All-embracing arts

Some of the UK’s most inspiring performers are taking part in a two-day disability arts showcase that kicks off in Leicester tomorrow.

Embrace Create Connect, 15-16 March, is a national conference for performers with a learning disability and for those who work with people who have a learning disability.

Movers Theatre Company (pictured here performing The Sorting Office, 2009) feature in the two day arts extravaganza

The event, which takes place at Embrace Arts, Leicester University’s arts centre aims to share learning and present the huge and rich range of learning disability arts work, connecting performers, producers and promoters.

A scoping document for the event, Written by Andy Reeves, artistic director 
of the Leicester-based Speakeasy Theatre Company (I featured the participatory arts company’s great work here) describes the East Midlands as “an interesting region in terms of performing arts and disability” because activity from the sector has learning disability, rather than physical disability, as its primary focus.

Anna Pearce and Hanna Sampson in Shadowed Voices, part of StopGAP Dance Company’s trainee programme

There’s tons of good stuff on the conference agenda. Performances include Heavy Load, StopGAP Dance Company, Club Soda and Movers Theatre Company. Other artists include Bamboozle and Salamanda Tandem.

Participants can get involved in workshops and debate with Action Space Mobile, DIY Theatre Company, Stay Up Late, Unanima, Oska Bright and more.

Tomorrow’s event is more positive movement in the field of inclusive arts. Events like this should help discourage the kinds of assumptions that leave many people with a learning disability excluded not just from the stage, but from the audience.

As Reeves acknowledges in his scoping report, while there is “a wealth of interesting learning disability practice happening nationally and regionally”, connecting up this kind of work “is much trickier”. Tomorrow’s unprecedented event will, buoyed by the strong vision of the companies and artists in the region, kickstart a learning disability performing arts network in the region.

About Saba Salman

Saba Salman is a social affairs journalist, commissioning editor and a regular contributor to The Guardian. She also manages the blog for the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, an umbrella body for third sector providers of social care.
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