New funding aims to bring disabled artists into the mainstream of European dance and theatre, and build a network committed to presenting their work.

A participant at We Dance festival in Birmingham
Chris Pavia from Stopgap Dance Company
Photo: 

Chris Parkes

A four-year international programme aiming to bring disabled artists into the mainstream of European theatre and dance is to forge ahead after landing a €2m grant from Creative Europe.

Europe Beyond Access will support disabled artists to break through the “glass ceilings” of the contemporary theatre and dance sectors.

The project is led by the British Council, which will work with six other main partners across Europe including Greece’s Onassis Cultural Centre, the Holland Dance Festival, and Per.Art in Serbia.

The partners, who will liaise with key cultural bodies and government agencies, are together contributing a further €2m.

The project’s aims include:

  • Supporting disabled artists to “internationalise” their work and careers
  • Developing a network of leading mainstream organisations with a commitment to presenting and commissioning the work of disabled artists at the highest level
  • Building European audiences interested in work by disabled artists
  • Developing relevant tools and understanding in the wider performing arts market
  • Building disabled audiences for theatre and dance

Capacity building

More than 900 artists will be directly involved with the project, which aims to expose 70,000 people to work by disabled artists. It will include 14 commissions of work by disabled artists and disability-led companies; 20 artist residencies; five international “artistic laboratories”; and 21 festivals.

The project partners will work with local and national cultural sector organisations to help them build capacity, and will distribute best practice toolkits in seven languages. Each partner has committed to increasing its own disabled audience by 30%.

Transformation

Ben Evans, the British Council’s Head of Arts and Disability for the European Union region, said: “We are delighted that the innovation and excellence of Europe’s disabled artists has been recognised by the Creative Europe programme. Europe Beyond

Access aims to transform the European arts sector, by proving beyond doubt that disabled artists are making some of the most innovative and excellent work of our age.

He said it was exciting for the British Council that so many British artists would be contributing to the project.

“The UK has a world-renowned Disability Arts sector, but even the best known of our disabled artists and companies face barriers in developing genuine artistic collaborations overseas,” said Evans. “We hope that Europe Beyond Access will transform careers as well as the wider arts sector.”

All the partners will participate in a final conference in Brussels in June 2022, where outcomes will be presented.

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