It is with great sadness that we received news that our founder, Gina Levete MBE, passed away in June 2018, less than two years after joining us at a commemorative event at London’s National Theatre to celebrate our fortieth anniversary.

Gina founded Shape in 1976 with the purpose of introducing creative opportunities for pockets of the community where there was little or no opportunity to participate in the artistic life of the country. Shape acted as a network connecting individual artists from all disciplines, and established performing groups in environments where people were isolated through illness, disability or social disadvantage.

You can read more about Shape’s beginnings, as told by Gina, here.

Shape exists as part of Gina’s broad and varied legacy of support for disabled and other marginalised people in society, much of it connected with creative and cultural interventions. Back in 1978, speaking about the work of Shape, Gina observed that, “Through the very small amount of creative arts that have been introduced into these settings, people are increasingly realising that this is a wonderful way of breaking down barriers and encouraging communication between different groups of people.”  Gina’s words continue to resonate as we work to break barriers today, four decades later, across the arts and cultural sector and beyond. 

Gina was a wonderful person who was always full of encouragement for the work we were doing at Shape, and to whom we owe so much. I remember Nick Serota saying at our 40th anniversary celebrations, that Gina had planted the acorn 40 years ago that is now the great oak tree we all shelter under! It's true, Gina was ahead of her time in establishing Shape; a true visionary, and we will miss her kindness.

- Tony Heaton OBE, Chair of Shape Arts

Old-looking sepia image of a white women and a black woman, both smiling and wearing 1970s clothing

Banner image: Shape Chair Tony Heaton OBE and Founder Gina Levete MBE at Shape Arts' 40th anniversary celebrations, The National Theatre, 2016