On Tuesday 9 June, over 100 leading disabled artists and cultural leaders sent an open letter to The Secretary of State for Culture Oliver Dowden MP and devolved UK Culture Ministers, demanding safeguards to protect the future of disability arts in the UK as a consequence of Covid19.
Signatories included high profile disabled creatives including actors Mat Fraser & Nabil Shaban, visual artists Tony Heaton & Ashok Mistry, percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, poet Jamie Hale, broadcasters Samantha Renke & Mik Scarlet, film director Justin Edgar, performer Jess Thom, theatre directors Jenny Sealey, Amit Sharma, & Vici Wreford-Sinnott and Disability Champion for Arts & Culture, Andrew Miller.
The letter warns that the pandemic has magnified inequalities for disabled people working in the creative industries and that many are facing long term shielding, loss of income and invisibility in wider society.
Disabled cultural leaders are calling on the government to extend the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) beyond August, to prioritise involvement of disabled people in cultural policy, to ensure the renewal and recovery of the cultural sector is more inclusive and offers greater access and representation.
The open letter was organised by the new UK Disability Arts Alliance #WeShallNotBeRemoved. The alliance is an emergency response led by disabled people for disabled people working across the UK’s creative industries in every capacity and across artforms.
Andrew Miller, UK Government Disability Champion for Arts & Culture said: “The speed of recovery planning risks excluding many creative disabled people. So it is essential the UK Government ensures cultural renewal is planned inclusively with creative disabled people at its heart”.
#WeShallNotBeRemoved is a forum to advocate, to campaign and support D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners and organisations through and after Covid19. 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
Membership of #WeShallNotBeRemoved is free, open to all individual D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners and disability focused organisations operating in the UK’s creative industries. Within a month of forming the alliance has attracted over 350 members.
The open letter was also sent to Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs at The Scottish Government, Lord Dafydd Ellis-Thomas, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport & Tourism at The Welsh Government, Deirdre Hargey, Northern Irish Minister for Communities and Jo Stevens, Shadow Secretary for Culture, Media & Sport.
The open letter and accessible versions, can be found on Graeae Theatre’s website which you can access by clicking here.