Shape is holding an open day this April for young disabled people hoping to break into the creative industries

For young disabled people, breaking into the creative industries is more difficult than ever. A combination of strong competition, high education costs and a lack of useful career advice is deterring 16-24 year olds from pursuing jobs in the arts, resulting in a cultural sector with few disabled young people in active roles. For disabled individuals there can be many challenges. Barriers to appropriate support means they continue to be disadvantaged in the workplace, and are therefore more likely to remain unemployed. A lack of disabled role models in the sector is also an issue - a situation likely to continue if opportunities are denied to the generation coming through.

Young people attending a careers workshopWe hope to change this through our Inspiring Futures Programme, which is holding an open day on April 24 2015 for young disabled people aged 15-30. Based at London's iconic Royal Opera House, this event aims to open doors to the creative sector for those who face disabling obstacles.

Stalls from several prominent cultural organisations will be there, including Southbank Centre, Cockpit Arts, Clore Leadership Programme, Creative and Cultural Skills, the William Morris Gallery and Graeae Theatre. Plus attendees will get the chance to meet high profile figures and disabled role models from a variety of creative industries, and have the opportunity to learn about progression routes into different arts-based careers.

Our exhibitions intern Andrew Cochrane confirms that attending events such as these has been incredibly valuable to his development as an artist: “Inspiring Futures has been beneficial to me in terms of confidence building, overcoming scenarios, group discussions and presenting myself as a visual artist.”

Like many disabled creatives Andrew had difficulty finding a job after university, which he believed was because employers were concerned his deafness would mean he was unable to communicate effectively. However, since he began working at Shape’s Gallery in Westfield, Stratford, his self-esteem has massively grown: “Hopefully this will prove to future employers that I can contribute. It has broadened my career prospects.”

We are dedicated to helping disabled individuals gain better access to the cultural sector, and Andrew says his time with us has not only changed his life for the better, but has also encouraged him to aid artists in a similar position: “Getting an internship helped me get on the employment ladder for the first time. I am forever grateful to Shape.”

Shape volunteer Mackinlay Ingham's long term career goal is to be an artistic director in the music and festival scene, and she believes her time with the Inspiring Futures project will help her to get there. Through hard work and determination, Mackinlay has managed to overcome the mobility difficulties of operating a wheelchair in hectic backstage situations: “Although there are disadvantages and barriers, the kind of opportunities you get if you work in the right way are amazing.”

She hopes through projects such as Inspiring Futures other young disabled people will gain the necessary knowledge and skills to work in the arts: “I hope this open day will reach out to somebody like me. I didn’t know how I would be received as a disabled person and that’s really nerve-racking.”

Mackinlay has also made many useful contacts in the disability sector during her time with us: “I’ve never helped to organise an event like this before and I’ve found out about a lot of other disabled-led organisations.”

After learning ways to gain access to many different creative areas including dance, performance, visual arts, film, music and more, hopefully the futures of these young people will be very inspiring. 

Banner image: Royal Opera House (c) ROH 2012
Inset image: Shape Employers Workshop