Creative Minds brings fourth Disability-Led Arts Conference to the North


Learning disabled artists are asking big questions at the fourth Creative Minds conference, taking place at HOME Manchester on Thursday 15 June 2017. Following successful events in Brighton, Ipswich and Bristol, Creative Minds brings together nine organisations from across the North of England, each committed to developing the visibility, understanding and appreciation of work made by learning disabled artists. It is an opportunity to share ideas, debate the issues, to watch and be inspired.

 Jez Colborne

Mind the Gap’s Jez Colborne

All delegates will be invited to explore, question and challenge key concepts and challenges of creating and programming work by artists with a learning disability across all disciplines from theatre and visual arts to dance, music and film.

As well as workshops and accessible debates, key success stories from across the North will be shared, showing how far learning disability led art has already come. These will include talks and presentations by songsmith extraordinaire Jez Colborne and actor Sarah Gordy, famous for her TV roles in Upstairs, Downstairs, Call the Midwife and Holby City. Also featured is artist Leslie Thompson, whose exhibition at Manchester Contemporary in September was a critical and financial success, and dancer George Williams from Middlesbrough who, in 2016, became the first dancer with a learning disability to perform with the National Youth Dance Company on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells in London.

Leslie Thompson drawing

Drawing by Venture Arts’ Leslie Thompson

Creative Minds North is supported by Arts Council England, The Monument Trust and Manchester City Council and produced by Creative Minds and Venture Arts (Manchester) in partnership with: Mind the Gap; DIY Theatre; Lawnmower Theatre; Tin Arts; More Music; Blue Room at the Bluecoat Gallery; Prism Arts and Headway Arts.

Film-maker and performer Matthew Hellett, one of the founders of Creative Minds says: “By working together we can make change happen. Creative Minds is becoming a powerful advocate for diversity in the arts and Manchester offers a brilliant chance to share our stories and open more doors.”

Amanda Sutton, Director of Venture Arts says: “We are delighted to be involved in organising such an important and ground-breaking event. At Venture Arts we know first-hand the barriers that exist for artists with a learning disability and we relish the opportunity to be part of an ongoing national forum that gives space to voices that for too long have not been heard properly.”

Creative Director Alison Walton-Robson of Headway Arts says: “Over the 21 years we’ve been doing this work we have certainly experienced a distinct lack of confidence from some mainstream venues around our work – palpable anxiety around quality, lack of understanding of working methods, unwillingness to risk programming in main venues, to learn or change, and also fear of unpredictable behaviour.”

Creative Minds North is open to all, and would be of particular interest to those working in and commissioning the arts, as well as those who act as critics and advocates for art of all disciplines.

The conference takes place from 9.30am – 4.30pm on Thursday 15 June, and tickets are on sale here.

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