Deaf and disabled-led theatre gets £300,000 boost with two major tours across England


On 25 January 2017, the Arts Council announced a total of £301,008 to support deaf and disabled-led arts organisations to go nationwide with two sector-changing tours.

Graeae Theatre Company Reasons To Be Cheerful

Graeae Theatre Company Reasons To Be Cheerful 2010 © Patrick Baldwin

Deafinitely Theatre is the only professional deaf-led theatre company in the UK that works bilingually in British Sign Language (BSL) and spoken English, and produces work that caters for all ages.

It has been awarded £81,008 for Deafinitely Little: a deaf-led bilingual touring theatre project developed for families in partnership with theatres across five English regions.

A programme of audience development, participation and training activities will accompany high quality theatre productions, aiming to engage and retain interest from underserved deaf family audiences.

Graeae Theatre Company is a disabled-led theatre company, placing D/deaf and disabled artists centre-stage. After an acclaimed premier in 2010 and highly successful 2012 tour, Graeae will receive £220,000 to tour Reasons to be Cheerful, a mid-scale musical featuring the iconic music of Ian Dury, to seven regions across England, serving communities where there is a need for diverse, high quality shows in mid-scale venues.

Joyce Wilson, London Area Director, Arts Council England, said:

“Each venue involved in the Deafinitely Little tour will develop its knowledge of local d/Deaf audiences and the skills required to fully integrate accessible productions, enabling bilingual (English and BSL) work to be seen by a huge number of people who may have not previously engaged with it.

“Graeae continues to produce excellent, enjoyable theatre for all. Not only will this tour share that with venues nationally, it will hammer home the importance of integrated accessibility in the arts by, for example, only touring to venues that are fully accessible front and back stage. It is the Creative Case for Diversity in action.”

Artistic Director of Deafinitely Theatre, Paula Garfield said today:

“I am delighted that we have been awarded this funding. It will enable us to take our bilingual family show out to a wider audience that will include families who use both British Sign Language and spoken English. This means deaf children with hearing brothers and sisters or deaf grandparents with hearing grandchildren can all go to the theatre and enjoy this experience as a family together. The Arts Council is enabling us to reach deaf people all over the country who rarely have the opportunity to see a bilingual family show. I am so excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to get our shows out on the road!”

Jenny Sealey MBE, Artistic Director, Graeae, said:

“This is indeed a Reason to be Cheerful and you could have knocked us down with a feather when we got this wonderful news from Arts Council England. What an opportunity to bring this fully accessible show of anarchy, politics and rock n roll to audiences across England. It is so exciting – a truly awesome start to our year!’’

The funding is part of the Arts Council’s Strategic Touring Programme, which aims to give people better access to quality work in a range of venues to reach more people across the country, targeting places with low levels of art engagement and those that rely on touring for arts and culture. It welcomes applications for a wide range of arts on tour including, in particular, mid-scale theatre, inbound international work, and more work by and for people from diverse backgrounds.

In this round of the fund, there were 15 successful applicants with a total investment of £2,378,002 across the country.