UK Disability Arts Alliance ‘We Shall Not Be Removed’ responds to the current crisis

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Disabled people working across the creative industries in the UK are deeply concerned about our future and have come together to create an alliance to campaign for an inclusive cultural recovery.

As disability arts communities have become more and more isolated due to the current crisis, so it seems our concerns have been increasingly put aside by the authorities and by the media. Our position within society has become ever more fragile within a very short space of time as new policies responding to the pandemic have ignored the plight of disabled people, shielding as a result of being more at risk.

screenshot of zoom callThe last decade has seen a flowering of disabled people’s talent in every artform and increasing levels of inclusion across the cultural mainstream, but all this progress is threatened by the pandemic.

#WeShallNotBeRemoved​ is an emergency response led by disabled people for disabled people working across the UK’s creative industries. Designed as a forum to advocate, campaign and support D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners and organisations through and after COVID. The aims of the alliance are:

● To ensure a sustainable future for disability and inclusive arts in the UK through and after the pandemic

● To amplify the voices of D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners & disability arts organisations at a time of crisis for the arts and for disabled people

Launched on 6 May with an inaugural meeting held on 4 June, membership of the new alliance has already reached over 150 individual disabled creative practitioners, disability arts organisations and those that work inclusively, from across the four UK nations, across artforms and across impairment groups. New members are actively sought to ensure the alliance reflects the full diversity of disabled people working in creative industries.

Founding members of the alliance include: Graeae Theatre, Candoco, Unlimited, Drake Music, Hijinx, Shape Arts, Museums DCN, British Paraorchestra, HeartnSoul, TourettesHero, University of Atypical, Access All Areas, Disability Arts Online, Disability Arts Cymru, Birds of Paradise, Attitude is Everything, poet Jamie Hale, playwright ​Vici Wreford-Sinnott, ​theatre directors Nickie Wildin & Amit Sharma, actor Jamie Beddard, arts consultant Michele Taylor and musician John Kelly.

screenshot of zoom callAndrew Miller, UK Government Disability Champion for Arts & Culture said:

“Coronavirus threatens not only the existence of our national culture as we’ve known it but also the health, creativity and civil rights of disabled people. Many of us face long term shielding and therefore risk invisibility to wider society. So it is essential that we come together as one creative disabled community to ensure we are not left behind, but instead shape and reset the coming cultural recovery inclusively”.

“The first meeting of the UK Disability Arts Alliance was attended by over 100 brilliant disabled creative practitioners, from every part of the UK, from every art form and creative capacity. The meeting focused on clarifying our aims, exploring what members want to achieve by working together and identifying our first advocacy campaigns. It’s early days but at this distressing and demoralising time for all disabled people, #WeShallNotBeRemoved feels like a bold and positive development”.

Jenny Sealey MBE, CEO & Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre said:

“It’s being said that w​e are all in the same storm but not on the same boat. Some disabled people feel they have no boat. So it is vital we work collectively to support each other through and after the storm of Covid 19 and ensure that our community is at the heart of evolving arts policy and practice”.

#​WeShallNotBeRemoved​ is giving us a place to meet, to shelter, share and reimagine. We MUST be at the centre of the cultural sector to come, one that is both physical and virtual, includes all and excludes no one.

Membership of ​#WeShallNotBeRemoved ​is​ ​free, open to all individual D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners and disability focused organisations operating in UK arts, museums and film. Anyone interested in joining the alliance should email: ​weshallnotberemoved@gmail.com to be added to the group on slack.

The initial priorities of the​ #WeShallNotBeRemoved ​alliance are:
● To ensure D/deaf, neurodiverse & disabled artists and arts organisations are integral to the reshaping of UK culture through and after Covid19
● To ensure inclusive principles remain at the heart of public funding strategies in all 4 UK nations to support our sector and the next generation of D/deaf and disabled talent
● To promote the interests of emerging, mid-career and established D/deaf and disabled artists in a radically changed cultural landscape
● To promote greater intersectionality within disability arts to reflect the breadth of our diversity
● To campaign for greater inclusion in wider society to catalyse and support the existing disability
movement to influence government policy on health, social care & benefits
● To provide a new space for D/deaf and disabled creative practitioners to contribute ideas and
solutions, initiate conversations and to signpost opportunities on a dedicated Slack platform and monthly Zoom meetings.

Follow the #WeShallNotBeRemoved conversation on twitter.