Breaking Down The Barriers: The Arts, Disability and Change

Display date/time
Past event
  • New horizons 2016
  • New Horizons 2016
  • New Horizons 2016
  • Overview

    Following on from last year's inclusion-focused New Horizons Conference, during which we managed to crowdsource a ‘manifesto for change’, we are pleased to present this year's conference, Breaking Down the Barriers: The Arts, Disability and Change - a provocative, proactive and practical event for leaders and doers across the arts sector. 

    Our aim is to make the event as practically useful as possible, so that delegates go away more clued up - and more fired up - and with a clear idea of what they will do differently as a result of attending, with strands in Workforce Development, Working with Artists, Participation, and Audiences. 

    We hope also that it will provide sector professionals with an early chance to explore practical responses to the Arts Council’s arts and disability research being published later this year. 

    Across the day there will be a range of provocations, conversations, show and tells and top tip sessions, so that, whether you're a senior manager or a practitioner there's something of value to you. 

    Confirmed speakers include Elli Chapman (CultureWorks East), Chris Gribble (Writers Centre Norwich),  Richard Matthews (Graeae), Suzanne Bull MBE (Attitude is Everything), Matt Griffiths (The National Foundation for Youth Music), David Rowntree and Tanya Lee Davis. 

  • Bookings

    Tickets: £25, including a networking lunch and refreshments. Essential companions go free. 

    Click to book online 

  • Schedule


    Main space - Theatre

    Studio 1

    Studio 2  

    Studio 3  


    Registration (front desk/foyer)





    Introduction to day





    Opening provocations:
    Jess Thom, Tourettes Hero
    Jo Verrent, Unlimited







    Conversation 1:  Great art for (not quite) everyone? The purple pound and how we engage and develop disabled audiences

    Katie Elston, Roundhouse
    Richard Matthews, Graeae
    Suzanne Bull MBE, Attitude is Everything

    Ellen Vanlint, Active Norfolk
    CHAIR: Tom Garrod, Outsiders CIC

    Conversation 2:  Ensuring there really are no limits: How arts organisation can work successfully with disabled artists


    Tanya Lee Davis, Artist
    Fiona Slater, Unlimited

    Jamie Beddard, New Wolsey Theatre

    Lloyd Coleman, British Para Orchestra
    CHAIR: David Rowntree


    How to half hour


    How to half hour

    How to half hour









    Conversation 3:  Walking the walk; not just talking the talk: Making what we do and where and how we do it truly inclusive


    Zoe Partington, Shape
    Matthew Piper, Norwich Theatre Royal

    Helen Drury, Intu
    Lucy Garland, Frozen Light

    CHAIR: Matthew Linley, Unity Theatre

    Conversation 4:  Tearing apart what good taking part looks like: some fundamentals about good participatory practice


    Paul Weston, Lab Media

    Richard Hayhow, Open Theatre

    Carrie Mansfield, The Garage

    Nicky Goulder, Create

    CHAIR Matt Griffiths, National Foundation for Youth Music


    Conversation 5:  Change starts here: tackling the under-representation of disabled people in our workforce


    Andrew Miller, Royal & Derngate Theatres 
    Paul Bonham, Arts Council England
    Elli Chapman, CultureWorks East

    Layla Dickerson, MIND

    CHAIR: Chris Gribble, Writers Centre Norwich





    Summing up:

    Feedback from conversations, action pledges, evaluation, Networking





  • Speakers


    Jamie Beddard, Agent for Change, New Wolsey

    Jamie is Co-Artistic Director of Diverse City, and Lead Artist in Extaordinary Bodies.  He is also an Agent for Change at The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich.

    As a performer, he recently performed in the Messiah at Bristol Old Vic, played the role of Mathias in The National Theatre’s production of The Threepenny Opera, and performed in ‘Weighting’, a big outdoor circus show made by Extraordinary Bodies.

    He is a Clore Fellow, and has previously been a Diversity Officer (Arts Council), Associate Director (Graeae Theatre Company) and Editor of ‘Disability Arts in London’ magazine (DAIL).  His directing credits include ‘The Last Freakshow’ (Fittings), ‘Can I Be Frank With You’ (‘Datco’) and ‘The Trouble With Richard’ (Graeae).  Acting includes Quills, I.D, All the King’s Men, Wonderful You (Film/TV) and Ubu, Alice in Wonderland, Flesh Fly (Graeae), 15 Seconds (Traverse) and Waiting for Godot (Tottering Bipeds).


