Arts Council England announces pioneering partnership for disability and diversity

arts-council-englandArts Council England is today (13 May 2015) announcing the successful applicants to the latest round of its Strategic touring programme. Thirteen organisations from across England will receive a total of £4,875,553.   It includes a ground-breaking touring project that signals a step change in disability arts provision in the UK and will reframe the way theatre by and for disabled people is made and seen.

Led by New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, ‘Ramps on the Moon’ will bring together a collaborative network of seven National portfolio organisation theatres including New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and strategic partner Graeae Theatre – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Nottingham Playhouse, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and Sheffield Theatres.  The network, which spans the country, includes theatres that are committed to offering opportunities to disabled people by putting disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their programmes, to help the mainstreaming of disability arts and culture.

Awarded £2.3million to fund the first three years of the ambitious six-year project, it will create three new pieces of high quality touring theatre.  Each venue will co-produce shows over consecutive years, aiming to give all the organisations direct experience at working with disabled artists and learning how to develop disabled audiences.  This will teach each theatre how to integrate disabled people into everything they do going forward, create a collaborative circuit of regional theatres and tackle the current low levels of attendance by disabled audiences.

New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich is a leader in disability arts provision.  They work closely with disabled people, recruiting disabled artists to help shape their programme, participation and customer service, to make everything about the theatre more accessible.  Along with co-producers Graeae Theatre – who delivered the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympics – New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich will share its knowledge and experience with its partner NPOs and the wider sector, to ensure that the project will offer opportunities to disabled people across England and affect long term change in the sector.

Disabled people are at the heart of this project – artists will be integrated into casts in a variety of ways such as using sign language, screen projections and live audio descriptions – and organisations will reach out to and develop disabled audiences in each area and beyond.

It is an exciting example of the arts sector taking a lead in prioritising investment, training and development for disabled artists and audiences.

Sarah Holmes, Chief Executive of the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich says: “This is an incredible funding offer which will enable the first 3 years of an important 6 year project to take root. It will ensure that this network of regional theatres gets to grips with embedding actors and other D/deaf and disabled creative artists into our practise alongside developing what accessible theatre looks like to our D/deaf and disabled audiences and participants.  Our work, in mid-scale theatre, will be enhanced by the creative richness that D/deaf and disabled professionals can contribute, and will help the industry to uncover a wealth of new audiences who think that theatre isn’t for them.”

Other successful Strategic Touring projects include:

Royal Court Liverpool Trust Ltd: Terriers, a play first performed in 2008 for 11-20 year olds, is about marginalised young people and communities exposed to gang and gun culture.  Developed with input from the audiences it portrays, it will support outreach into local communities in Merseyside, Hampshire, Manchester and Croydon by visiting schools, prisons and youth offending institutes and reaching a diverse range of young people with limited access to arts and culture.

National Rural Touring Forum: The Rural Touring Dance Initiative brings together 15 rural touring schemes across the UK to deliver high quality dance to rural communities, especially targeting areas of low arts engagement. It aims to support and encourage local venues such a village halls, schools and theatres, to present and promote dance to older people and families and deliver dance workshops and residencies to children and young people.

ZooNation UK Dance Company: The ZooResidence Project will use its acclaimed ‘Into the Hoods’ hip hop dance theatre show, based on Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’, to bring innovative dance to diverse audiences across the country.  Using live shows and digital outreach, it will engage grass roots groups and local networks to involve local people as participants and spectators.

A full list of successful applicants can be found here

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said: 

“We are thrilled to be supporting all of these projects and are especially excited to be giving the largest award in the history of the Strategic touring fund to the ‘Ramps on the Moon’ project led by New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich.  The scale and ambition of these plans have the potential to change the lives of a generation of disabled people across the country, help arts organisations to diversify and provide everyone with access great art and culture.  We are committed to supporting projects that will tackle diversity across all of our funding programmes and believe that the national ‘Ramps on the Moon’ project will raise the profile of disability arts across the sector and the public.”

The Strategic touring programme aims to give people better access to quality work across a range of venues to more people across the country, targeting places with low levels of art engagement and those that rely on touring for arts and culture. Information about this and application deadlines for future rounds throughout 2015 can be found here

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