Vault Festival finds new home

29 Nov 2023

The organisation behind Vault Festival has announced plans to move into a new venue in central London to host its next festival in autumn 2024.

Vault Festival of live performance has taken place at The Vaults, a theatre and creative space beneath London Waterloo station, since 2012. Earlier this year, the venue announced it would no longer host the event, putting its future in doubt.

Vault says its new multi-space venue will be a “thriving artistic hub” located in a vacant space in Zone 1. Due to open in spring 2024, it will host “new creative ventures” in addition to the yearly festival and will be aimed at supporting early-career artists. 

The company is currency fundraising for access equipment in the new space.

Vault Director and Co-Founder Andy George said: “One of our non-negotiables for our new home was ensuring we have step-free access so more people can enjoy the work of our wonderful artists. But we don’t want to stop there. We want to install access tools throughout the building so that artists and audiences who are d/Deaf, deafened or living with sight loss can enjoy everything we and our artists do.”

He added: “We are pumped to have found a new home for VAULT following a challenging few years.”

Wave of change in disabled-led theatre

Two actors on stage
29 Nov 2023

This week a trio of plays opens in Newcastle in which, for the first time, every show is captioned. For Vici Wreford-Sinnott, playwright and disability activist, it shows how times are changing.

Buying a ticket shouldn’t be a performance

Exterior of Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, Wales
07 Nov 2023

Andrew Miller recently spent hours trying to book a ticket but, with the rollout of a new access scheme, he hopes his travails and those of other people with disabilities will soon be over. 

ACE outlines plans for disability access scheme

The new website for the All In access initiative
07 Nov 2023

Access scheme for disabled audiences will launch next year, based on the existing Hynt access card initiative already up and running across Wales.

Dementia friendly opera

Audience at a relaxed performance of The Last Siren
16 Oct 2023

A collaboration between The Geller Institute of Ageing and Memory and The Music Troupe aims to make opera dementia friendly. Dr Andy Northcott and Edward Lambert share how the project came about.

Disabled and starting out?

A ballet dancer leaning into a red shoe handing from a tree in front of her
27 Sep 2023

Unlimited provides roles for disabled people in the arts, starting at entry level. Jo Verrent reflects on her first job in the cultural sector and what she learnt from it. 

Guide launched to help describe artworks for blind people

25 Sep 2023

A new describing art guide aims to support art galleries and museums to make their collections more accessible for blind and partially sighted people.

The guide was launched by Sight Loss Councils (SLC) and funded by the Thomas Pocklington Trust. It was developed by East Sussex SLC in collaboration with Zoom Arts and Royal Collection Trust.

“Blind and partially sighted people also enjoy accessing art and museums. However, this can often be inaccessible to us,” said Iris, a member of East Sussex SLC and a volunteer.

“This is why we are working alongside arts organisations to make this happen. 

“We hope that our resource will enable staff to better understand how they can describe art with confidence to someone with sight loss and that it’ll break down some of the barriers about communicating with blind and partially sighted people.”

She hopes the guide will encourage galleries and museums to actively promote their ability to offer audio described tours.

Amy Stocker, Access and Inclusion Manager for Royal Collection Trust, said the resource “should make people much more confident when communicating with blind and partially sighted people”.

“Hopefully this means more vision impaired people will have access to art and engaging with arts and culture,” she added.

AHRC funds research into blind people's experience of art 

19 Sep 2023

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has awarded £250k for research into how blind people experience art in museums and the ways it can be enhanced.

A collaboration between Dr Ken Wilder and Dr Aaron McPeake (University of the Arts London), Dr Clare O’Dowd from the Henry Moore Institute and the disability-led arts organisation Shape Arts, the project is the first to be awarded financing from AHRC’s exhibition fund.

The three-year study will feature a research season and public engagement events culminating in a 2025 exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute, predominantly featuring works by blind or partially-blind artists and directed by a blind curator.

Working with Shape Arts, the project will also generate the first international database of blind and partially-blind sculptural artists.

Wilder said the project would investigate the role that “touch, sound, smell and proprioception – the perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body – play in engaging with sculpture”.

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair, said: “As audiences and venues change, and as we seek to be more inclusive and bring our culture to everyone, the nature of how we stage and curate exhibitions needs to evolve. 

“This project will unlock fresh ways for different and often overlooked audiences to experience our historical and cultural heritage, ensuring its value can be fully appreciated by many more people, but they will also inform all of our exhibition making.”

Fund for disabled artists worth £600,000 opens

04 Sep 2023

Disabled artists will be able to apply for a share of £600,000 to bring their ideas to life.

