Ellie Griffiths, 13 January 2016

Present: Ellie Griffiths from Upfront Performance Network, Amber Onat Gregory from

Frozen Light, Callum Madge from Lung Ha, Richard Hayhow from Open Theatre and

Melissa Daly from Birmingham Rep Education Department.

“The learning disability sector ends up talking to itself” (RH), we need to share skills

outwards. It's only fairly recently that artists have been put together with people with

learning disabilities, that this is seen as beneficial or valuable. It is a very new sector,

and it would be to our advantage to actively seperate ourselves from the sector of

physical disabilities. People with learning disabilities need advocates, or their very

different needs get overlooked.

The Hijinx and Access All areas performers training courses were mentioned as the

only two routes people with a LD can acce

ss theatre training. Without the training, how can we expect good performance work to

be made?

We spoke about the potential problems of needing flexibility within the production

process, this can be hard, particularly for larger venues, to accommodate and be

responsive to.

There are so many different types of needs, that we need a sector which reflects this,

full of a spectrum of different options for people with LD to participate in, and enjoy as

an audience.

The New Wolsey was held up as an example of a venue with inclusive practice: They

programmed not just relaxed performances last year, but there were three different

specialised shows, within three months of each other. Often audiences with LD have

to wait a whole year until another suitable show is programmed.

Not enough of this work is being made.

RH spoke of the ‘Creative Case for Diversity’ - which is enriching for everyone. There

is a danger of squeezing people into the wrong form. It should simply be seen as ‘a

really exciting way to make theatre, rather than ’ the poor people who are disabled

need theatre'. It is also hard to get or give meaningful critical response. RH spoke of

artistically weak productions that receive standing ovations because the audience are

sympathetic to the performers disabilities. This stops the work being made progressing

and the sector getting better in terms of quality. It is helpful to define and be clear on

wether you are making work that is about the process being the emphasis (for the

participants or the performance (for the audience). Both are valid and do not need to

be apologised for.

EG asked if the group felt it was ‘wrong’ to make theatre for an audience with

disabilities without using a performer who is disabled as a collaborator or performer in

the piece.

RH replied that it would be unethical not to try.

"we are all the same, we just process things in different ways was a quote from a

participant with a LD.

We spoke about the idea of a micro festival at the fringe to program inclusive work, as

it is a very inaccessible festival as it stands. It feels like the timing is right, after the

success of the IF platform. EG was asking how you would get this funded? The British

Council was suggested - although you cannot really apply to them. EG wondered

about approaching Creative Scotland for this? There would be Trusts and foundations

who may support this as it has social benefit?

AOG spoke of the need for an event where programmers are gathered to hear

presentations from exemplary venues such as the New Wolsey and Festival Theatre

Edinburgh about how the afford and make inclusive programming work. For example,

the festival theatre received a huge £30000 private sponsorship to stage their latest

relaxed performance.

RH mentioned his ‘Is That All There Is?’ conference in Birmingham in March to

discuss these issues further and promote change.

Rambazamba (Germany) were mentioned as a company who make great theatre with

performers with LD.

We spoke about separating artistic form (our preferences are different) from principles

(we all share) when making work for or with this group.

The Aesthetic of Accessibility was mentioned.

It was an intense conversation where all the contributors were greatly invested. It is

part of a larger conversation happening internationally between artists, practitioners

and makers. If you would like to be part of it please email:

[email protected], or search for ‘Upfront Performance Network’

(closed group) on Facebook and request to join. Or follow @Upfrontnetwork there is

also a blog with related articles at: https://upfrontperformancenetwork.wordpress.com

Please do comment,w e would love to hear your thoughts on this.


inclusivity, Theatre, autism, Access, access, Inclusivity, Autism, inclusivetheatre,

Disability, upfrontnetwork, disabled rights, THEATRE, disability, theatre, pmld