Cultivating spaces for extraordinary artists

Open Letter to UK Culture Ministers

Leading Disabled Artists and Cultural Leaders Send Open Letter to UK Culture Ministers Demanding Support for Disabled People in the Creative Industries.​​​​​​​

Shropshire based arts organisations; DASH and ArtStudio01: Inclusive Artists Collective believe we must stand together to make sure Disabled and Deaf voices are heard so we are visible not invisible in the arts and cultural landscape regionally and nationally going forward and beyond this global pandemic.​​​​​​​

Over 100 leading disabled artists and cultural leaders have today sent an open letter to The Secretary of State for Culture Oliver Dowden MP and devolved UK Culture Ministers, demanding safeguards to protect the future of disability arts in the UK as a consequence of Covid19.

The letter warns that the pandemic has magnified inequalities for disabled people working in the creative industries and that many are facing long term shielding, loss of income and invisibility in wider society.

Disabled cultural leaders are calling on the government to extend the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) beyond August, to prioritise involvement of disabled people in cultural policy, to ensure the renewal and recovery of the cultural sector is more inclusive and offers greater access and representation.

The open letter was organised by the new UK Disability Arts Alliance #WeShallNotBeRemoved. The alliance is an emergency response led by disabled people for disabled people working across the UK’s creative industries in every capacity and across artforms.

Andrew Miller, UK Government Disability Champion for Arts & Culture said: The speed of recovery planning risks excluding many creative disabled people. So it is essential the UK Government ensures cultural renewal is planned inclusively with creative disabled people at its heart".​​​​​​​

Jenny Sealey MBE, CEO & Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre said: It is vital we work collectively to support each other through and after the storm of Covid19 and ensure that our disabled community is at the heart of evolving arts policy and practice”.

Robert Softley Gale, Artistic Director of Scotlands Birds of Paradise Theatre Company said: "Covid19 threatens everything we've worked towards unless we ensure that our response is solid and places disabled people at the centre of all discussions about our future." ​​​​​​​

Amit Sharma, Deputy Director of Birmingham Rep said:Deaf and disabled people have made a significant contribution across the arts locally, nationally and internationally. Its taken huge progress to just get here and it cannot be right that Birmingham Rep is in a tiny group of organisations that employs disabled people at senior level within our industry. If were not part of the conversation then theres a real danger we go backwards. We can not become invisible again

Jo Verrent, Senior Producer of UK commissions programme Unlimited said: Isolated and increasingly ignored by many, disabled people MUST be at the centre of the cultural sector to come, one that is both physical and virtual, includes all and excludes no one

#WeShallNotBeRemoved is a forum to advocate, to campaign and support D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners and organisations through and after Covid19. The aims of the alliance are:

● To ensure a sustainable future for disability and inclusive arts in the UK through and after the pandemic

● To amplify the voices of D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners & disability arts organisations at a time of crisis for the arts and for disabled people

Membership of #WeShallNotBeRemoved is free, open to all individual D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners and disability focused organisations operating in the UK’s creative industries. Within a month of forming the alliance has attracted over 350 members.

The open letter was also sent to Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs at The Scottish Government, Lord Dafydd Ellis-Thomas, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport & Tourism at The Welsh Government, Deirdre Hargey, Northern Irish Minister for Communities and Jo Stevens, Shadow Secretary for Culture, Media & Sport.

The open letter is housed on Graeae Theatre’s website. The text of the letter and full list of 140 signatories is included below:

Dear Secretary of State,

The UKs vibrant disability and inclusive arts sector is globally recognised as world leading. Across the last four decades a combination of the limitless imagination of disabled artists and essential public funding has led to a never-before-seen flowering of D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled talent on our national stages and screens, in our literature and our galleries.

Disabled people are increasingly part of the national cultural infrastructure as artists but also as employees, administrators and trustees, in every artform and in every capacity. It was recently established that disabled people also make up 12% of national arts audiences in England.​​​​​​​

All this inclusive progress is threatened by Covid-19. ​​​​​​​

The pandemic impacts on livelihoods, health, social care and creativity are all frighteningly magnified for disabled people. Worse, most disabled people operating in the creative industries are self-employed and deeply concerned about their future as a consequence of SEISS ending in August. Many disabled artists are facing long term shielding, a total loss of income, compromised independent living and the risk of invisibility in wider society.​​​​​​​

Disabled cultural leaders call on the government and the sector to ensure the progress we have collectively made does not falter in this moment of crisis. Disabled artists, employees and audiences must be prioritised and celebrated in both cultural policy and delivery.

Additionally, the industry that closed in March, simply didn't work for many of us. The renewal and recovery of the wider cultural industries must be guided by a fully inclusive approach informed by disabled creative professionals to strengthen the accessibility of the sector and implement the learning from this crisis about home working and online access.

Our visionary Disability Arts Movement used a phrase in the 1980s that greatly advanced the cause of the Social Model of Disability being adopted across the world. That phrase is as relevant now in the midst of this pandemic as it was then: nothing about us without us. In this sentiment we are in full solidarity with our Black and Asian theatre colleagues who wrote to you on 28 May and with the seismic actions being taken across the world through the Black Lives Matter movement.