A total of 14 awards will be made to disabled artists in England, Scotland and Wales to develop and present work across the country or internationally through Unlimited's UK and international open awards.

Cat Sheridan, Senior Producer at Unlimited, said the organisation is keen for applications for radical, ambitious and original ideas across a whole range of artforms, sizes and scales. 

"We can't wait to discover what wonderful work this investment will support,” she said.  

Pete Massey, Director North at Arts Council England, said: “Unlimited are changing the perception of disability and challenging the cultural sector by commissioning disabled artists, while also supporting people in all communities to express themselves creatively and experience arts and culture. 

"I’m delighted that we are funding them as a National Portfolio Organisation and look forward to seeing the extraordinary work these awards will support.” 

The deadline for applications is midday Monday 2 October.

Scottish project explores experiences of autistic adults

28 Aug 2023

A new seven-month creative project hopes to highlight the experiences of older autistic adults with learning difficulties in Scotland.

The collaboration between Heriot-Watt University and Scottish Autism will use filmmaking and art to shine a light on the hopes, concerns and needs of this group, while also exploring together what future social care services could look like.

The AHRC-funded collaboration is titled: 'Ageing, health, and social care: the meaningful engagement of autistic people with learning disabilities'.

Autistic filmmakers Iceberg Productions will interview autistic people with learning disabilities, aged 55 and over, to create a documentary which will be presented at a series of workshops.

Professor Mary Stewart, Director of Social Interaction, Mental Health and Wellbeing at Heriot-Watt, said the motivation for the project "came from the unfortunate reality that autistic people with learning disabilities do not often have their voices heard in research".

She added: “We know that using art as a tool for discussion can be very effective and allows for a range of ways to engage with discussion.

"The outcomes of the project will ultimately be used to raise awareness and provoke discussion with service professionals, policymakers and the wider community in Scotland and beyond."

Ethnic diversity of ACE workforce in decline

21 Aug 2023

Arts Council England's annual report of 2022/23 registers a decrease in ethnic diversity of its staff, while percentage of disabled staff continues to rise.

Survey to examine accessibility of environmental initiatives

27 Jul 2023

New research will explore how access to music and live events for disabled people can become more environmentally sustainable.

Julie’s Bicycle, Attitude is Everything and A Greener Future are calling on disabled, artists, audiences, volunteers and professionals to participate in a survey looking at how accessibility can be more considered in environmental initiatives.

“Disability access must be a key part of how we design climate solutions and orient our world towards justice. It is the embodiment of care and solidarity in practice,” said Farah Ahmed, Climate Justice Lead at Julie’s Bicycle. 

“We are really excited to be partnering with Attitude is Everything and A Greener Future to develop the tools and resources the sector needs to engage with accessibility as a core principle for environmental action.”

The research will be used to create a toolkit for the music and live events sectors, containing practical solutions and case studies. 

The first edition is to be published in early 2024.

Government wants more autism-friendly cultural programmes

20 Jul 2023

Proposals for the government's forthcoming Disability Action Plan include plans to encourage more autism-friendly programmes in the cultural and heritage sectors. 

The plans are part of a raft of ideas designed to 'make disabled people's lives easier'.

Other proposals, which are now open to public consultation, include ensuring businesses are aware of disabled people’s needs, including Guide Dog access needs.

Tom Pursglove, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, said: "Our Disability Action Plan will lay out practical measures we can implement here and now to improve the lives of disabled people.

"From leading the way globally with assistive technology to improving inclusivity and accessibility across sport, travel and culture, the plan will also be important in setting the stage for longer-term change."

The online consultation runs for 12 weeks and is open for anyone to comment.

Louise Mckiernan, Chair of the Disability Unit West Midlands Regional Stakeholder Network, said: "The launch of this consultation is an important opportunity for disabled people in particular to have their say and to help shape the government’s short-term plans."

Spotlight on new NPOs: Unlimited

21 Jun 2023

Over the past two years, Unlimited has undergone massive change. From a programme to an independent organisation and now an NPO, it’s on a mission to challenge the sector. Jo Verrent reports on that journey.

Do you cater for neurodiversity?

Concept of the diversity of people's talents and skills stock illustration
22 May 2023

Not all disabilities are visible. So to make your digital spaces more accessible for neurodivergent users, writes Ell Powell, there are some key things to consider.

Understanding the needs of disabled artists

Diana performing on the floor in front of her wheelchair
22 May 2023

In the last in our series on widening participation, Diana Niepce writes: Two burnouts a year is not sustainable for anyone, but it’s a reality for disabled dancers. The sector needs to change.

