Reaching New Artists in Changing Times – When facing challenging circumstances we often fall back on working with artists we know. How can we move beyond this and continue to expand representation?
Let’s state the obvious to kick this one off… representation matters.
Ok, now that’s out of the way we can get into some more of the nuance of this stuff. Representation doesn’t come about by accident. If it did we would see a much more diverse world portrayed on our screens and in our theatres. When we are operating in unfamiliar terrain, feeling like we are walking on shifting sands, it can seem as though grasping onto something solid is the only sensible thing to do.
In our sector, that something solid can very often be a person we’ve worked with before. An artist we’re comfortable with, someone we know we can depend on. In many ways that is indeed prudent – and might just feel essential for our own mental health! – but that ‘safe’ feeling can also be deceptive. Is it safe to run the ‘same old same old’? Will that be exciting enough to tempt audiences back? It goes without saying that we are in unusual times. So maybe now might just be the time for unusual work.
By continuing to prioritise representation you can show your audiences that they matter, that you value them and want them to feel seen and hear stories that resonate with them. You can bring new ideas into your creative armory by working with artists from different backgrounds with different experiences. You can take the knowledge that comes from lived experience and bring that into your next accessible production. When you’re looking at representation look at it from all angles and think intersectionally. If it’s not intersectional, it’s not really inclusive.
Opening up can feel challenging in times of uncertainty, but it can also bring hope, resilience, creativity and new life to your work. This was demonstrated through our conversations we had with Disabled artists to get their thoughts and reactions.
First we spoke with Miss Jacqui, a spoken word artists and with Maiya Leeke, a dancer and teacher, about the opportunities and the barriers that lockdown have thrown up for Disabled artists.
Useful articles we have found online
How to avoid Stereotyping Disabled artists? from British Council Blog
How to avoid Tokenism from British Council Blog
Whose Voices are vulnerable? from British Council Blog
Disability and… LGBTQIA+ Perspectives from Disability Arts Online magazine
Disability and… Race – Disability Arts Online podcast from Disability Arts Online magazine
Sharing Platforms and Sharing Power from Unlimited
Eleven Top Tips for Accessible Commissioning from Unlimited