Disability arts is a uniquely British success story and as disabled people, we wish to play our part in the national recovery. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our concerns directly with you, as with your support Secretary of State, we shall not be removed.


Jenny Sealey MBE CEO/Artistic Director, Graeae Theatre

Andrew Miller, Disability Champion for Arts & Culture

Tony Heaton OBE, Chair, Shape Arts

David Hevey, CEO, Shape Arts

Ruth Fabby MBE, DL, Director of Disability Arts Cymru

Robert Softley Gale, Artistic Director, Birds of Paradise Theatre Company

Jodi-Alissa Bickerton, Creative Learning Director, Graeae Theatre

Jo Verrent, Senior Producer, Unlimited

Vici Wreford-Sinnott, Artistic Director, Little Cog / Disconsortia

Barry Farrimond MBE, CEO, Open Up Music and National Open Youth Orchestra

Carien Meijer, Chief Executive, Drake Music

Gareth Cutter, independent artist & Artist in Residence (Drake Music)

Melanie Sharpe, CEO, Stagetext

Julie McGowan, Trustee at The University of the Atypical, independent artist.

Stephen Bailey, Resident Assistant Director, Chichester Festival Theatre

Toki Allison, BFI FAN Access Officer, Inclusive Cinema - Film Hub Wales

Aisling Gallagher, freelance director, theatre practitioner, Councillor London Borough of Lewisham

Kelsie Acton, dancer/choreographer, Inclusive Practice Manager, Battersea Arts Centre

Becki Morris, Director of Disability Collaborative Network C.I.C.

Robert Sanderson, venue manager retired, arts management consultant occasional

Jonny Cotsen, Freelance Theatre Maker / Access Consultant & Facilitator

Chris Tally Evans, freelance artist

Trish Wheatley, CEO, Disability Arts Online

Stephanie Fuller, Director/CEO, Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

Linda Rocco, Freelance Curator, Producer and Consultant

Andrew Roach, Talent Agent/MD, Andrew Roach Talent Ltd

Daryl Beeton, Daryl Beeton Productions

Jonathan Harper, Chief Executive, Paraorchestra

Michèle Taylor, Director for Change, Ramps on the Moon

Lloyd Coleman, Associate Music Director, Paraorchestra

Sophie Woolley, Freelance Writer & Performer

Simon Morris, General Manager, Blue Apple Theatre

Ellie Page, Writer, Designer & Consultant, Managing Partner Still Ill OK + Nice Time Arts

John R. Wilkinson, Freelance Theatre Director, Artistic Associate, York Theatre Royal

Caglar Kimyoncu, Artistic Director, filmpro

Dr Jessi Parrott, Performer, Poet and Academic

Steve Moffitt, CEO, A New Direction

Joanne Roughton-Arnold, Opera Singer & Company Director, formidAbility

Julian Gray, Freelance Illustrator

Mik Scarlet, Broadcaster, Musician, Actor & Inclusive Practice Consultant.

Mat Fraser, actor and writer, co-director of ONEOFUS

Paul Wilshaw, actor and producer, Assistant producer at Mind the Gap

Tim Wheeler, freelance theatre-maker, arts consultant and lecturer

Kyle McCall Wilson, Social Media Marketing Officer at EGO Performance Company

Charlotte Darbyshire, Artistic Director, Candoco Dance Company

Jo Royce, Executive Director, Candoco Dance Company

Becky Morris Knight, Freelance Comms & working with Drake Music

Donna Holford-Lovell, Director, NEoN Digital Arts (NEoN)

David Proud, Freelance Actor, Writer, Director

Samantha Tatlow, Talent Coordinator, thinkBIGGER! Ltd,

Justin Edgar, Film Director, Writer and Producer, 104 films

Sam Oldknow Film Studies Masters Student

Kim Tserkezie, Actor, Presenter, Producer, MD Scattered Pictures

Jamie Beddard, Co-Director Diverse City & Agent for Change New Wolsey

Philippa Cole, Actor

Kyla Harris, Actor, Writer and founder of The Other Screen

Ella Glendining, Filmmaker and Writer

Sho Shibata, Executive Producer, Stopgap Dance Company

Lucy Bennett, Artistic Director, Stopgap Dance Company

Jennifer Gilbert, Director Jennifer Lauren Gallery and freelance producer/curator

Amy Cunningham, Creative Director, Dark Horse Theatre

Jess Thom, Co-artistic Director, Touretteshero

Matthew Pountney, Co-artistic Director, Touretteshero

Bobby Baker, artist, Artistic Director, Daily Life Ltd.

