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Sydney Festival launches first Disability Programming Initiative in Australia

Sydney Festival launches first Disability Programming Initiative in Australia
December 3, 2018

Today, on International Day of People with Disability, Sydney Festival launches their Disability Programming Initiative to increase the number of artists with disability creating work for festivals.

The initiative, in partnership with Accessible Arts, introduces a pitching process that is accessible and inclusive, with support available at each stage of the application. Successful applicants are offered an unprecedented opportunity to be part of Australia’s largest summer annual arts festival.

Sydney Festival has a long history of inclusion and accessibility, providing an ongoing program that aims to remove obstacles and encourage participation from all Sydneysiders and visitors to Sydney. The focus of previous programs has been to expand audience access to Sydney Festival shows, however the Disability Programming Initiative has the exclusive intention of increasing representation of artists with disability or who are Deaf in Sydney Festival’s program.

“Alongside the numerous accessible performances for audiences, it is equally important that what Sydney Festival presents in their annual program reflects the society in which we live, which means including artists with disability or who are Deaf in their programming. Programming more work by, and providing artistic opportunities for artists with disability recognises the under-representation and employment of people with disability in the arts in Australia,” says Kerry Comerford, Chief Executive Accessible Arts.
 
Sydney Festival’s Access and Inclusion Advisory Panel has highlighted the complexity of issues regarding programming of artists with disability, such as lack of funding, inaccessible venues, inaccessible application processes and misconceptions about quality of work. With this in mind, Sydney Festival, in collaboration with Accessible Arts, now provides artists with clear information online about how to pitch as well as offering support and guidance for all artists who want to submit work through this program.

“Sydney Festival takes seriously our role to unite our city and create memorable moments we are all excited by. We have a long history of inclusion and accessibility for audiences and via this new initiative we will be focussing on giving artists with disabilities a platform for their diverse range of work to be included in the annual Sydney Festival program,” says Wesley Enoch, Festival Director, Sydney Festival.

Recently, Sydney Festival has featured artists with disability including Dan Daw (Beast, 2018), Heather Lawson and Michelle Stevens (Imagined Touch, 2017) and Ethan Hugh (Kaleidoscope, 2017) and through this initiative will be able to increase representation and opportunities for artists living with disability.

“This targeted initiative by Sydney Festival is an acknowledgement of the fact that artists with disability experience particular disadvantage when attempting to secure artistic opportunities in Australia, and that space needs to be carved out in an effort to change this,” says Riana Head-Toussaint, Chair of the Sydney Festival Access and Inclusion Advisory Panel. 

“It is a real commitment to seeing the diversity of Australian life accurately reflected through arts and culture, and I have no doubt it will lead to some phenomenal projects by systematically undervalued artists finally reaching broader audiences!”

“I hope it encourages other festivals and arts and cultural institutions to reflect on their own programs and what further positive action they could be taking.” 

Artists can submit their pitch, via multiple formats including a printed document, audio, video, or in person by 31 March 2019. These pitches will then be individually reviewed and considered by Festival Director, Wesley Enoch and his programming team, based on the quality of work, balance of projects, budgets and distribution.

For further information go to www.sydneyfestival.org.au/access-submissions

Image of Ethan Hugh’s 2017 Kaleidoscope, courtesy of Sydney Festival 2017.
Working with the Company 2 artists, 13-year-old boy Ethan Hugh, who was born with Asperger’s Syndrome and a hearing impediment, collaborated on creating and devising Kaleidoscope, a show which explored the world of autism and to investigate it through using circus. Ethan was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was just four years old. His mother, Joanna Wharton, wrote a book about their life together, describing his world as ‘a dazzling kaleidoscope’ filled with colour and light. It is her writing which inspired the creation of the show.

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