Drake Music diversifies its board to become disabled-led

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Leaders in music, disability and technology, Drake Music have announced the appointment of a new Chair and four new trustees following an open call for Disabled applicants to become board members. The new board members are Jodi Alissa Bickerton (Graeae Theatre Company), Matt Lloyd (Consultant and Paralympian) and Cameron Bray (Artist), with another new member scheduled to join in December. The board is now officially Disabled-led for the first time in the organisation’s history.

Musician in wheelchair performing

Steve Varden performs at Drake Music’s Tune In To Access. Photograph: Camilla Greenwell

The appointments are the culmination of a targeted process of board development with a focus on disability, which aimed to ensure that the leadership of the organisation is more reflective of the communities it works with.

Carien Meijer, Chief Executive of Drake Music commented on the recruitment process:

“It is a landmark moment for Drake Music to reach a point where (finally…) Disabled people make up more than 50% of our governance team. We have been working towards this goal for a number of years, reviewing policies and recruitment procedures, creating inclusive application processes and building our networks within Disabled communities.

“It is a real achievement and a marker of how far the organisation has travelled towards becoming truly inclusive with Disabled people represented at every level of our organisation and programmes. As one of the leading UK organisations working where music, disability and technology meet, it is vital that Disabled people are in leadership roles and at the heart of everything we do.

“We are going to take a moment to celebrate and welcome our fantastic new trustees and then we will set to work on our next goal – to make our board more ethnically diverse and gender balanced. Equality and social justice are the bedrock of Drake Music’s work, so we will to strive hard to live those values within our organisation.”

Man with dark hair resting his head on his hands

Chas de Swiet

Chas de Swiet, an experienced arts consultant, replaces outgoing Chair Roger Vigilance who spent 13 years as a Drake Music trustee and 9 years on the Drake Music board

Chas has worked in arts management for almost 20 years, specialising in disability arts and diversity. He has worked for (among others) The Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company, LOCOG (London 2012), Arts Council England, DaDaFest, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival and Vital Xposure Chas has a parallel career as an artist mainly working with sound and music, his musical progression has been from a classical violinist through to a world music and ambient DJ and then on to playing in bands and producing music for film, dance, theatre and events. Commissions have come from the Science Museum, Historic Royal Palaces, Graeae Theatre Company, Half Moon Young People’s Theatre and more.

Chas de Swiet, Interim Chair, commented:

“I first started my relationship with Drake Music back in 2008 when I was commissioned to compose and produce music for an event in Kew Gardens in partnership with Historic Royal Palaces. It was a magical sound and light event, and as an emerging disabled musician it was a significant step forward in my artistic career. As such it was a real honour to be appointed as a trustee in November 2018 and even more so to become Acting Chair this year. It is a real opportunity to give something back to an organisation, and wider community, that I truly believe in.

“Another two trustees were appointed with me and in September we voted on three more trustees. It really feels like there is major change underway to the make-up of the governance of Drake and it is inspiring that the Trustees now more closely represent the musicians and practitioners that the organisation works with on a day to day basis. There are some fantastic new projects in the pipeline and a strengthened Board of Trustees can only help the delivery of this important work through a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience.”

Woman with long blonde hair an impairment to her left eye

Jodi-Alissa Bickerton

Jodi-Alissa Bickerton is a theatre maker and practitioner and is the Creative Learning Director at Graeae. Across arts, disability and education, she has gained broad experience of inclusive, creative partnerships working with diverse communities, and children and young people nationally and internationally.  She trained in Contemporary Arts (Drama and Film) at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. She performed and produced shows in Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Melbourne Fringe Festivals, which led her to career-building experiences in community arts, alternative education and disability arts as a project leader and arts facilitator.

Matt Lloyd is a strategy and compliance specialist as well as being a Paralympian.   After completing a degree in Business Information Systems, Matt worked within the music industry, firstly as a journalist and then within the A&R department of a major record label, before going to work extensively within the sports and leisure sectors.  Matt is passionate about the role that music and the arts can play in the lives of individuals.

Cameron Bray is a non-binary disabled artist with a history of delivering music and poetry projects with young disabled people and other marginalised groups. Cameron plays the flute and the guitar but they have recently turned to using the laptop as an instrument. Most recently, they served as the editor of Music Teacher magazine and the head of content for the Music & Drama Education Expo, and they are the current poet-in-residence for UCL’s Institute for Global Prosperity.

Jodi-Alissa Bickerton added:

“Over the years I’ve been impressed by DM’s incredible innovations and creative developments in music and technology, led alongside disabled artists, musicians, young people and communities across the UK. I am thrilled to join the Board, to support, listen, learn, and continue to champion this ever-evolving, brilliant team. I am a Drake Music groupie, loud and proud.”

Other members of the board are Liz Salmon (Livability), Alex Gowan-Webster (Sound and Music), Graham Griffiths (Living Wage Foundation) and Julian Stodd (Sea Salt Learning).

Drake Music is a charity based in London and working across the UK. The organisation’s work covers music education, artistic development and the development of new accessible musical instruments and technologies. They campaign for equal rights for Disabled musicians and support the creation of new music by Disabled artists of all ages.