There’s a lot to celebrate in the work of disabled artists right now.
Ramps on the Moon, for example, brings together a collaborative network of seven Arts Council England national portfolio theatres to create three new pieces of high-quality touring theatre. Each venue will co-produce shows over consecutive years, giving all the organisations direct experience of working with disabled artists and learning how to develop disabled audiences. This, coupled with the Unlimited commissions for individual artists announced earlier this year, is a testament to the achievements of such work so far and industry support for it.
Training to support the growth of disabled talent is also growing. There’s thepartnership between the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Solar Bear Theatre Company – the first BA course in performance in British Sign Language and English. Then there’s the Central School of Speech and Drama, which is running adiploma for learning disabled performers, and the workplace-based training for learning disabled theatre-makers provided by Mind The Gap theatre company in Bradford and Hijinx theatre company in Cardiff.
Oily Cart theatre company has quietly generated passionate interest and engagement among a new generation of theatre-makers who are providing work for those with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD).
The disability arts are also gaining ground in higher education, with the likes of Nicola Shaughnessy’s Imagining Autism at the University of Kent, and Northumbria University’s Matt Hargrave’s excellent and challenging new book,Theatres of Learning Disability. The widening online of reviewing and criticism beyond the broadsheets has also brought a better range of voices into the mix.
But this is only half the story. All this fantastic opportunity is the culmination of many years of hard work and investment that has led to the emergence of talented disabled artists. Will producers be able to continue to draw on a broad and deep pool of talent to meet these new opportunities?
You can view the full story on The Guardian.