My Gurus: ‘Side effects may include outrage, empathy and hope’

Head shot of Jay Price
09 Nov 2022

Each year Shape Arts selects a mid-career disabled artist for the Adam Reynolds Award to support their career. This year's recipient is Jay Price whose practice unashamedly confronts ableism.

Theatre subtitling declines post-lockdown

08 Nov 2022

Access charity Stagetext has reported a marked drop in demand for the digital subtitling of theatre productions following the return of in-person performances.

It has received 39% fewer requests for digital subtitles during 2021/2022 compared with 2020-2021.

At the same time, the number of captioned live theatre performances has not returned to pre-Covid levels. The deaf-led charity said captioned performances have dropped by 7.5% in 2021/2022 compared with 2019/20, representing 24 fewer captioned shows. 

A recent survey of museum and heritage websites paints a similarly bleak picture for those who would benefit from subtitled video content. The Heritage Access 2022 survey – launched by charity VocalEyes in partnership with Stagetext, Autism In Museums, and the Centre for Accessible Environments – found 53% of videos across more than 3,000 websites were not subtitled.

Stagetext Chief Executive Melanie Sharpe said: “Deaf people in the UK want to visit a museum and be able to watch video exhibits; they want to see the trailer for a theatre production, with subtitles, and then be able to book a captioned performance for the same show.

“There are millions of people who would pay to visit an exhibition, see a performance, or share a venue’s content, if the venue just made these things available to deaf people.”

Stagetext's report comes ahead of its annual Captioning Awareness Week 2022, which will run from 14 to 20 November.

Woke-ing up: how tackling ableism benefits everyone

Accessible entrance sign on a brick wall
02 Nov 2022

We all need to work harder to ensure that culture is fully accessible to disabled audiences. When we do, there are positive spinoffs for everyone, argues Richard Leeming.

Access shouldn’t be an afterthought

Image of a man and woman (in a wheelchair)
02 Nov 2022

Leeds Playhouse runs courses for D/deaf and disabled artists wanting to enter the theatre. Rio Matchett shares what they have learned through this access work.

‘Being with’ in theatre

Oily Cart Light Show
02 Nov 2022

A new report from Oily Cart explores making theatre for and with children who have the most barriers to access. Ellie Griffiths summarises the learning for those seeking to make accessible theatre.

ACE sets out digital database plan to improve access

The interior of an auditorium
18 Oct 2022

Arts Council England unveils its vision for improving access for D/deaf, disabled and neuro-divergent audiences, saying the current 'patchwork' of existing services across the UK 'cries out' for a more joined-up approach.

What does digital access mean for arts organisations?

Digital image
11 Oct 2022

Many companies are making brilliant accessible work and universal content that people want to see. But, as Harmeet Chagger-Khan argues, we need a more consistent approach.

Inc Arts to close with immediate effect

08 Sep 2022

The diversity body Inc Arts UK has ceased trading after efforts to save it failed.

The charity, founded in 2019 by Amanda Parker has made significant contributions to boosting diversity in the arts in its three years of operation.

Its closure comes three months after Parker stepped down as Chief Executive for personal reasons.

Trustees told The Stage that the organisation had been through “many challenges in recent months” and has appointed legal professionals to oversee its next steps.

“We want to thank colleagues of the Global Majority and allies for their support through this time,” a statement said.

“We are very sorry to our staff, freelance workers and organisations where we could not fulfil our obligations to them.”

Parker said that the closure of the charity was a loss to the sector, adding that "the work Inc Arts did is needed”.

“I’m deeply disappointed that Inc Arts’ leadership has not been able to build on and grow the support, goodwill and dedication to inclusive change that individuals, organisations and funders have expressed to Inc Arts,” she said.

She added that she will continue working to create “inclusive systemic and organisational change” in the arts sector.

Grant funding in need of a radical overhaul

Laptop showing access support page
07 Sep 2022

Many funders are changing their strategies around funding for arts organisations, but Michelle Wright thinks those changes inadvertently work against widening reach.

Practising humane producing

07 Sep 2022

What does a producer do? There are many possible answers but here Kate McStraw attempts to identify and articulate the most important aspects of the role.

ACE refuses to release 'sensitive' race and disability documents

people at a business meeting
31 Aug 2022

A Freedom of Information request to see the minutes of the funder's Race and Disability Advisory Group is denied on the basis disclosure would "prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs".

Royal Ballet to feature dancer who uses a wheelchair

29 Aug 2022

The Royal Ballet is to stage a performance next month in which one of its dancers will duet with a dancer who uses a wheelchair.

Joe Powell-Main, who uses crutches and a wheelchair, will appear with Royal Ballet dancer Isabel Lubach at the Greenwich+Docklands international festival.

They will perform a 10-minute piece titled 'Sleepwalker'.

Powell-Main, 24, is from Newtown, Powys, and has previously danced with Ballet Cymru.

Speaking to The Guardian, Emma Southworth, the Royal Ballet’s creative producer who commissioned the duet, said: “We know that we need to be inclusive. It’s not just about diversity of race, but also about diversity of physical ability.

"We’ve done a lot on race and gender. But I was really keen that we tackle how does disability cross into the world of ballet, which is perceived as so elite.

"We’re really just at the beginning of that, looking at not just physical disability, but things like neuro-divergence.”

The performance will take place on 10 and 11 September at Columbus Dockyard.

World’s first theatre captioning exhibition comes to Colchester

19 Aug 2022

The world’s first exhibition on open captioning in the arts will take place at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre in September.

Created by deaf-led captioning charity Stagetext, Captions Speak Louder details the history of theatre captioning, including how it was it was first brought to the UK in 1999 and has since spread across the country.