Joe Stevenson, Freelance Writer and Musician

Hannah Quigley, freelance director/practitioner/arts manager

Eleanore Hall, artist, Project Manager, Club Soda Croydon

Flossie Waite, Communications & Engagement Producer, Oily Cart Theatre Company

Alison Garratt, Touring Producer, Oily Cart Theatre Company

Martin Wilson, Director, TIN Arts

Georgie Morrell, Comedian, Actor and Writer

Tom Wentworth, playwright, screenwriter

Midnight Memphis, BFI FAN Access Coordinator, Beacon Films Exhibition Offic

Nick Llewellyn, Artistic Director, Access All Areas

Rachel Rogers, Producer, DaDaFest, Liverpool

Hana Pascal Keegan, Freelance Director / Writer / Dramaturg

Nabil Shaban, founder of Graeae Theatre, actor, writer, painter, novelist, poet, film-maker (Sirius Pictures), disability rights activist

Lorna O’Brien, Creative Manager, MarketPlace, Creative People And Places

Sarah Horner, Chief Executive, Hijinx Theatre

Laura Jones, Head of Talent Development, Stopgap Dance Company

Ellie Griffiths, Artistic Director, Oily Cart Theatre

Elise Davison, Artistic Director, Taking Flight Theatre Company

Stephanie Back, Actor, workshop facilitator and lead artist of Deaf & Fabulous Productions

Laura Rees, Actor and current student of MA in Applied Theatre at Goldsmiths University

Ashokkumar Mistry, Artist, Curator, Writer

Deborah Dickinson, Senior Producer, Mind the Gap

Heather Andrews, Sound Artist, Sound Designer and Recordist

Casey Bottono, BA (Hons), MA Writer and Workshop Leader, The Writers’ Block

James Rose, Conductor

Rona Topaz, Singer/Actress/Choir Leader

Phoebe Kemp, Freelance Theatre Maker, Chair,Equity D/deaf and Disabled Member’s Committee

Liz Porter Freelance Arts & Heritage Access Consultant/performance storyteller

Br. Andy TSSF - Singer/ Disabled Artist / Producer. Chair Disability Advisory Group. NHS.

Beth Hinton-Lever, Actor.

Lady Kitt, Artist and Drag King, co-founder of Nasty Women North East

Nicola Cashin, General manager, EGO Performance Company

Tim Nunn, Artist, Curator and Producer

Simon Yuill, Artist

Amy Trigg, Actor and Writer

Jude Škulec, Stage Technician and Dresser

Charlie Fitz, artist and writer

Will Sadler, Development Director, Beacon Films

Mike Layward Artistic Director DASH

Katie J Redstar actor,writer,director

Pauline Heath Actor and writer

Kathryn Barnett, director of disability-led arts organisation Regeneration NE CIC

Elaine Collins, Artist, Actor, Performer, Theatre Maker, MA student LIPA, Dadafest theatre makers

Dan Edge, Actor, Model, Pro Wrestler, Equity D/deaf & Disabled Members Committee Vice Chair

Tanya Raabe-Webber, Disabled Artist, Painter of People, Director of PortraitsUntold and ArtStudio01-Artists Collective

Michelle Rolfe, Producer, BOP TheatreMorna McGeoch, Development Officer, BOP Theatre

Caroline Cardus, Visual Artist, Creative Producer

Samuel Brewer, Actor/Theatre Maker BA(hons) Acting Student Central School of Speech and Drama

Sarah Archdeacon - Artistic Director, Corali

Georgina Egan, Artistic Director, EGO Performance Company

Corinne Robinson, Artistic Director, EGO Performance Company

Kacey De Groot, Development Manager, EGO Performance Company

Richard Nutter, Executive Director, DaDaFest

Aidan Moesby. Artist/Curator

Dr Vole, disabled singer/songwriter/poet

Ben Pettitt-Wade, Artistic Director, Hijinx

Alan Whitfield, National Visual Arts Officer, Disability Arts Cymru

Sydney Thornbury, CEO/Artistic Director, The Art House, Wakefield

Jen Garrick, Marketing & Communications Director, The Art House, Wakefield

Ellie Tait, Critical Friend and Curator

Samantha Renke broadcaster and disability rights campaigner

Dame Evelyn Glennie - Musician, President of Help Musicians

Beth House, Development Director/Joint CEO, Taking Flight Theatre Company

Charles Hazlewood, Conductor, Founder and Artistic Director of Paraorchestra

Stella Patrick, Marketing Consultant, Taking Flight Theatre Company and Freelance

Louise Ralph, General Manager, Taking Flight Theatre Company

Olga Macrinici, theatre maker

Emily Garside, Chair Taking Flight Theatre Company.

Garrin Clarke, Stage Manager, Freelance

Katy Stephens, Actor/Manager, EGO Performance Company

Clare-Louise English, Co-Artistic Director, Hot Coals Theatre

Jo Sargeant, Co-Artistic Director, Hot Coals Theatre.

Jamie Hale, freelance writer and theatre practitioner, ensemble artist Graeae Theatre Company

Zara Rush, Producer for Corali & People Make It Work

Andrea Swainson - Engagement and Outreach Manager of Corali Dance Company

Jade French, Artist-Facilitator and Academic, University of Leeds

Amit Sharma, Deputy Artistic Director, Birmingham Rep


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