Arts Council scheme should boost disabled arts leaders

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The Arts Council has announced that it is to spend more than £2.5 million on a programme that aims to increase the number of disabled people in senior leadership roles in England’s arts and cultural organisations.

The £2.57 million Change Makers programme, which is also aimed at black and minority ethnic potential leaders, will provide bursaries to fund training placements for nine disabled leaders.

Arts Council England (ACE) hopes the bursaries will allow them to gain the necessary experience, knowledge, skills and confidence to compete for future posts as artistic directors, chief executives or other senior positions.

One of the disabled people who has secured a grant is artist and arts leader Jess Thom, already well-known through her performing alter ego Touretteshero.

She will work with Battersea Arts Centre on an 18-month senior leadership training and development placement, where she will pilot a “relaxed venue” that will take “an inclusive approach at every level”, work on a major new production that will premiere next autumn, and curate a week-long “relaxed festival” at the arts centre in spring 2018.

Amit Sharma, currently associate director of the disabled-led theatre company Graeae, will join The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester as associate artistic director for 18 months, where he will direct two productions, and join the theatre’s senior management team.

Hannah Kayi Mason, an emerging black and disabled leader in the visual arts, will work with The Art House and other artists and arts organisations on a series of co-productions and solo projects.

Another of the nine is James Rose, who has secured a training placement at Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO), with the help of a private donation.

Over 18 months, from June 2017, he will create, curate and direct a new ensemble of disabled and non-disabled musicians, which he will conduct, and which will deliver a series of performances and workshops across the region.

Rose (pictured), who uses a head-baton to conduct, said: “The prospect of developing a new ensemble for the BSO comprising of players with and without disabilities is an exciting one.

“This will not only provide a platform for new talented musicians, but it will also be used as a vehicle to inspire those who have disabilities to engage with classical music – whether it be playing or listening.”

Abid Hussain, ACE’s diversity director, said: “We’re committed to ensuring the diversity of England is better reflected at a leadership level across the arts and cultural sector.

“Through our Change Makers programme, these 20 disabled and black and minority ethnic leaders will have an inspiring and transformational opportunity to realise their leadership potential, giving them the confidence and the experience to take their next step into a senior leadership role, helping to shape the future of our sector.”

Picture by Hanazushi Rhodes, Royal Academy of Music

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