The free exhibition will run at Mercury Theatre from 3 to 29 September, following a successful debut at the Barbican Centre last November.

Chief Executive Steve Mannix said the theatre is really proud to be hosting the exhibition.

“At the Mercury, we firmly believe in the arts being accessible for all and this will be a great opportunity for our audiences to learn more about captioning and accessibility within the arts.”

Equity advocates for diverse dancer opportunities

Performance by dancer in a wheelchair
16 Aug 2022

Trade union’s new guide provides advice to dance companies on how to reach diverse talent, making auditions and rehearsals accessible and optimising choreography and communication.

Controversial museum expansion given green light

10 Aug 2022

Controversial plans to add a new central hall to the National Railway Museum in York have been approved after a knife-edge vote from members of the local planning committee.

The plan to join the museum’s two halves with a rotunda has attracted opposition from local residents because it will close Leeman Road, a direct route used by people to access the city centre.

Residents will be able to pass through the museum to reach the city centre but access will be limited to opening hours and could involve delays and bag searches. An alternative route around the museum is expected to add 400 metres to the journey.

The application was initially deferred for a month at a meeting in July to allow an equalities impact assessment to be carried out, after councillors raised concerns about accessibility for disabled residents.

But disability rights campaigner Flick Williams described the assessment as “a hastily completed desktop exercise” and specialist access consultant Helen Kane described it as having “serious failings”, according to Yorkshire Live.

The museum’s director, Judith McNicol, said the museum took “issues surrounding access and equality very seriously” and said that the museum had employed accessibility consultants when designing the building.
 

ACE disability access card pilot rescheduled to 2024

Disabled person in audience
09 Aug 2022

The date is two years later than outlined in the government’s National Disability Strategy, while an existing access card expands a free online booking system for disabled audiences.

Unlimited announces £584k disability arts programme

28 Jul 2022

Disabled arts commissioning body Unlimited is partnering with 17 UK organisations to deliver a funding programme for disabled artists worth over half a million pounds.

Funding has come from Arts Council England, Arts Council Wales, Creative Scotland and Unlimited's 17 partners and will be split across 20 awards, offering grants between £15k and £60k.

The pot includes £280k from the British Council, which will go towards international awards.

Unlimited says the programme will give disabled artists the chance to develop work across rural and city locations, either digitally or in person, sharing either collective or individual experiences.

Senior Producer Cat Sheridan said the programme reflects Unlimited's mission as a newly independent organisation to “challenge the cultural sector, change perceptions of disability and back disabled artists”.

“We cannot do that without working in partnership, and this year’s round of awards demonstrates not only national but international ambition and appetite for that change to happen.”

Applications will open 4 October and close 31 October.

Inclusivity drive for independent music venues launches

People at a music venue
19 Jul 2022

Independent music venues will be encouraged to form a national network offering daytime programmes of music-based activities to engage with diverse audiences.

National Open Youth Orchestra to launch in Cardiff

12 Jul 2022

The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO) have announced the launch of the Cardiff NOYO Centre, a pioneering inclusive ensemble to allow talented young disabled and non-disabled musicians to rehearse and perform together.

The partnership offers the first progression route for talented young disabled musicians in the region. It aims to reduce musical exclusion and develop skills while increasing sector support.

NOYO is the world's first disabled-led national youth ensemble open to both young disabled and non-disabled musicians. The project aims to lay the foundations for a more diverse orchestral sector.

“Musical talent and potential are everywhere, but opportunities for young disabled people to progress in music are not,” said Barry Farrimond-Chuong MBE, CEO of Open Up Music, the charity behind NOYO. 

“We are extremely excited to be working with Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and BBC National Orchestra of Wales to expand the National Open Youth Orchestra and open up music to more young disabled musicians.”

Instruments played by NOYO musicians include the LinnStrument, Seaboard RISE and Clarion, an accessible instrument that can be played with any movement of the body, including the eyes. 

The centre will begin taking applications for auditions from disabled and non-disabled musicians aged 11 to 25 in March next year, with rehearsals due to begin in September 2023. Participation will be free and will include monthly rehearsals and one-to-one tuition.

“There aren’t other youth orchestras who are as passionate about showing disabled people can play on the same stages as non-disabled people,” said NOYO harpist Holli Pandit.

“Lots of the music we play, you wouldn't really get that in a stereotypical classical music concert – you wouldn’t have the instruments! We believe that it's best if disabled and non-disabled musicians can integrate together, and then we can come up with fresh new ideas and be more creative.” 
 

Disabled artists set to ‘disrupt’ museums nationwide

01 Jul 2022

The UK’s largest-ever exhibition of work by disabled artists will take place across the country on Saturday (2 July).

A total of 31 D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists are planning to stage surreal and nonsensical interventions in 30 museums and galleries nationwide, to mark the 102nd anniversary of the first Dada International Fair in Berlin.

Organised by disabled-led visual arts charity DASH, the project entitled We are Invisible We are Visible asked artists to imagine what would happen if the Dada movement – which rejected logic and authority in favour of disruptive nonsense – had been formed during the Covid-enforced lockdowns.

Participating venues are all part of the Plus Tate network, with the project receiving £125,000 from the Ampersand Prize.

DASH Artistic Director Mike Layward says there is a strong parallel between disability art and the Dada movement: “Both movements are born out of political situations of inequality and oppression. At this time, Disabled people are at the forefront of the impacts of so-called austerity. Poverty and exclusion are rife. As [German Dadaist artist] George Grosz said, ‘Can we tolerate this state of affairs without taking a stand against it?”
 

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