    Jamie Beddard Portrait

    Paul Bonham works across the London music and diversity team at Arts Council England the national development agency for the arts in England, distributing public money from the Government and the National Lottery. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people's lives. We support activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. This is achieved through programs such as Grants for the Arts and National Portfolio Funding of which more information can be found at Previous to this Paul was Business Manager at Attitude is Everything, a National Portfolio Organisation which increases Deaf and disabled access to live music, clubs and festivals, and an independent artist manager and promoter.



    Paul Bonham Portrait

    Suzanne Bull MBE was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Attitude is Everything on 1st April 2008 after spending 7 and a half years being its Project Manager. 

    She is disabled and has both a personal and professional interest in improving access to live music. 

    Attitude is Everything improves Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music by working in partnership with audience, artists and the music industry.  Their Vision is that Deaf and Disabled People can be audience members, employees or artists at any live music event of their choice: music without barriers.

    She was honoured with an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2013 for services to music, arts and disabled people.  She was also awarded Access All Areas Editor’s Award at the Event Production Awards 2015.  In February 2017, she was appointed as one of the Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health’s Sector Champions, who help to tackles the issues disabled people face as consumers.  Suzanne represents the music industry, and she will use her influential status as a leader in her industry to promote the benefits of being inclusive to disabled people.

    In May 2017, she was listed in Power 100 - Britain’s most influential disabled people.  This is the third time that she has been placed on the list.


    Portrait of Suzanne Bull MBE

    Lloyd Coleman is a composer and clarinettist whose music has been performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Aurora Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia, Sacconi Quartet and New London Chamber Ensemble. 

    Born in South Wales, Lloyd won a place at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester and became a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, before moving to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music, where his teachers were Gary Carpenter (composition) and Angela Malsbury (clarinet). 

    Nowadays, he combines his composing activities with a busy performing schedule – most often with Charles Hazlewood and the British Paraorchestra, the first professional ensemble in the world solely comprised of musicians with disabilities. They launched to a global audience of around half a billion viewers when they joined Coldplay at the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

    Three years later, Lloyd became the first composer to write a new piece specifically for the Paraorchestra. Critically acclaimed as a model for integrating disabled and non-disabled musicians, Towards Harmony received a repeat performance at Symphony Hall, Birmingham earlier this year. In October 2017, Lloyd was appointed as the group’s first Associate Music Director, a pivotal role as they join Arts Council England’s National Portfolio from April 2018.

    Other recent highlights include two appearances at the Glastonbury Festival with Army of Generals – paying tribute to David Bowie and exploring soundtracks for video games – and a celebration of Barry Gray’s music for the popular TV series Thunderbirds at the BBC 6 Music Festival with Jarvis Cocker. 

    When not making music himself, Lloyd enjoys sharing his passion for it with audiences on TV and radio. Since 2016, he has presented the world-famous BBC Proms concerts from the Royal Albert Hall for television, interviewing some of the greatest musicians and singers of today including Sir Simon Rattle, Nina Stemme and Eva-Maria Westbroek. 

    Lloyd gratefully acknowledges the support of the Elizabeth Eagle-Bott Memorial Fund and Neil Vint Bursary. 

    Portrait of Lloyd Coleman

    Image: Paul Blakemore.

    Tanyalee Davis

    Canadian born Tanyalee Davis has taken the UK comedy scene by storm with her appearances on Live at The Apollo, The John Bishop Show and The Last Leg. She tours extensively across the UK and Internationally. She now makes her home in Norwich.


    Portrait of TanyaLee Davis

    Helen Drury, Intu

    Helen is the corporate responsibility manager for intu Properties, the UK’s leading shopping centre company.  Helen is responsible for the group’s disability and accessibility programme.  She has focussed the company on becoming the first autism-friendly shopping centre group in the UK.  She previous experience making retail spaces accessible, having sat on a number of advisory groups, such as Mencap’s Changing Places Group and the ex-Prime Minister’s Dementia Friendly Retail Taskforce.

    In 2017, Helen was appointed a Disability Champion for Retail by the Department of Work and Pensions; she is working with industry body Revo to produce guidance for making retail accessible in the UK.


    Portrait of Helen Drury

    Katie Elston, Roundhouse

    Biography to follow



    Tom Garrod

    Tom is a speaker, writer, and visionary. Tom understands from first hand experiences the complexities of tensions within communities, whether it be on a local, national, or global scale. Having seven years experience as a local councillor, Tom appreciates how some of these complexities can’t be solved but have to be managed, through an ongoing process of sharing pressures and anxieties in transparent and honest manner. Having grown up with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy, Tom assembles both his personal experiences and Local Government experience to deliver tailored talks on Special Educational Needs and Disability. Tom is also keen on Social Media, and how it can be optimised to enhance individuals’ sense of belonging to and purpose within a community.

