Pink digital image of a chain link

There may be times when your commissioning opportunity is designed to reach a particular impairment group or community with a common link around barriers they face.

This might be to broaden or diversify your organisation or programme, or to build on an existing framework of confidence and experience in your provision for disabled people. 

Valuable time and resources can be saved, and misunderstandings avoided, if that particular community has the opportunity to inform what ‘good’ looks like in terms of support.

For example, your organisation may have gained confidence and raised its ambitions around working with deaf communities, and now wishes to commission a deaf artist to lead on a series of engagements with that community.  

This can be done through informal meetings or focus group-type research, or working with a deaf-led company as a partner. The latter approach, often thought of as a co-production approach, can yield numerous benefits, and removes the reliance on you having to work out for yourself the best route through, having canvassed a variety of viewpoints. 

This kind of discussion can also help you to determine your project’s legacy, so that the same community is not left hanging after the event is over.

Pink digital image of a group of people with one person left out.

Disabled artists rightly have concerns that these kinds of processes serve a limited purpose, after which the artist is jettisoned and the community they are a part of no longer has a meaningful link to the venue or agency concerned.

While it is true that no venue would be expected to endlessly re-commission the same artist or re-run the same project, thought should be given early on as to how to build on learnings or success in a meaningful rather than a tokenistic way. 

For example, artists might become associates of your venue or programme, continuing to provide input on selection panels or programming. Any access working party the venue draws ideas and information from could benefit from that community’s representation in the future.