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Birmingham 2022 Critical Mass Playbook

Toolkits & Guides

A guide from Birmingham 2022 showing how to use big events to embed inclusive practice to participatory arts programmes

Critical Mass was an inclusive dance project that engaged 242 young people (aged 16-30) in 600+ classes, rehearsals and performances over a 14-month period in the lead up to the Games, which aimed to redefine genuine inclusion in mega-events.

​Participants formed an integrated mass cast with 45% self-identifying as disabled, neurodivergent or living with a long-term health condition.​ Together they danced their way through key moments of Birmingham 2022 Festival and were a central part of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.

The project was a unique collaboration between Birmingham 2022 Festival, Fabric, Arts Connect and the Dance Development Leaders Group.

In order to achieve its ambition of long-term impact here was a huge emphasis on gathering learning to impact future large-scale projects. The Critical Mass Playbook is an amalgamation of these project learnings and can act as a useful guide for anyone taking on an inclusive project of this nature. You will find reflections and lessons learned from Critical Mass as well as practical hints and tips across areas of project design and set-up, delivery and close-down.

“Big events like the Olympic and Paralympic Games – and Commonwealth Games – are powerful moments in time uniting people from all walks of life and bringing different people together. They bring hope, joy and optimism and open up possibilities. We believe that events and volunteering have a crucial role to play in improving wellbeing for everyone, but to do that event organisers need to pay more attention to who benefits, and who might be left out. We understand the inspiration of seeing diverse people – people like us – perform on the big stage, but it needs to go beyond the para-athlete and professional performer to include everyone. Going forward, inclusion needs to be an essential part of mega-event planning and delivery for all those involved.”

– Ruth Hollis – Chief Executive, Spirit of 2012

View the project

Disabled people Sport and physical activity

Critical Mass

Birmingham England