New programme to boost disabled and neurodiverse leadership 

16 May 2023

A team of learning disabled and autistic creatives from Access All Areas have banded together to create a new national arts programme to train other learning disabled and autistic people working in the arts, as well as training staff at venues and organisations in inclusive leadership.

The team underwent two years of leadership training as part of Access All Areas’ Transforming Leadership programme, which finished in 2022.

Working with seven other disability arts companies, eight UK venues and leadership development organisations, they will launch the new programme on 19 June, to coincide with Learning Disability Week.

The new programme aims to counter the historic exclusion of learning disabled and autistic people from the UK workforce and shake up the landscape of arts leadership by involving them in strategic decisions and discussions around the art being made and the stories being told.

Creatives from Access All Areas will co-deliver leadership training for 14 other learning disabled and autistic creatives from seven UK companies. The training will focus on directing skills, how to lead community arts programmes, governance and advocacy skills.

Access All Areas will also train staff at eight UK venues and seven organisations in inclusive practice, to help overcome structural obstacles to inclusion for learning disabled and autistic at executive and board level.

Graeae reopens artist development programme

28 Apr 2023

Theatre company Graeae has reopened applications to its artist development programme for disabled creatives, Beyond.

Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists are being invited to apply to the programme, which works to remove barriers and support the development of under-represented creatives.

The next edition of the programme will run from September 2023 to March 2025 and support 20 artists in total.

The scheme is open to applicants at all career stages, with a commitment to creating live performance as a performer, writer, director, producer, designer or technician.

To deliver the next round, Graeae is teaming up with the seven venues nationwide - Cast, Derby Theatre, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, Hull Truck Theatre, Nottingham Playhouse, Octagon Bolton and Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot – which will each offer tailored development support, advice, training, mentoring and use of creative spaces to the chosen artists.

“[These venues] will ensure that Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists are at the heart of everything and not on the side-lines,” Graeae Artistic Director Jenny Sealey said.

Selected artists will also receive micro bursaries, networking opportunities and support with funding applications.

An expression of interest form is open until 26 June, with more information on Graeae’s website.

Accessible art trail for young wheelchair users announced

25 Apr 2023

A UK charity for young wheelchair users is creating the country's first step-free art trail this summer.

Whizz-Kidz will present Morph’s Epic Art Adventure, featuring more than 50 "super-sized sculptures" of the plasticine children’s TV character, who first appeared in 1977 in the BBC programme Take Hart.

Taking place from 19 June to 20 August 2023 in Central London, each Morph sculpture will be uniquely designed by well-known and emerging artists.

A series of ‘Mini Morph’ sculptures adopted and created by schools will also be displayed, and a trail map and app will help wheelchair users find their way.  

A statement from Whizz-Kidz said: "The Morph sculptures will be canvases for conversations about diversity and inclusion for wheelchair users.

"As part of Morph’s Epic Art Adventure in London, Whizz-Kidz will use the art trail to encourage the public, business community and young people to envision what a more inclusive world might look like for young wheelchair users, and what role they might wish to play in making this a reality."

Virtual museum celebrates Paralympic artefacts 

19 Apr 2023

A 3D virtual museum is set is to launch this week, showcasing objects from the National Paralympic Heritage Trust (NPHT).

The Digital Explorations Celebration & Virtual Museum, launching on Wednesday (19 April) at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic movement, will showcase objects including mascots, clothing and sports equipment.

The museum is part of the Digital Exploration Project, funded by the Rothschild Foundation and National Lottery Heritage Fund, with support from the Heart of Bucks.

The result of three years of work, the exhibition brings together more than 65 objects curated and scanned by participants from local disability organisations from across Buckinghamshire. 

The collection also includes artefacts from other museums, items from students at Pebble Brook School and artefacts from NPHT’s own collection.

Participants received professional training and work experience in historical research and cataloguing, digital 3D scanning, photogrammetry and editing.

“We are proud to support NPHT’s Digital Exploration project, preserving and sharing their inspirational Paralympic heritage of international significance, through the digital innovation of 3D models and exhibitions, promoting wider access for disabled people, young people and researchers,” said Leona Forsyth, Senior Grants Manager at the Rothschild Foundation.

“This work is also helping build a local cultural sector that is inclusive, vibrant and resilient. 

“The team’s personal approach and dedication to meeting individual needs through mentoring and training is developing the life skills and improving the quality of life and well-being of disabled participants, while helping build a more diverse, representative heritage workforce locally.”


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