    Portrait of Tom Garrod

    Lucy Garland is the co-artistic director of Frozen Light. Frozen Light create contemporary, narrative driven multi-sensory theatre for audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD) and have a commitment to making theatre that is accessible for this audience.

    Frozen Light tour extensively around the UK having recently completed a 48 venue tour of their latest production HOME. They were the first company to take a show specifically for audiences with PMLD to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2016 and returned in 2017 to sell out audiences as part of the British Council showcase. Lucy has many years of experience of working with people with learning disabilities in theatre and social care settings.

    lucy garland image

    Matt Griffiths – CEO, The National Foundation for Youth Music

    Matt Griffiths is the CEO of Youth Music, a national charity investing in music-making projects for children and young people experiencing challenging circumstances. Matt originally trained as a percussionist and was a professional musician and music educator for ten years. This work included leading workshops and projects in prisons, young offender institutions, special schools and mental health settings. It was this work in particular where Matt saw first-hand the significant personal, social and musical benefits of music-making particularly for people facing challenges in their lives. It has been the focus of his career ever since.


    Matt's previous roles include founding Director of Plymouth Music Zone, Director of Arts for the Dartington Hall Trust and founder of the Devon School for Social Entrepreneurs. He is on the Music Education Council executive committee and steering group for the Cultural Learning Alliance.

    Portrait of Matt Griffiths

    Nicky Goulder, Chief Executive, Create

    Nicky Goulder is the Foundering Chief Executive of Create, the UK’s leading charity empowering lives through the creative arts. Create provides free access to creative arts programmes, run by professional artists across all artforms, for a wide range of disadvantaged and vulnerable people including children and adults with disabilities, young and adult carers, young offenders, older people and school children in areas of deprivation. Create’s programmes help participants develop creativity, self-esteem and communication skills. Since founding the charity in 2003, Create has run 7,739 workshops with 34,400 participants. 


    Create’s creative:connection programme tackles disability prejudice by bringing disabled and non-disabled young people together to create collaboratively. The programme won the 2017 Charity Awards Arts, Culture and Heritage Award. The Charity Awards judges said: “the project was particularly strong because it cut across boundaries rather than operating in silos, and offered something for everyone involved. Rather than focusing purely on delivery to service users, the charity was able to produce an intervention that rewarded all stakeholders – not just disabled people, but those who interacted with them.”


    Prior to co-founding Create, Nicky was Chief Executive of the Orchestra of St John’s, where she successfully grew its outreach programme by 400% in four years. She widened the orchestra’s reach and brought music to people who would not otherwise have an opportunity to experience it including prison inmates and homeless people. Before this she was Development Director at City of London Sinfonia where she worked in partnership with the Education Manager to build a far-reaching education and community programme across the UK.


    Nicky has also contributed to positive change in many people’s lives through her voluntary work, which includes running Lancaster University’s Nightline service, being first a Childline Counsellor and since a Samaritan, being on the YouthXpress leadership team at Southwark Cathedral and the Vice Chair of The Queen’s Nursing Institute.

    Portrait image of Nicky Goulder

    Chris Gribble, Chief Executive, Writers’ Centre Norwich


    Chris Gribble is the Chief Executive of Writers’ Centre Norwich ( After completing a PhD in German Poetry and Philosophy at the University of Manchester, Chris worked in publishing then the cultural sector and was the Director of Manchester Poetry Festival before setting up Manchester Literature Festival. Chris led the bid for Norwich to become England’s UNESCO City of Literature and was a member of the bid group for Norwich’s UK Capital of Culture submission. Chris is the Chair of the Board of Directors of ICORN (the International Cities of Refuge Network), sits on the Board of Directors for Carcanet Press and Modern Poetry in Translation, and is a Fellow of the RSA.


