‘Changing the Scene’
Reflections on Confidance’s involvement with Mind the Gap Theatre’s Staging Change & Engage Project.
This blog comes to you from Grace, on the train travelling back from Newcastle to Canterbury, after what has been a really fantastic, inspiring and galvanising two days at Mind the Gap Theatre’s “Changing the Scene” event, hosted at Northern Stage.
The event was a culmination of a 3-year project called Staging Change and Engage, funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which worked closely with arts venues and organisations to explore key issues around access, including creating opportunities for employment for artists with Learning Disabilities. We were privileged to be part of this project, with Artistic Director Jo Frater acting as the South East Co-ordinator.
We have come away feeling incredibly inspired by the work that is taking place, but also with increased urgency to demonstrate how much further we have to go when it comes to including the LD community in all aspects of the arts sector in the South East. We wanted to take a minute to share with you our key takeaways from the event day, with the hope that you are inspired to play your part in this journey of “changing the scene”.
Alongside venues and MTG artists, we presented our findings from an Access Rider project which we developed in response to research shared by MTG Assistant Producer Paul Wilshaw and evaluator Lauren Hall. Grace (Creative Producer) was present at the event, and Jo (Artistic Director) was invited to join digitally, in order to meet her own access needs as a new mother! A prime example of how an inclusive approach to events can create a richer experience for all involved.
"Enough of words - now it is time for action."
"If your life is not being reflected in stories, in theatre and on tv and radio you feel alone, and that is isolating. Theatre is there for everyone, a way to escape, a way to belong, a way to be intrigued." - Paul Wilshaw, MTG Assistant Producer
Paul closed the event with a rousing speech, a call to arms, which urged us to move beyond words and into action! Paul inspired the venues present, and organisations such as ourselves, to go away and make practical changes which invite more disabled artists, participants and audiences to be included as meaningful parts of the arts sector. This must become an integral part of arts practice, whether that's through accessible marketing, high-quality paid employment for LD artists, structural changes to venues, representation in leadership roles - the list is endless. There is much to be done, but through sharing best practice and listening to LD experts and advocates, we can start to make real change, which ripples out into the communities we work with.
Vicky Ackroyd, Access Champion from Totally Inclusive People and close partner of MTG, shared her thoughts around optimism and valuing the richness that comes with changing the way we think and work to include a much more diverse range of people. Rather than getting bogged down in how much there is to do, we can rise to the challenge and relish in the innovation that comes from including all voices in the conversation - from being critical about your practice and finding new ways of working. What we love about Vicky’s work is that there is always a focus on honest, open communication around inclusion; there is an emphasis on removing the fear that can come with language and perspectives around disability, as well as a shared responsibility to bring these conversations about true inclusion to whatever table you happen to be seated at.
The impact of work on Staging Change is reflected in this blog post below by actor and Mind the Gap artist Liam Bairstow
If you would like to learn more about our role within this project, and our development of an Artist Access Rider project, then check out our blog "ConfiCo Riders; Introducing Access".
Confidance's work on this project was supported by Mind the Gap Theatre and Kent Arts Investment Fund.