Spirit of 2012 funds Unlimited Impact - an organisation that works with and supports young disabled artists and helps them reach out to wider and more diverse audiences.
To coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of Disabled People on 3 December, Jo Verrent, Senior Producer at Unlimited Impact, writes here about the current state of play.
"The International Day of Disabled People is a celebration of what disabled people have achieved – and rightly so. But there is much to be done before we can collectively pause and celebrate: disabled people the world over are faced with discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping. It is rife through all aspects of our society, including our arts and culture.
We deliver a programme that commissions disabled artists to develop, produce and show ambitious, high quality work and Spirit’s funding allows us to reach the next generation of disabled artists, increase our geographic reach and allow us to deepen the debate. Since Unlimited Impact launched in 2014 we have invested in 22 young people’s projects, supported 10 mentees and enabled 22 venues to become more inclusive. We have achieved a huge amount in the past 18 months and are immensely proud of everything that's been delivered. Yet it isn’t enough, not by a long way.
Yes, young disabled artists are beginning to break through but not in the numbers that are needed, not within leadership roles, not within programmes for rural areas and small towns as well as bigger cities… and arts organisations are beginning to consider access for some events, but usually only for those targeted at disabled people rather than extending this as a natural and appropriate part of all their provision.
Change starts with us – in all sectors – making space to develop skills for young disabled people. Last week we brought together over 20 disabled young people from across the UK to take part in a peer learning two day event at the Roundhouse in London to share skills and develop their leadership potential – believe me, the potential is there! We are also recruiting for the third of three traineeships to help establish the next generation of disabled producers.
Until we have disabled people present within each and every level of the cultural industries – as both artists and audiences - what is there to truly celebrate? The arts sector hasn’t been cut within the spending review – and a huge hurrah for that. However disabled people and those needing social care have already been hit up to 19 times harder by cuts than others. The playing field is still not even and it’s getting worse not better. So let’s use the International Day of Disabled People to commit to being part of the change. If we all make a conscious effort to change our behaviours and attitudes, at work and at play, we really will be able to make a difference across the world.
Imagine disabled audiences at every event and performance. Imagine disabled creatives on every selection panel, within the senior management teams of all venues and funding bodies. Now decide what you are going to do to play your part in making that a reality..."
Jo Verrent is Senior Producer at Unlimited Impact.
To find out more about their work, visit www.unlimitedimpact.org.uk
To view Unlimited Impact's Demystifying Access resource pack for the performing arts, visit www.unlimitedimpact.org.uk/demystifying-access-a-resource-pack-for-the-performing-arts