The new year represents a moment of huge significance for us – and, we believe, a moment of  significance for the arts and cultural sector as a whole, as well as for the thousands of disabled people who have benefited from our work and advocacy, whether as artists, cultural workers, audiences or participants. In 2016, Shape is 40 – a great milestone for any arts organisation, but especially one which has remained disability-focussed and disability-led since its inception in 1976.

Whilst there will be many events and occasions to mark this anniversary in the coming months, we feel it is important to place them in this context: that we are building on four decades of dedication to a passionate belief that art and culture belongs to all, and should be accessible to all.

Secondly, whether the support we have received in those four decades has come from funders or donors, participants or beneficiaries, staff teams or volunteers, truly, nothing we are doing today would be possible without the time, conviction and effort given by the people who share our belief in full inclusion – more people than we could individually name.

cutting from the daily telegraph, 8 June 1978, featuring Shapes founder, Gina LeveteLooking to the future, beyond our anniversary year, our vision is of a cultural landscape characterised by free mobility and open pathways for disabled people, where the work of talented disabled artists is acclaimed on the basis of its merit, acquired through a level platform of opportunity, not an activity promoted to make up the numbers; a landscape where disabled visitors enjoy unfettered access to the surprises and delights of our theatres, galleries and public spaces, and wherever great art is on show. And crucially, a landscape where all people, disabled and non-disabled alike, have the confidence to remove all the barriers which exist between them, whether physical or attitudinal, barriers that stop us from mixing together as equals, and enjoying, as well as making, the inspirational works that make the world a better place.

We hope you will join us on this journey, and would love to hear from anyone who has a story from the last 40 years that will help us tell the tale of how we got to where we are.  Whether it is an anecdote, a photograph or cutting, or a piece of news or insight that we can collect and share, please do send us what you have. 

A film about our work is shown below. Please share it with others, using #ShapeStories or #Shapeat40 if sharing on social media. With best wishes from all the Shape team.

40th anniversary articles on our website can be found at this link

Our art without barriers campaign page is here

To get in touch, please email or call 0207 424 7330.

Our postal address is:

Shape Arts

Deane House Studios

27 Greenwood Place



Banner image: crest designed with Shape branded colours around the dates 1976-2016.

Body image: Cutting from the Daily Telegraph entitled 'Breaking Down The Barriers' and featuring Shape founder Gina Levete MBE. Transcript available for download here.