us to get to all the audiences who want us,” Webb said.

“Any additional funds would help us to extend our reach to audiences for whom there tend to be few appropriate, creative and cultural opportunities.

Oily Cart is one of eight charities supported by the Guardian this Christmas. Each works to ensure people with disabilities get the chance to participate, express themselves and fulfil their potential, whether it be in sport, education, the arts, work and wider society.

In their different ways they strive for equality, making choice, independence, access and freedom a reality for people with disabilities or long term illnesses.

The aims of the appeal are encapsulated in the words of the inspirational campaigner Baroness Jane Campbell, who spoke of disability rights not just in terms of protection from harm and discrimination, but the requirement to enable people “to flourish as human beings, ensuring they have genuine autonomy to shape a life worth living.”

The eight charities are: Oily CartQEFSense InternationalAmbitious About AutismGreenbankDisability Law ServiceThe Ace Centre andBasic Needs.

Guardian Christmas charity appeal donations can be made online bypost or by phone: 0151 284 1126 Open 9am-5pm Monday to Thursday, 9am-4pm Fridays and 10am-3pm Weekends (excluding Bank Holidays)

Donations will be shared equally between the eight charities, which will also recieve a tailored package of media, marketing and communications support, resources and training from the Media Trust.

The Guardian and Observer Christmas appeal 2012 is held in conjunction with our appeal partners, NPC and Media Trust.

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