Shape is a disability-led arts organisation, established over 37 years ago. Shape is founded on the principle that all disabled people should have the opportunity to participate fully in arts and culture, and works with the vision of an inspiring and inclusive arts sector that is accessible to all.

In order to achieve this, Shape develops opportunities for disabled artists at all stages of their career, trains cultural institutions to be more open to disabled people, and runs participatory arts and development programmes.

The scope of Shape's Artistic Policy encompasses the work of disabled artists across all creative disciplines, from visual arts to performing arts to sound and music.  You can read more about this on our website here. 

A Brief History

Disability arts grew out of the disability rights movement, and the wider struggle by disabled people for equality and the right to participate in all aspects of society.

Informed by the radical political activism of the 1960's and motivated by creative ambition as well frustration at their exclusion from mainstream arts, disabled people came together to form their own organisations. These organisations provided a space where the needs and aspirations of disabled people could be realised, and their creative talents developed.

Shape was founded in 1976 by Gina Levete MBE as part of this movement. With project funding from the Gulbenkian Foundation and others, Shape launched several projects in schools, prisons, arts centres and colleges across Greater London.

As the artists and the organisation gained momentum so did its reputation, leading to revenue funding from the Association of London Government (London Councils), several London Boroughs and Greater London Arts (Arts Council).

In its early days Shape worked with everyone who was 'excluded'. However, as the organisation evolved it has concentrated on working to enable disabled people to access the arts. During the 1980's the Shape model was repeated around the UK by the establishment of regional Shape services. Many of these remain, though over the years may have changed their name, or their focus.