    Image of Chris Gribble


    Richard Hayhow
    International theatre practitioner, Richard Hayhow, has had a long career promoting the creativity of young people with learning disabilities through the development of a unique approach to theatre-making. In 1997 Richard set up The Shysters, a professional theatre company for actors with learning disabilities: over a period of 14 years the company gained a national reputation for the ground-breaking quality of its performance work. As Director of Open Theatre Company, Richard now works with a wide range of young people with learning disabilities in many contexts, particularly in regional special schools, where the practice has a significant impact on children’s learning and development. Open Theatre Company has recently become an Arts Council’s National Portfolio Organisations with ambitious plans to support the emergence of a significant number of professional artists with learning disabilities over the next four years



    Portrait of Richard Hayhow

    Matthew Linley

    Biography to follow


    Carrie Mansfield, The Garage

    Biography to follow


    Richard Matthews

    Richard Matthews has been Head of Marketing and Development at Graeae Theatre Company since 2015, where he heads up all aspects of the charities accessible marketing and communications. He has also led the marketing/comms departments at venues including Oxford Playhouse, Half Moon Young People’s Theatre and Wycombe Swan, and worked for theatre companies including James Seabright Productions and The Really Useful Company Asia Pacific. Richard started his career at the award-winning disability arts charity Shape. He is currently a trustee of Museum of Homelessness.

    Portrait of Richard Matthews

    Andrew Miller

    Andrew Miller is an arts producer, programmer & strategist. After a successful career as a television producer, director and presenter, he became Music Officer & Head of Performing Arts at Arts Council England West Midlands and was the first Head of Creative Programming at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama where he established a new and highly successful city centre arts complex promoting classical & contemporary music and theatre. Andrew serves on the boards of the Arts Council of Wales and UK digital arts agency, The Space and has written extensively on disability in the arts. He is currently Executive Associate at the Royal & Derngate Theatres Northampton and Core at Corby Cube, a role created for him as one of Arts Council England’s first cohort of Changemakers and is also the Executive Producer of The Russia’17 Season in Wales, a cultural festival marking the Centenary of the Russian Revolution currently taking place in Cardiff.



    Portrait of Andrew Miller

    Matthew Piper, Theatre Royal Norwich

    Biography to follow


    Zoe Parsons, Shape

    Biography to follow



    David Rowntree 

    Biography to follow


    Fiona Slater, Unlimited / Shape Arts

    Fiona has been working at Shape Arts since 2011 and has played a pivotal role in the delivery of Unlimited, a groundbreaking commissioning programme for disabled artists.


    Fiona is the lead contact for Unlimited’s emerging artist strand which provides funding support to research and develop new work, across artforms or run participatory projects. She works in partnership with a cohort of allies across the country to expand the geographical reach of Unlimited, deepen discussion surrounding the work and embed the next generation of disabled artists within the cultural sector.


    Fiona is also responsible for developing and promoting Shape’s artist residency scheme The Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary; an annual opportunity for a disabled artist to undertake a 3 month residency at a high profile arts venue.


    Jess Thom, Tourettes Hero

    Biography to follow


    Paul Weston
    Paul Weston is an experienced Musician, Community Musician, Project Manager and is a Director of Laboratory Media Education. Paul Specialises in reflecting on his practice to provoke creative disruptions in order to explore the things he does not know. Paul has been involved in development of the Music Education Code of Practice, and The National RoundTable for Musical Progression. His past roles include Director of Musicleader East of England and teaching in a wide variety of setting and institutions. His current role involves simplifying music technology for it's creative use in education, health and social inclusion.


    Portrait of Paul Weston


    Jo Verrent

    Jo believes that ‘different’ is delicious not divergent. She works in arts & culture at strategic levels embedding the belief that diversity adds texture, turning policy into real action.


    Jo is the senior producer for Unlimited.

    Unlimited is the world’s largest commissions programme for disabled artists, supporting new artistic work to get it seen, discussed and embedded within the cultural fabric of the UK.. Unlimited is a programme delivered by Shape and Artsadmin, working with partners such as ACE, Arts Council Wales, British Council, Spirit of 2012, Southbank Centre and Tramwayl. Jo leads on the delivery of the programme and is responsible for the impact the work has both at home and abroad.

    She is also a practicing artist, creating the award winning Take Me to Bed with Luke Pell which is toured internationally.


    Jo has won both Cosmopolitan’s woman of achievement award and her village’s cup for making jam. Jo is a Clore Fellow.


    @joverrent @weareunltd



    Portrait of Jo Verrent



  • Conversations

    Conversation #1
    Great art for (not quite) everyone? The purple pound and how we engage and develop disabled audiences.

    One in 5 of us has a disability; there are more than 11 million disabled people in the UK, and the so-called ‘purple pound’ is worth £250bn each year. Yet the evidence we see around us - not just in research reports, but in our venues, museums and libraries, and at our festivals - seems to suggest that many arts organisations are simply failing to reach disabled people. Or that when they do, their communications and access information just don’t cut it, and can actually put disabled people off taking a risk and coming along.  

