I write this as we are about to embark on our new horizons conference for 2017. An event that we started last year – structured around a series of speakers and conversations on a theme. 

This year’s title – Breaking Down the Barriers: The Arts, Disability and Change. But we’re not experts or leading the field, like Drake Music or Graeae or a number of other organisations or consortiums who are leading by example, so it begs the question….. How dare we host a conference around disability and the sector, hypocritical or what?!!?

The answer for me is a very simple one – we want to get better.

Of course we could use the money spent on the event on a consultant who would come in, write a strategy that would tell us how to work better and all the things that we could improve. Job done – or at least box ticked! And that there for me is the problem. 

I have no issue with consultants – in fact from time to time I have picked the odd bit of consultancy work to supplement my income. However this does not work for me now in this organisation. I have wrestled with how we make improvements on key areas across the organisation that allows individual staff and freelancers to engage in the development by expressing their ideas and retain their individuality in the process; and ultimately buy in to the resolution. To use a clunky analogy – a carrot nor a stick seemed to be appropriate!

So in partnership with Julia Payne from The Hub we set upon putting together a series of conversations inspired by provocations which included some interesting panellist – and not just from our sector. We then opened these conversations and speakers up to partners, organisations we have yet to work with and artists so all their opinions get added to the mix.

We want to make change in this organisation, but we don’t do that in isolation – we do that by listening and learning from others. Trialing ideas that catch our attention, not being afraid to take a risk. The very act of hosting an event like this has meant that we have had to challenge, change and adapt the way that we work. We will make errors on the way – but please support us to make change to ensure this organisation is better for the next encounter.

We are not putting ourselves front and centre because we think that we are the bastions of best practice, but rather that we think that we have some lessons to learn and that’s why we arranged these, a series of conversations in our NEW HORIZONS day. My hope is that others are able to take away from the day as much as we are.

Adam Taylor, Executive Director, The Garage Trust. 

Breaking Down the Barriers: The Arts, Disability and Change takes place at The Garage on Thursday 26 October, 10am-4.30pm. 

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.

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