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Celebrating deaf and disabled talent


Picture by Becky Payne
Picture by Becky Payne

Twenty-four deaf and disabled writers, directors and producers have graduated from a free new course that sets them on the road to a career in the theatre industry.

The joint venture between Leeds Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres and collaborative theatre network Ramps on the Moon, gave the early-career writers, directors and producers - eight in each category - the chance to enhance their skills, create valuable connections and develop new work, guided by industry professionals.

The participants, from Yorkshire, London and Wales, attended sessions both on Zoom and in person, the work groups carefully developed to ensure everyone, even those with complex mental or neurological challenges, chronic illnesses, physical impairments and learning disabilities would be catered for.

Amy Leach, the deputy artistic director at Leeds Playhouse, explained: “Collaborating with Ramps on the Moon and Sheffield Crucible on this ambitious programme for locally rooted artists has been brilliant and energising.

“From the commitment and rigour shown by the teams at both theatres, to the creativity and passion of the artists involved, it's been a wonderful celebration of the wealth of deaf and disabled talent we have in the region.”

The writers were asked to create a 15 to 20-minute monologue or duologue, which the direcetors then directed and the producers produced. Each writer, director and producer presented their work at the Playhouse with the help of seven actors, both disabled and able. Some of the teams are now developing and expanding their work.

Ben Wilson – actor, director and agent for change at Sheffield Theatres - said: “The project has been a gift to both Sheffield Theatres and Leeds Playhouse in terms of teaching us how to make our artist development programmes more accessible, and introducing us to talented artists with whom we hope to have working relationships.

“For me personally, as a disabled artist, it was thrilling to create a supportive community of fellow disabled people."

Julia Spencer, who took part in the writing course, described it as a life-changing experience: “This experience has given me more confidence about writing, applying for opportunities and working collaboratively.”

Directing course participant Steven George said: “Being in the same space as a large group of fellow disabled, talented creatives is fantastic and doesn’t happen often. When there is a group it enhances things for everyone, not just the disabled people. The business is slowly getting better when it comes to disability awareness and portrayal and projects like this can only help to progress this at a faster pace.”

The courses were supported by Ramps on the Moon, a collaborative network of six major regional theatres aimed at normalising the presence of deaf and disabled people both on and off stage.