    In this highly practical session we’ll be looking at what makes for great marketing collateral that will engage a range of disabled audiences. How do you get the word out, and who might you work with to do that? What information do you need to make available, where, how and in what format? And we’ll look at the who and the when….who’s best to lead on this in arts organisations, and when does the thinking and action need to kick in, so that all of this is just part and parcel of what you do, and not some ill thought out, last minute bolt on? We’ll also delve into the ins and outs of audience research, and how to ensure disabled people are able to fully engage with that. We’ll also be looking at what help there is at hand to support arts organisations to get better at all of this, so that we can all move one step closer to great art and culture really being for everyone.



    Conversation #2
    Ensuring there really are no limits: How arts organisation can work successfully with disabled artists

    Most of us probably feel like life is getting harder for those working in the arts; as ever, creativity isn’t an issue, it’s more the grinding reality of making ends meet on ever smaller budgets, and the attendant impact that has on the kinds of work we are able to do and on our organisational resilience and individual wellbeing and mental health.

    Disabled artists can face additional specific challenges - challenges that others won’t experience, or perhaps even be aware of or notice in the first instance – around external issues such as professional development and financial support, alongside any mental or physical health condition or illness. In this highly diagnostic session, we’ll shine a spotlight on how arts organisations and disabled artists can work together to address some of these barriers and challenges.

    What can arts organisations do to make sure their own houses are in order – literally and metaphorically – to ensure they can develop and sustain successful relationships with disabled artists? And with austerity biting particularly hard for disabled artists, we’ll also explore how such partnerships can help ensure disabled artists have the financial wherewithal to continue their practice, and make and present work. Looking at the bigger picture, we’ll ask what else funders might do, and if there’s a role for those working in the arts to play in terms of lobbying around government employment policy. 


    Conversation #3
    Walking the walk; not just talking the talk: Making what we do and where and how we do it truly inclusive

    We all think that every adult and child – regardless of whether they are disabled or not – should have access to the arts, right? Of course we do. The truth of the matter though is that – despite being incredibly well intentioned - many venues and festivals simply don’t yet deliver anything close to a welcoming, safe and really accessible environment for disabled audience members. So, how do we get beyond the rhetoric and create a new kind of reality? What should we be looking to change, and how do we set about doing that? Looking not just at how arts organisations are doing this, but also taking on board learning from the retail sector, this session will look at how we can change the way our spaces and teams work so that we can get closer to delivering positive, inclusive audience experiences for everyone, regardless of whether they are disabled or not. Expect a free ranging conversation covering everything from signage to signing; loos and (hearing) loops to licenses, and fire safety to feedback.


    Conversation #4
    Tearing apart what good taking part looks like: some fundamentals about good participatory practice

    We all know about, and have seen firsthand, the transformative power of the arts; how opportunities to participate and engage can change lives, circumstances and world views. But how as arts organisations can we develop and deliver high quality, meaningful, participation opportunities with and for disabled children and adults? Where do you start? This session will get us inside the ins and outs of doing just that, starting at the beginning: why you might want to do this and what your goals might be. We’ll look at what you need to do it well, and when it’s right for arts organisations to do this kind of work. We’ll look at how you go about developing such activity and how you involve potential participants in this, who you might work with and where the opportunities for cross sector partnerships might be. Getting into the nuts and bolts, we’ll explore how to kick start these partnerships, who might do what and – always important - how to find the money for them. We’ll also no doubt examine what we mean by good reflective practice, and meaningful evaluation looks like in this context. 


    Conversation #5
    Change starts here: tackling the under-representation of disabled people in our workforce

    In recent years, arts organisations and funders alike have increased their efforts to engage disabled artists, participants and audiences, and in theory at least, there’s never been a better time to be disabled and working in the arts. But, the backdrop to this apparent breakthrough moment is perhaps (or perhaps not?) shocking: disabled representation within the arts and culture workforce now stands at 4%, yet 19% of the UK’s working age population are disabled. You do the maths. Progression routes for those who are part of the sector have been woefully few and far between. 35 organisations in the Arts Council’s 2018-22 National Portfolio  - that’s 4% again - defined themselves at disability led, the vast majority sitting in the lowest ‘band’ with annual turnovers of under £250K. Change starts here, right? With us as individuals making changes? So, what are we to do? How can arts organisations tackle the under-representation of disabled people within our teams and boards? What is there to learn from recent Arts Council research looking at this, and from its Change Makers programme? What changes do we need to make to our thinking and cultures, to our practices and to our spaces, to the opportunities and progression routes we offer, to ensure that arts organisations more accurately reflect the society we are all part of? 

Past event

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