In partnership with the Royal Opera House and 22 other cultural organisations, Shape's Inspiring Futures Open Day was certainly inspiring ...

graeae theatre lead a workshop at Shapes Inspiring Futures Open DayFriday April 24 was a big day for us, with dozens of attendees coming to our Open Day event, generously hosted by the Royal Opera House. The aim of the event was to give young disabled people a chance to find out more about progression routes and opportunities in the arts and creative industries, and also about some of the support available to them, helping to remove some of the barriers they might face. 

There was plenty of excitement on Friday morning from both the attendees and the 22 stall holders, which included Southbank Centre, Deafinitely Theatre, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Cockpit Arts. The resulting turnout was excellent, with over 50 young people making an appearance. Young attendee Callum Madge posted that he was “looking forward to meeting lots of other folks working for equality in the arts”, whereas charity for learning disabilities ActionSpace tweeted “delighted to be part of Shape Arts Inspiring Futures Open Day at the Royal Opera House today”. As well as the chance for them to meet with representatives from a range of cultural organisations, there was also the option for disabled young people to join participatory talks and workshops. 
Inspiring Futures Open Day participants
Inspiring Futures Open Day participants

Shape Chief Executive Tony Heaton OBE welcomed everyone to the proceedings, encouraging attendees to enjoy themselves as well as take the opportunity to make useful contacts and gain as much information as they could. Then the day’s activities began. First up was Clore Leadership Programme, whose director, Sue Hoyle OBE, gave a presentation about cultural leadership and what this entails, and how those interested could become forerunners in the arts and cultural sector. Clore Fellows Jo Verrent and Jamie Beddard gave fascinating accounts of how they had grown into leadership roles in spite of the disabling barriers they faced along the way, and led on a group workshop session where these themes were developed further. This was followed by Graeae Theatre, led by Jodi Alissa Bickerton, who led a selection of theatre ‘games’. Next up was ‘Get into Media’, where ITV news researcher and trainee reporter Tamisha Archibald (pictured above right) gave an inspiring talk about how, through sheer determination at times (as well as skill and ambition) she got into broadcast journalism. Finally, a panel of cultural professionals shared their personal experiences of using the government's Access to Work funding programme, and discussed how it can effectively support the careers of young disabled individuals - many of whom will be encountering employers who are unaware that such funding support exists. 

Inspirign Futures open Day participants
Inspiring Futures Open Day participants

But what did the attendees expect to get out of the day? A common factor appeared to be wanting information about creative openings tailored to disabled individuals, as well as the possibility of finding jobs or volunteer opportunities. Many also wanted advice on the best way to approach potential employers about their disability or access requirements, or how to create awareness of their needs at work. Others just wanted to do something fun and creative.

Inspiring Futures open Day participantsAttendee Jessica Starns came to the open day to find out about progression routes into the museum quarter: "I have a traineeship job at the moment, but it ends in October, so I'm just trying to find out what the next steps are." She had a helpful conversation with the team from Southbank Centre about their education programme, which she intends to look into further: "I found it interesting" she says.

Inspiring Futures volunteer Kerry Condliffe hoped to get lots of information about the world of performance, as well as access passages into employment for disabled people in theatre: "There were lots of different people from lots of different theatres here, who were willing to tell us what we could get out of their programmes." 

The Open Day may be over, but we will continue our work through the Inspiring Futures programme, providing confidence building and skills development, as well as mentoring, advice and guidance opportunities for young disabled people.

Access to Work panel at Inspiring Futures open Day 24.4.15
To express your interest in any of our services, or to get in touch with the team, please email or call 0207 424 7330.  #shapeyouth 

A short film of the day is available on our Youtube channel: 

Inset and banner images: Open Day participants
Bottom: Access to Work Discussion Panel, chaired by access consultant Nick Goss (centre right of panel), with writer, theatre maker and multimedia producer Julie McNamara (left), Shape artist Andrew Cochrane; and ITV journalist Tamisha Archibald.
Images by Jamie Trounce