OPEN LETTER TO THE CULTURE SECRETARY FROM DISABLED CULTURAL LEADERS, ARTISTS & INCLUSIVE COMPANIES ON SAFEGUARDING THE FUTURE OF DISABILITY ARTS IN THE UK
The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 100 Parliament Street London SW1 2BQ
Tuesday 9 June 2020
Dear Secretary of State,
The UK’s 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, as with your support Secretary of State, we shall not be removed.
Taking Flight Theatre
Chapter Arts Centre
Canton, Cardiff, CF5 1QE
029 2023 0020
Youth Theatre meets at:
Wales Millennium Centre
Cardiff, CF10 5AL
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