New UK Disability Arts Alliance in Response to COVID-19
#WeShallNotBeRemoved is an emergency response led by disabled people for disabled people working across the UK’s creative industries.
Disabled people working across the creative industries in the UK are deeply concerned about their future and have come together to create an alliance to campaign for an inclusive cultural recovery. The last decade has seen a flowering of disabled people’s talent in every artform and increasing levels of inclusion across the cultural mainstream, but all this progress is threatened by the pandemic.
#WeShallNotBeRemoved is an emergency response led by disabled people for disabled people working across the UK’s creative industries. Designed as a forum to advocate, campaign and support D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners and organisations through and after COVID. 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
Launched on 6 May, membership of the new alliance has already reached over 150 individual disabled creative practitioners, disability arts organisations and those that work inclusively, from across the four UK nations, across artforms and across impairment groups. New members are actively sought to ensure the alliance reflects the full diversity of disabled people working in creative industries.
Founding members of the alliance include: Graeae Theatre, Candoco, Unlimited, Drake Music, Hijinx, Shape Arts, Museums DCN, British Paraorchestra, HeartnSoul, TourettesHero, University of Atypical, Access All Areas, Disability Arts Cymru, Birds of Paradise, Attitude is Everything, poet Jamie Hale, playwright Vici Wreford-Sinnott, theatre directors Nickie Wildin & Amit Sharma, actor Jamie Beddard, arts consultant Michele Taylor and musician John Kelly.
Andrew Miller, UK Government Disability Champion for Arts & Culture said: “Coronavirus threatens not only the existence of our national culture as we’ve known it but also the health, creativity and civil rights of disabled people. Many of us face long term shielding and therefore risk invisibility to wider society. So it is essential that we come together as one creative disabled community to ensure we are not left behind, but instead shape and reset the coming cultural recovery inclusively”.
Jenny Sealey MBE, CEO & Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre said: “It’s being said that we are all in the same storm but not on the same boat. Some disabled people feel they have no boat. So it is vital we work collectively to support each other through and after the storm of Covid19 and ensure that our community is at the heart of evolving arts policy and practice”.
Jo Verrent, Senior Producer of commissions programme Unlimited said: “Isolated and increasingly ignored by many, disabled people in the cultural sector are at risk of losing everything we’ve gained over the last 40 years. #WeShallNotBeRemoved has given us a place to meet, to shelter, share and reimagine. We MUST be at the centre of the cultural sector to come, one that is both physical and virtual, includes all and excludes no one”.
Robert Gale, Artistic Director of Scotland’s Birds of Paradise Theatre Company said: "My colleagues and I have spent our careers believing the stories of disabled people are so incredibly important to culture in the UK and around the world. This pandemic could threaten 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. This campaign is us taking the microphone and ensuring we'll be heard."
Ruth Fabby MBE, Director of national agency Disability Arts Cymru said: "#WeShallNotBeRemoved is a vital network ensuring our collective voices about the issues we fear as a result of Covid-19 are acknowledged and responded to. I am pleased that Wales is represented as we have a unique set of issues including our geography, poor public transport links and connectivity cold spots - all of which dramatically affect D/deaf and disabled people's ability to be involved”.
Sean Fitzsimons, Vice Chairperson of Belfast’s University of Atypical said: “The #WeShallNotBeRemoved campaign is a brilliant initiative which I wholeheartedly support. The need for art in documenting, processing & sharing our community’s collective experiences has never been greater. I’m proud to see another example of the tireless ingenuity of the D/deaf & Disabled arts community in Northern Ireland (and beyond) during this challenging time.”
Membership of #WeShallNotBeRemoved is free, open to all individual D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners and disability focused organisations operating in UK arts, museums and film. Anyone interested in joining the alliance should email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The initial priorities of the #WeShallNotBeRemoved alliance are:
- To ensure D/deaf, neurodiverse & disabled artists and arts organisations are integral to the reshaping of UK culture through and after Covid19
- To ensure inclusive principles remain at the heart of public funding strategies in all 4 UK nations to support our sector and the next generation of D/deaf and disabled talent
- To promote the interests of emerging, mid-career and established D/deaf and disabled artists in a radically changed cultural landscape
- To promote greater intersectionality within disability arts to reflect the breadth of our diversity
- To campaign for greater inclusion in wider society to catalyse and support the existing disability movement to influence government policy on health, social care & benefits
- To provide a new space for D/deaf and disabled creative practitioners to contribute ideas and solutions, initiate conversations and to signpost opportunities on a dedicated Slack platform and monthly Zoom meetings