Today Graeae, the UK’s leading disabled led theatre company launches a major new initiative, designed to remove barriers and transform the careers of Deaf and Disabled artists across the UK. The announcement of BEYOND, although many months in the planning, comes at a time when the debate around equality in the theatre industry has moved to the top of the agenda and the need for social and institutional inclusion has increasingly become an urgent topic of conversation.
Championed by Graeae patrons Dame Harriet Walter and actor / musician Mat Fraser, BEYOND brings together a network of partner organisations from the Midlands through to the North East and North West of England to offer development support, advice, training, mentoring and use of creative spaces for Deaf and Disabled artists at every stage of their careers. BEYOND will act as a bridge for these artists to reach organisational leaders and national venues in order to enable them to realise their creative potential and have their voices heard. The aim is to develop greater access to regional opportunities across England and ensure that Deaf and Disabled artists are at the forefront of new and emerging work. The initiative also recognises the immense value of Graeae’s intersectionality across its communities, which include Black, Asian, ethnic minority and LGBTQIA+ artists.
Partnering Graeae will be Octagon Theatre in Bolton, Curve in Leicester, Nottingham Playhouse, Cast in Doncaster, Hull Truck Theatre, Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot, Live Theatre in Newcastle and Northern Stage in Newcastle. Each venue has pledged to provide skill development and advice and each will actively offer support for a new wave of Deaf and disabled-led work. Specifically BEYOND participating theatres will offer the following to the individual artists who enrol on the scheme:-
Creative space and support to explore theatrical ideas.
Shadowing opportunities within R&D and rehearsal processes.
Support in sourcing funding and bursaries
Access to existing artist development schemes
Access to a digital toolkit on Graeae’s website that will provide practical guidance and learning resources (available from autumn/winter 2020).
There will be at least 100 hours of mentoring and 600 hours of rehearsal space across BEYOND. In addition to space, time and people, we will be offering a number of targeted micro-grants to unlock additional resources and help projects achieve their full potential.
Over the coming months, with hands-on guidance from Graeae, each of the participating theatres will be preparing to meet these undertakings, ready for their re-opening after the current pandemic restrictions are lifted. Once the scheme is underway the theatres will take guidance by Graeae who will liaise with both organisational and individual participants at every step of the way.
Deaf and disabled artists at all stages of their career are being invited to enrol onto the BEYOND programme, by any means accessible to them, via Graeae’s website, where information will also be provided in BSL, audio and easy read formats. If there is a project or idea that needs a boost, that would benefit from the support of others’ experience or resources, artists are encouraged to submit it now.
Participating artists will have the opportunity to build lasting relationships with one or more of the theatres based on a shared learning process as both navigate through the changing cultural landscape. These relationships will provide further career development possibilities beyond the programme and support to create work that is sustainable and responsive to the current climate and beyond.
BEYOND is supported by Arts Council England, Foyle Foundation, Sir James Reckitt Charity, Helen Jean Cope Charity and Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust.