AUDITION CALL OUT

4 people around a table lughing

Freelance Task Force chat, part two

Part two of an edited email conversation between Sonny Nwachukwu, Unlimited’s freelance representative on the Freelance Task Force* and a former Unlimited trainee and our senior producer, Jo Verrent. The task force has provided the sector with many resources and prompted all of us to reconsider many structural inequalities. Some of these prompted conversation between Sonny and Jo.

*The Freelance Task Force (FTF) is a sector-wide arts initiative to employ and recognise the value of freelancers to the arts, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when many freelance workers lost their opportunities, incomes and existing contracts.

Jo Verrent (JV): Tell me more about how access has been seen through your time with FTF?

Sonny Nwachukwu (SN): What I have loved is that accessibility is on everyone’s lips, though it hasn’t been right all the way through.  We have had separate meetings regarding this and also have a disabled freelance group with a WhatsApp group and regular catch-ups. It’s a tribe and has been so lovely to be a part of.

JV: I think its reported that FTF achieved one of the highest number of disabled people in a non-targeted initiative – almost 25% – which is oddly the same kind of percentage of disabled people as there are in the UK anyway. Tell me more about what that’s meant in relation to the work?

SN: We’ve looked at a lot of information as a barrier rather than an enabler. How much information is too much? There are times where we have a long list of catch-ups to do, with info coming in via emails, Slack, Google calendar. Yet it is still very easy to miss a meeting. I was wondering how Unlimited combats this with their artists? How do you make it more streamlined, so it doesn’t seem like there is too much information, yet still keep people informed?  We tried by giving a deadline to let the admin team know if you are coming to a meeting, but that just gets lost in the inbox, then you can miss a meeting if you don’t have a link.

JV: To be honest, I think we are just as bad at it as everyone else. It’s hard to find the right balance. Within the team, we use different tools – Slack, Trello, Dropbox – and always say that people should ask if they don’t know something or forget something. But often, you don’t know what you don’t know, and you don’t know if you’ve forgotten… With artists, we try and provide lots of different routes in. There is masses of written info for people who like that kind of thing, and then if not, there is always an option to phone or video call, or email for a direct response. This year we’ve had a couple of people saying that there is too much information for them to process and the same number saying that the info is really detailed and that’s useful for them. I suppose the answer is everyone needs something different and we all just need to understand that and flex more.

“One result that I would love to see is access at the heart of decisions and at the heart of the art.”

SN: There has been a need to really balance when I work with the task force, and when on my own creative work – CIRCLES and Junior (use to be Triple Threat) – but what has been nice is the many meetings I’ve been having with people I wouldn’t usually connect with. I have chosen to have ‘one on ones’ with people, as this is more accessible for me. At the start, I did feel I ‘should’ hold a group Zoom but I don’t think it would have been as effective. What’s your preferred way of having a conversation these days?

JV: I so miss face to face conversations – not the formal ones, but the being in a space with a flip chart, post it notes and pens type ones, bouncing ideas about and seeing where links are. Zoom is accessible to me with captions – I find these much more accessible online than BSL, which I love in a real space but struggle with online. Lots of people use the auto caption functions which can work for informal meetings when I can stop people and check what was said when the captions get it wrong, but they aren’t enough for me in formal set ups as they still are just not accurate enough. And I’ve been to a couple of events now that have had captions for the main element but not for the networking or discussion parts – and they are often the best bits! I have found I’ve met lots of new people I wouldn’t usually connect with during lockdown – its somehow made me bolder.

SN: Have you done new things to help push out the news about the commission call out? I’ve been reaching out to other artists and giving out information regarding Unlimited and also Arts Council England.

JV: We have been more proactive this time – holding small group sessions for under represented artists, more online discussions on themes we hope will come through in applications (such as work for rural locations for example), and events in both Scotland and Wales. We’ve also ‘popped in’ to other people’s sessions and mentioned the call outs. I did two Zoom groups for members of #WSNBR last week, too. So many Zooms, so little time!

SN: Time has been a real issue for me too. Within FTF, there are so many sub groups, and no one can join all of them. The dance subgroup has been really active and have really mobilised as a group, which has been nice to have as it has been hard to mobilise as a full FTF group because there are just so many people (160) from so many different walks of life. I only found the dance group properly last week, so I’m interested in the meetings and have found reading on the notes of past meetings really effective too. This makes me think that if the FTF was to carry on, maybe smaller groups created at the start are the way forward.

JV: I think that’s right. And some of the groups have come up with great resources. I’ve been reading the Freelancers Supporters Menu and really like its approach of encouraging us to pick one large and a number of small scale actions to improve different elements of how we work. I’ve found the document on making the case to better support neurodivergent freelancers useful and I’ve also found lots of real value in the most recent document I’ve read on what do Freelancers need to do their best work. I’m glad there is a developing website to host all the created resources in one place.

I think 160 people can work as a single group to make change – but not all work together at the same time to make that happen!

Another huge push for change, that we spoke a little about last time, was around language, especially the term BAME. Have you read the #BAMEOVER statement from Inc Arts?

SN: I really liked the Inc Arts blog especially their first line: “language is evolving. Deal with it. The terms we’ve agreed today may change in the future. Times change: come with us.” I love this as it lets everyone know that it’s okay if words change. I talked about this in CIRCLES regarding the connotations of the word ‘Black’ and where it came from, and I think I touched on it in a blog when I was a trainee too.

JV: We are looking into changing all our terminology as soon as we can due to this. It’s hard to change everything instantly, especially in relation to data and recording – but it’s necessary. We have to be open and honest and that means listening and making change.

SN: We had a group meeting the other week in which we were asked to be honest about our time on the task force; I feel I have been honest regarding what I have done, what’s come up for me and, of course, about my own insecurities. It was nice to feel that I wasn’t the only one who found parts of this hard. One question raised was if our sponsor organisations are happy with the work that we are doing and I was wondering if you have any feedback regarding the task force, of if there is anything in particular you would want to know more about?

JV: Sonny – we appointed you as our freelancer because we knew you’d bring your whole self to the process – insecurities and all. They make you part of who you are. They help you question things, get curious, and find out more. We’ve loved seeing the task force not just through the materials its created but through your eyes too. Thank you.

I suppose the big question is what will happen next? The FTF was a short initiative designed to increase the profile of freelancers working in the cultural sector and raise questions about how the sector is structured. Sadly, the financial situation for many seems to be worse now than when the FTF started and the redundancies that will scar us all for years to come have only just begun. Like every other organisation and programme I know, we’ve been diverting all the funding we can to individuals through micro awards and more, but it’s never going to be enough. What’s the one result you’d love to see in the sector as a result of all your work here?

SN: One result that I would love to see is access at the heart of decisions and at the heart of the art. For us to put away with only embedding access to tick boxes and to include it because we see the benefits of inclusion for all.  In doing so, stable foundations can be built, and I believe we can create a sector where we all can eat at the table and not just have a seat.

SONNY NWACHUKWU: “MY GOAL IS TO BRING PEOPLE WITH ME”

Guest writer Emily Rueggeberg speaks to Sonny Nwachukwu about staying creative from home and how his upcoming piece Junior — a choreopoem based on his experience being black, gay and disabled — has transformed during lockdown, largely for the better.

Sonny and I begin with the usual small talk that so often bookends Zoom calls. There are the emotional check-ins and assessments of one another’s backdrops; shared spaces or those filled with personal effects for solitary living. Sonny’s surroundings consist of his childhood bedroom; a space where he could experiment with dance. It felt fitting then, to speak with him in that setting about his exploration of movement, starting as a pastime and later becoming a career.

While studying psychology at the University of Portsmouth, Sonny began taking occasional dance classes. It was in those spaces where he found his passion and began to train in earnest, taking a range of classes including Afrobeats. He says it wasn’t always easy though, as he was one of the few self-taught dancers among his peers, who had years of training behind them. Sonny talks about how, two or three years ago he started to move away from performing movements to choreographing ones for others to recreate. “I wanted to take a different route and choreograph, and I wanted to create stuff rather than people telling me what to do and how to move. I wanted to actually create something. That’s how it all started.”

Through his explorations with movement, a new creative format emerged for Sonny: writing. “My writing came [my] way after my dancing, really. And if I’m being honest, I only really started writing five years ago. And I would just write poetry randomly. There was a period in my life where I was injured and I couldn’t dance for over one year and in that period of time it was where I began to write more — different types of poetry and spoken word.”

From there, Sonny began experimenting with both language and movement, combining the two into choreopoems: choreographed poetry. When asked about the merits of merging different mediums together versus keeping them separate, Sonny responds decisively, speaking of the necessity for artforms to work in harmony with one another.

“I always see it as a marriage and you can’t have one without the other. And it works in unison. When the words can’t say it, the movement brings it up and then when the moves can’t express it, words bring it up. And it helps the layers grow. And it’s a kind of relationship I feel because even as humans when we speak we move and that’s a type of dance and a marriage in a way, how we communicate.”

His previous piece Circles (pictured), is a perfect example of Sonny’s ability to create and deliver strong stories through spoken word and dance. Directed, written and choreographed by Sonny (co-choreographed with Ffion Campbell Davies), the piece — a two-person choreopoem — “is an exploration into perpetual psychospiritual clashes, provoked by the traumas of slavery.”

We go on to discuss his current work in progress, Junior, previously titled Triple Threat, of which the first iteration premiered at Popular Union Theatre in 2019. The piece looks into Sonny’s life as a Black, gay, disabled artist and how, growing up, he navigated a myriad of pressures from society, religion and himself. Sonny explains how, after his performance of Triple Threat, he decided to expand upon it, writing an entire script.

Originally a one-person play starring himself, Sonny made the decision to step off the stage and into its wings, replacing himself and adding two additional actors. Self-care was at the core of Sonny’s decision to rearrange Junior’s cast, finding it exhausting to speak for such long periods of time due to his stammer. He weighed the merits of hiring an actor without a stammer to portray himself, ultimately deciding that was the best decision for two reasons. The first was to educate audiences about stammering and generate awareness, saying: “No one really knows what [stammering] is unless you know someone who has a stammer.” The second was to create an added psychological layer to the piece.

When asked why he chose to rename Triple Threat, Sonny explains that the original title didn’t properly express the show’s nature, which he describes as intimate and childlike. To Sonny, Triple Threat was more assertive and domineering. Instead, Sonny wanted to highlight the “slight innocence and childlike curiosity” he noticed when writing the piece.

Sonny’s work centres around identity and inclusion, two things that are receiving more attention than ever in the news and art world as renewed calls for social change by activists and the Black Lives Matter protests grow. Cultural organisations and local governments alike are being called upon to change outdated, racist and ableist policies and practices and act upon promises made. I asked Sonny how he’s felt the protests have impacted his work.

“It’s really interesting because when the protests started to happen, that was also when Circles was supposed to be shown as well. What I find quite interesting and important as well is, in the past it was seen that racism was a Black issue, although now, what people now realise is that it’s more of a white issue. So what are you doing to combat racism? And that’s partly to do with my work as well. It’s about working on yourself to then help others. So as a community, for racism to end, we all have to work on ourselves and work on our prejudices as well to then be aware of what’s happening.”

Sonny hopes that through the opportunities he’s received to develop his writing, choreographing and dancing, he can lift up others from marginalised groups and those underrepresented in the arts. “My goal is to bring people with me as well. People from backgrounds where it’s harder for us, and grow as a collective and a unit.”

Junior will premiere via Zoom on the 4th December, 2020. Visit Sonny’s website for more details.

Whose Identity is it? Discussions on labels and identity

Sonny, our Unlimited Trainee Producer, had a chance to head up to Sheffield to partake in a workshop and panel discussion run by Slate & Eclipse and supported by Unlimited that focused on identity, labels and much more. In this blog, Sonny talks about the main conversations that arose from the day…

I attended the ‘Whose Identity Is It?’ workshop and panel discussion up in Sheffield earlier this month both of which were run by Slate & Eclipse, with support from Unlimited, and delivered by facilitators Ria Hartley & Cheryl Martin. The aim of the workshop was to create a safe and accessible environment to centre and empower Black disabled artists – please note from Eclipse’s perspective, ‘Black’ includes anyone who is marginalized for their race or ethnicity.

Stereotyping and labels

The workshop began by looking at the word ‘black’ and the stereotypes that surround it. There are many stereotypes linked to being Black.

Definition: Stereotype – a set of inaccuratesimplistic generalisations about a group that allows others to categorize them and treat them accordingly.

The reason why I started with this definition is to recognise that for many, the word ‘black’ already has a negative label attached to it. Back in the day (and not that far back) ‘black’ was used to infer dark magic, cruelty and, my ‘favourite’, atrociously wicked. The word ‘black’ may not be used like that anymore, but the impact of words live on and one can understand the historic negative connotations the uses of the word ‘black’ has had for some people of colour and by default, all people.

This is similar to the word ‘disabled’ for many. There have been numerous negative words used to describe disabled people in the past, each leaving negative connotations, impact and feelings of being ‘less than’. Even the word ‘disabled’ seems to mean ‘not abled.’ I touched briefly on this on my last blog in regarding identity and how many in the younger generation seem to feel the word ‘disabled’ is outdated and in need of a revamp.

Importance of community

The workshop gave us all a chance to look at the language we use and how to enrich it. We had conversations on discussing #blackjoy and how we try to incorporate it in our lives. A sense of open dialogue was definitely in the room and a feel of community made it easy to open up about such sensitive topics, struggles and also victories.

During the discussion, the words that every black person probably heard from a parent or carer were said: ‘you have to work twice as hard to get half as much’. Hearing that, reminded me of hearing the lesson as a child and made me recognise that for black disabled artists the lesson is even tougher – you’re going to have to work even harder.

Early beginnings

After the workshop there was a panel discussion open to all focusing on black disabled artists, with Mathy SelvakumaranPete KaluCheryl Martin and Ria Hartley. The panel touched on many subjects covered by the themes ‘Black and disabled’ but most often as separate elements – being Black, and then being a disabled person. I was surprised that we rarely got to talk about being both.

I felt the panel discussion was more focused on the discrimination that still exists around being Black artists rather than disabled artists and that more time was needed to really delve into the topic, but as this was the first discussion of its kind in the north, it was a great starting point.

More conversations and workshops like this are needed – knowledge is power and so we need more opportunities like this where knowledge can be shared about the artistic process and our contributions to this. We also need wider access to other art organisations – chances to sit and have a conversation explaining the schemes and opportunities they offer, and explaining the barriers they create for us in their common forms. We need to work together to explore how we can gain funding and to ensure we can maximise our chances of how best we can excel in arts organisations.

Being Black and disabled in the arts is nearly unheard of, but we are here and days like this enable us to join together and gain strength from each other. We are fighting the cause. Join us?

Unlimited and Eclipse Theatre are already planning what they might do next and would be happy to hear from others who are interested in opening up further discussions and events (please email sonny@artsadmin.co.uk).

Breathe…and relax

Unlimited Trainee Sonny Nwachukwu reports from a Relaxed Peformance workshop he attended in March…

I attended the relaxed performance workshop in Derby which was facilitated by Theatre Maker Jess Thom. The setting was very fitting to the workshop and Jess Thom created a space of relaxation as well as knowledge. The room was filled with people from all different backgrounds in the arts. From artists themselves, theatre managers, event organisers and also just people who wanted to know more about relaxed performances and how they can incorporate it into their place of work or art.

To understand relaxed performance’s it was key to understand the social model of disability and how it’s different to the medical model. You can find out more about the social model in our easy to access video. We also have past blogs where you can find out more on the social model of disability and how you can incorporate it into your daily lives as well as your work place.

Definition of  a Relaxed Performance

Taken from Jess Thom’s website: A Relaxed performance offers a warm welcome to people who find it difficult to follow the usual conventions of theatre behaviour. This can include: people with learning disabilities, movement disorders, autistic spectrum disorder, other neurological conditions, those with young children or babies, and people with Tourettes.

Many other people may choose to attend a relaxed performance, either as an access requirement or because they like the inclusive environment.

Relaxed performances take a laid-back approach to noises or movement coming from the audience. They give everyone permission to relax and respond naturally. Many people feel that relaxed performances offer a more dynamic theatrical experience, which benefits everyone.

Sonny’s Reflection

As an artist myself who is looking in the future to put on my own work, it really did make me think about the choices that I will make. At first, I had that ‘strict tunnel vision’ approach, that when attending the cinema, there should be silence and nothing else. My thinking behind this reason, is that it enhances you more to what is happening on the screen and to some extent this could be true. The workshop made me question, is this actually true or is it just a random human social norm? I then realised, when watching a movie with family or friends, the enjoyment I got from talking about the movie whilst its going on or being able to lie down really did deepen my movie experience.

The central benefits of having relaxed performance’s is of course inclusivity; including all to experience your work in different ways and forms is surely what an artist wants to achieve. The message of inclusivity alone should be the main reason why I feel more theatres and artist should start looking at adopting relaxed performance and not just at 2.30pm…On a Wednesday.

You will have to give a speech

Sonny Nwachukwu is one of Unlimited’s current trainees and, as such, is getting sent to a range of arts, training and development activities across the country. In February, he attended a training day and then the Cultural Shift Conviva at Arc Stockton… And gave his first public presentation.

I had the pleasure of attending the ARC Stockton Conviva and their Pitching-Positioning workshop a couple of months ago; the latter is something I usually stay away from. Public speaking isn’t my forte and, as we know, it’s well-documented that public speaking is the greatest fear known to most of humankind. So yes, I was very resistant at first yet I knew it would be (hopefully) a good challenge for me.

The day was run by broadcaster, journalist, actor and musician Mik Scarlet, whose years of experience were in no doubt present and intriguing to listen to. We got down to business and communicated who we were as artists, why we are artists, all our past achievements and what we wanted to do next in regards to our artistic career. Big questions for a single day workshop but being aware of those questions and thinking about how we put forward our history into all our conversations was rewarding.

The exercises got deeper throughout the day as we narrowed down to what was relevant for pitching new ideas. This part was informative and great words of wisdom sparked around the room as we all had moments of clarity in regards to our own work.

One particular note from Mik – ‘shape how the world sees you’ – was very moving and has such importance especially in today’s society where, for example, ‘labels’ are overly used to disempower and where people are shoved into (tick) boxes. The statement really did ring true for me: take your power back and shape yourself exactly how you want to be.

All words and no action would have made the day futile and so we had time to practice the speech delivering it to Mik and the rest of the group as practice for the event itself.

The Conviva

As a newbie at these kinds of events – with new people, new conversations and new experiences – I was happy to feel a sense of community at the Conviva, a striving for a common goal.

The day was split into segments with lots of opportunity for group discussions, giving people a chance to voice their opinions. One of the groups that I was part of focused on identity. We explored the meaning of identity and how the word disability was seen (especially by some of the younger generation) as out-dated and in need of a revamp. We explored how non-disabled ambassadors have an important role and where their identity lies in disability activism. It was interesting to see the vast range of comments on identity and it’s safe to say it’s an important topic resonating around the sector at the moment. So much so, that I was delighted to see it voted onto the agenda for Unlimited: The Symposium later this September where ‘Disability, intersectional identities and the arts’ will be discussed.

The King’s Speech (not that I’m saying I’m a king)

As I opened this blog, I mentioned that the greatest fear known to many is public speaking. For me, the most important thing was that I did it – stood in a full theatre of people and spoke for five minutes – and the sense of achievement was surreal. I had good feedback from people in the audience and this led to further conversations about my own work and also conversations in regarding stammering.

I definitely feel the workshop led to an increase in my confidence, as it shifted certain thought patterns that come into play when pitching my own work. The day has also inspired me to register for a public speaking class to help sharpen my skills in this area.

A book may give you excellent suggestions on how best to conduct yourself in the water, but sooner or later you must get wet…”  — Dale Carnegie

Two People with their hands raised high sitting on the floor

Freelance Task Force chat, part one

Sonny Nwachukwu is Unlimited’s freelance representative on the Freelance Task Force* – and a former Unlimited trainee. He’s been emailing our senior producer, Jo Verrent, with questions and answers to help us be the best we can be – as he says: ‘I know Unlimited are always open to new ideas, it’s why I loved working there.’ This is an edited version of their conversation so far…

* The Freelance Task Force is a sector-wide arts initiative to employ and recognise the value of freelancers to the arts, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when many freelance workers lost their opportunities, incomes and existing contracts.

Sonny Nwachukwu (SN): I’ve been having some conversations with some freelancers who are in the majority black and disabled and there does seem to be a common theme around trust – trust regarding big art organisations. I know Unlimited isn’t an organisation yet, but if organisations and projects really want to do more work with these artists, how do they regain trust?

Jo Verrent (JV): Good question, and one I’d really like to know the answer to. What do you think we can do? What do the artists you are speaking with think organisations and projects should do?

Advice on applying

SN: I know Unlimited’s capacity is stretched but some funders offer ‘advice meetings’ about putting in an application. These are sometimes Zoom calls for up to 30 mins, for example. For me, coming in from a non-art world, applications are a different ball game and that extra support helped me break through a barrier. Something like that could help Unlimited reach a wider range of diverse people. But the question is, would there be capacity in the Unlimited team?

JV: We don’t do this at the moment, but we have done this in different geographic areas in the past. We are planning to across the summer for disabled artists in some groups we feel are underrepresented within our current artists and applicants. Currently we are planning some for learning disabled artists, artists who are blind or have visual impairment and also disabled trans artists.

We plan to talk to people online in small groups or 1-1 depending on what people prefer with hosts from these groups present too. That’s the formal stuff, but we’d encourage anyone who wants to find out more (even if not in those groups) to talk to us and we’ll do our best to do whatever we can to talk them through how to apply. What we can’t do is look at individual Expression of Interest applications and comment as we have to remain impartial. Once we have the shortlist, we offer up to 1 hour of support for every shortlisted applicant so that they can put in the best application possible. This is a stretch for the team but absolutely worth it.

SN: I think the advice sessions could work well – and it would be good to offer these to black artists [see later for more on terminology]. It would be interesting to see how many black people applied for Unlimited grants, the pass rate and also to see how many new black applicants have been applying each year.

JV: That I can tell you! We recently published lots of data on who applies and who gets funded, and also the equal opportunties data in relation to our micro awards.

The ethnicity of applicants applying to the open rounds varies round to round, with an average of 79% of applications coming from artists who define themselves as white (out of all those who provide an answer). We felt this wasn’t very balanced, so across the last open set of awards and critically within our strategic awards since then, 70% have been awarded to artists who identify as white and 30% to those who identify as not white. Within our micro awards so far, 28% have gone to non-white artists.

