Cultural Shift was a three-year programme of dynamic arts activity involving disabled people at every level, which aimed to challenge perceptions of disability, introducing new people to the work of disabled artists and supporting disabled artists to develop their work.
You can now download the final report that draws together the three years of work done through this programme – and below, hear from one of the architects of its success.
Vici Wreford-Sinnott was the Creative Lead for Cultural Shift, working for Stockton Arts Centre alongside Little Cog, a disability-led arts organisation based in the Tees Valley. She answers our five questions on how it all went...
- This evaluation shows that there is both a demand and a need to include disabled people in the cultural life of our communities, and of our nation, to ensure our individual well-being as fully equal people, and that we are valued for the rich contributions that our stories, identities and experiences bring. To ensure that this is promoted and maintained, and that the collective well-being for our community is enhanced by the raised status provided through the activities of the project. Activities which created a space for disabled people to express ourselves, either as audiences, as participants, as developing artists, or as professional artists, enriched not only those involved but the whole community, as missing jigsaw pieces about who we are as a society were fitted into place.
- The thing we are proudest about in this evaluation is the actual scope and scale of the project and the impact it had on local disabled people. This was made possible in no small part by the work of disabled people and the work of ARC to change and look at how it will embed disabled led activity in the life of the organisation. This is an ongoing legacy, allowing for ongoing change as new people come to the organisation.
- The things I would do differently if we did this project again would be to build in an additional strand of audience development work that proactively reaches out to more disabled people, not necessarily as participants in arts activities but as active and supported audience members in the broadest sense.
- An interesting fact is that we have developed a unique model of disability equality practice for the arts and cultural sector, and how this can include disabled people on an equal basis. A model that seeks to change what the arts is rather than attempting to assimilate disabled people into what is already there. Vici Wreford-Sinnott has been invited to make presentations to cultural leaders from around the world about Cultural Shift at the invitation of the British Council, Arts Council England, cultural development bodies and disabled led development activities in broadcasting.
- The thing I still wish we could understand more is how to attract larger scale national attention to this unique work, for it to be championed as a model of excellence with the potential to be replicated. Assumptions are still made about disabled people, and what is needed to include us on an equal basis, socially and culturally, without ever talking to us, often by seeing a model of practice like ours and 'guessing' what is involved. Those results are then problematic and at risk of perpetuating non-disabled models and alienating disabled people further, negatively impacting on their sense of involvement, equality and the ensuing well-being.
For more on the Cultural Shift programme, click here.