1st July 2016 marked a great day in the calendar for our 40th anniversary, and we were very happy to share it at The Roundhouse, Camden, who themselves are celebrating 50 years of promoting artistic talent and the empowerment of young people. Marking Arts Awards’ 10th year, and as part of Arts Award Week the afternoon was designed to bring young disabled people into close contact with organisations and individuals keen to widen diversity in the arts and creative industries, and to offer opportunities to the widest bracket of young people, through inclusive practices.

A perfect venue then for our day of information-sharing, guided tours, workshops and performances. After opening speeches from Marcus Davey and Tony Heaton OBE, the chief executives of Roundhouse and Shape respectively, we kicked off with a fascinating panel discussion focussing on how young people can overcome (deeply entrenched) career barriers, and how the arts and creative sector can better improve its offer and means of broadening inclusion. Chaired by Oliver Benjamin of A New Direction, the discussion ranged over several issues faced by young people and employers, with key points informed by a survey of over a hundred young disabled people, the results of which were presented by Lilly Cook from Shape’s youth forum.

One participant told us, ‘I enjoyed finding out what organisations can offer me and talking to professionals one-to-one. If I want to learn something, I prefer to have a direct conversation with them’.

panel discussion at the Roundhouse Inspiring futures event

participants in the audience, asking the panel questions

young audience member taking part in a panel discussion

Overwhelmingly, the survey identified the lack of clear, accessible information as a major obstacle to progress, and questions from the audience reflected this with queries about how relevant, up-to-date careers advice can be improved within education so that young people are not faced with having to muddle through a complex field of recruitment and applications without hope of getting through.

Issues like placing job ads online where young people are actually spending time, instead of in little-read newspapers were highlighted, as was the complex matter of knowing when to disclose a disability and when to keep quiet about it – something often faced by disabled people who worry about employers making negative assumptions about their skills and ability.   

A summary of the discussion will be made available for those interested – just get in touch with the team.


After a viewing of a short film showing our youth forum’s recent foray into the Maritime Museum, which you can read about in a separate blog, our audience of over 40 young people divided up and took turns attending information and learning sessions throughout the afternoon. In the main hub a number of leading arts and cultural organisations were set up to answer questions and provide guidance about career options with themselves and the wider sector, and in addition to a brilliant workshop with Roundhouse’s own radio team, there was a chance to take part in an interactive session with the wonderful Yolanda Mercy, whose performance skills are currently being honed in her solo piece On The Edge of Me – a funny and provocative exploration of the challenges of modern urban existence.

performer yolanda mercy leading a workshop at camden roundhouse

Performances were up next, with Stopgap’s Sg Troop performing ‘And Time Ticks On’, a contemporary and stylish piece using integrated choreography, inspired by Shakespeare’s classic A Winter’s Tale — and then the beautiful and balletic ‘Overlap’ performed by dancer DJ, a longstanding member of Corali and good friend of Shape.

Stopgap dance company performance


Corali dancer DJ striking a pose before a theatre audience

So what did everyone make of it? Feedback was good – attendees seemed to really like the blend of discussion, information gathering and artistic displays – one of which was the fabulous visualisation record of the event made by Creative Connections, which you can see below. One participant told us, ‘I enjoyed the workshops, and the tour of the Roundhouse, I didn’t know you could get a membership, and have access to the different rooms’. Another said she really enjoyed the hub, meeting people and finding some answers to her queries; adding ‘you rarely get a chance to network like this, or in this way’. Some participants signed up for opportunities on offer and there were many enquiries about apprenticeships, an area that was covered in some depth during the panel discussion. Many people said they wanted more time for this kind of discussion and for more employers to get involved – feedback we will roll into our future planning for sure.  

 visualisation board

Thank you to all those who attended, and especially to the Roundhouse staff who made us feel so at home, and among other support, provided such excellent facilities for everyone, and a special thanks to The Goldsmith’s Company Charity for their support.

If you came along and enjoyed it, why not send us your feedback (if you didn’t have a chance at the event)? And if you didn’t get along, then make sure you join our mailing list to keep up with the latest in events and opportunities aimed at young disabled people.

To express your interest in any of our services, or to get in touch with the team, please email inspiringfutures@shapearts.org.uk or call 0207 424 7330.  #shapeyouth

Images, from top to bottom:

Banner image: Employers and young people mingling in conversation

Insert images:

1. Panel speakers from left to right: Emma Rees, Director, London Theatre Consortium; Kath Geraghty, Apprenticeships Manager, National Theatre; Rebecca Palmer, Young People’s Participation Senior Officer, Greater London Authority; Oliver Benjamin, Senior Programme Manager (Employment); Barry Ginley; Disability & Access Officer, V&A; Lilly Cook, Shape’s youth forum. 

2 and 3. Young people taking part in the panel discussion

4. Performance workshop with Yolanda Mercy

5. Stopgap’s Sg Troop performing

6. Dancer DJ performing

7. Visualisation boards made by Creative Connections

Photography: Andy Barker