But we want to do more. In the next open round we have some R&D awards funded by the Bagri Foundation, specifically focused on artists who identify as Asian or from the Asian diaspora, and we’ll be running an event this summer to directly promote these.

SN: Over the two years since leaving my traineeship with Unlimited and being in the sector, I’ve increasingly felt that has been my ‘calling’ to really reach these groups. I feel I’m reaching people now with a more qualitative approach than quantitative. From personal experience, big groups without constructive smaller groups to fall back on, create layers, and a lot of additional navigating which is just off-putting.

JV: Hopefully our plan to do days where people can sign up for small group sessions or 1-1 sessions will help with this too? And let’s talk about whether you can do some additional outreach for us – paid, of course!

Promotion of access support

SN:  I’m finding that most artists don’t know about this, even when funders offer it. I think this need to be clearer for disabled artists – I’m hearing many stories of dyslexic artists, for example, really struggling to put in applications only to get a rejection and not knowing there is help.

JV: We do offer this but I think we can do more to make it more obvious. We’ve made access a bigger feature in our ‘call out’ video and I will ensure part of our blog series this summer has one which links to access, clearly explaining what is available for whom.

Feedback on applications when rejected

SN: I spoke to an artist who said the phrase ‘other application preferred’ has put her off applying for anything for the last 3 years. As a black disabled artist that didn’t know about access support, she’d struggled to put in an application in the first place, and her application spoke about her experiences as a black disabled person. She took this statement as saying that her work is not the type of work that funder funds or is interested in. When in reality it usually means there is no money left. I was wondering if Unlimited uses that phrase and if so, if that has been spoken about before, and if there have been any conversations about that around wording?

JV: I don’t think we use it at Unlimited, but I’ve seen it used in by many funders as a shorthand, and yes, you are right, it means there are not enough funds available. I’ve never thought about it from this perspective before, but you are absolutely right, it could be misinterpreted. I’m definitely going to ensure we never use it in the future!

SN: For Unlimited I remember the rejection method being very courteous and thorough. I was wondering what if Unlimited arranged for meetings with artists that were close to being funded and if you have conversations on how to improve their application for next time?

JV: We have two stages – Expression of Interest and then the full application stage for those shortlisted. For those not shortlisted at Expression of Interest stage, we don’t provide feedback – simply because we don’t have anything to provide. The panellists long list the work they feel best meets the criteria, and don’t provide feedback on the rest as there are so many applicants at this stage.

Last time it was around 170 people, so our limited capacity means we can’t offer 1-1 critiques of applications. But what we can do this time is to be really public about this and be open about the most frequent reasons that people didn’t get through.

For those shortlisted and discussed, but not funded, we do offer both personal feedback and ongoing support. Feedback is offered in written and/or face to face conversation – most often people choose both. We also push them to other funding opportunities, write letters of support and they go in the alumni so have access to training and development.

Language and identity

SN: I fully understand the assumed rarity of black disabled artists – but they are there. The language is complex though. Something that’s been a conversation on the Freelance Task Force is terms like BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) and POC (People of Colour). They are too broad and also don’t recognise the magnitude of differences in Black, Asian, and other minority groups and sadly also the racism within these groups.

JV: I’m watching the language debate with interest. I’d love to use better terms. Let’s talk more about this for sure. I also wonder if also many people struggle with the dual identity and feel by identifying with one ‘group’, they can’t the other – due to racism in disability groups and ableism in black groups?  It’s a tough one.

SN: Yes, you’re totally right regarding dual identity.  Once I learned more about the social model, only then I could accept the word ‘disabled’ even though I’ve been cut halfway through interviews for stuttering etc., so faced barriers myself in the past. I think it is a type of ‘coming out of the closet’ and we somehow have to normalise the word ‘disabled’ and not be seen as a ‘bad word’.