Carousel nominated for Everyday Impact award – vote now

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Directory of Social Change’s (DSC) Social Change Awards celebrate the passionate individuals and effective organisations committed to making a positive impact on society. Brighton-based organisation Carousel have made the three-organisation shortlist for the Everyday Impact Award – Long Term Enterprises. Social Change Award Winners are selected based on the public’s vote. Voting closes Monday 23 January 2017. Winners will be announced during the Social Change Awards Ceremony in February 2017 (date TBC). Vote for Carousel here.

Daniel Wakeford

Daniel Wakeford Summer tour gig, Photograph: Westcreative

The number of disabled people working in the creative industries has flat lined at 5% since 2005 and is significantly lower than the 11% of disabled people in the UK workforce.  Carousel is focused on providing opportunities to support disabled people to train professionally, perform and create without discrimination.

Brighton and Hove has a population of approx. 4,700 learning disabled people, for many of whom the chance to live a full, creative life is a pipe-dream. The financial resources available for social care are stretched, with day centres and SEN departments in schools only able to offer limited access to the arts. For many it is Carousel that provides the necessary support and opportunity for creative people to overcome social isolation and thrive in our city.

Our aim is the challenge ideas around what great art is and who can create it, to break down the barriers between mainstream and disability arts and in doing enrich the lives of artists and audiences.

The challenges for our work are in the daily discrimination that learning disabled people undergo and the lack of understanding surrounding individuals’ creative aptitude. The current benefits system makes it difficult for those wanting a professional career in the arts but who still need a level of care. There are challenges to overcome in the opportunities available for performance within mainstream arts and little critical awareness of the value of the work.

Matthew Hellett and Becky Bruzas at Oska Bright 2015

Matthew Hellett and Becky Bruzas at Oska Bright 2015. Photograph Paul Mansfield

A few years ago Carousel made the decision to become learning disability led, enabling artists to be stakeholders in the organisation. In this way they made change happen through our governance; 50% of our Trustees have a learning disability, including their Chairperson, and all their work is planned, managed and presented by learning disabled teams.

Their main resource is their artists and their work, which includes an international short film festival, six rock/pop bands, a choir, a club night, a radio broadcast and a national conference network about learning disability arts. The artists’ expertise is shared through workshops, training for venue managers in accessibility, through attendance on panels and at conferences, and through our scheme to train learning disabled people to be arts critics.  All their work is accessible; from the captioning and audio description of films, to BSL interpretation at their events and workshops, to their printed materials.

Carousel is a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England, and receives further financial support from Brighton and Hove City Council and a wide range of trusts and foundations.

They are a small team doing a huge amount of work, making a real impact of the lives of people who are often marginalised in our society.

Tangible results include:

Singer/songwriter Daniel Wakeford is on a national tour and has just released a CD. The ‘poster boy’ for Channel 4’s series The Undateables, Daniel will be profiled in the i Newspaper, in Time Out and the NME over the coming month. He plays a major gig on a bill with Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys) in September. Carousel has supported Daniel’s development as a singer through his regular appearances at our club nights and local gigs. He is about to hit the big time.

Curing Perfect Illustration

A Curing Perfect illustration by William Hanekom

Our multi-media digital project, Curing Perfect, explores the potential for stem cell therapy to alter gene patterns and create the ‘perfect’ human. We are interested in the impact this might have on disabled people and our work with The University of Birmingham is reaching 3,000 people through its graphic-novel on the website www.curingperfect.com

Last year 502 people took part in a workshop led by our learning-disabled experts.

Our learning-disabled PR spokesperson Becky Bruzas joined Turner Prize winning artist Gillian Wearing OBE on a panel discussion during the 2016 HOUSE visual arts festival in Brighton.

Sarah Watson, chair of Carousel, spoke at the Edinburgh Short Film Festival in 2015, promoting Oska Bright. Becky Bruzas and Matthew Hellett have been selected for the national Guiding Lights film programme. Artist William Hanekom is currently under commission by The National Trust to produce 12 illustrations for Groome Park publicity materials.

They train a minimum of 51 disabled artists each year on the Arts Awards scheme, the national vocational training agency for young people and produced a teacher’s resource pack for Brighton and Hove City Council, circulated to all schools in the City.

Matthew Hellett was also commissioned by Disability Arts Online via its Viewfinder project to curate a list of his favourite films from past Oska Bright Film Festivals. As part of the project Matthew entered into dialogue with star of stage and screen, Jamie Beddard about his selections. Matthew said of the project: “This piece of work has helped me to think about my role as a Programmer. From the mentoring experience, I would like to get a better idea of how to Programme things for the 2017 festival.” You can see the results of Matthew and Jamie’s Viewfinder commission here.

Carousel has enriched lives of thousands of people over the three decades of its pioneering work with learning disabled artists. Through its daily activities, it is having a direct impact on social change, removing stigma, building confidence and profile, enabling learning disabled artists to do what we take for granted. Becky Bruzas and Matthew Hellett have been selected for the national Guiding Lights film programme.