Earlier this summer, at CRIPtic, we held two focus groups. One was for disabled cultural workers from the global majority. The other was for people facing specific access barriers. This includes people who need 1:1 support, BSL interpreters, use AAC, or need facilities such as Changing Places toilets which are rarely provided. Since then, we’ve reflected on the feedback and what we could be doing differently to support artists from these groups. Here are some of the things we’re -planning to change
Joining our programmes
We need to streamline our application processes so that we explain everything clearly to applicants with simplified processes and forms. As part of this, we will make it clearer what we are looking for from applicants and easier to apply for our programmes. We want to make particular improvements to our BSL provision at the application stage. We also plan to make it easier to talk to the team when you apply to participate in our programmes. This includes finding ways of offering additional pre-application support to groups of people underrepresented in the areas of work we are exploring. We will be ensuring we are transparent about the remote or in-person nature of work. To do this, we will explore ways of ensuring people can join us remotely on as many projects as possible. We are developing a new access support policy for people applying to our programmes.
Designing our programmes
However, we also recognise that us ‘providing programmes’ to specific groups of people risks reinforcing the same power dynamics of decision-maker and applicant that cause so much disableism in other areas of the arts. We are applying for funds to create work in which we support (and pay) someone from a specific community to work within CRIPtic for a year. They will focus on delivering the projects they know their community needs. This includes drawing on the benefit of personal experience, and breaking down hierarchical decision-making structures.
We want to continue to ensure diverse commissioning, and work to build increasingly diverse teams. We want to be a space for the people we encounter less often in the disability arts world. Where we’re working with people from the global majority, we want to find better ways of connecting people with one another. This includes building networks of disabled cultural workers from the global majority. We never want anyone to feel like the ‘only one’.
One of the areas of development for us is our BSL provision and outreach to deaf BSL signers. We need to ensure that we’re releasing information and taking applications in BSL. We also need standard support we can offer people applying in BSL. To do this, we plan to pivot our outreach from a focus on translating written content into BSL into one in which we create original content in BSL. We also want to ensure that we’re seeking feedback on our interpreters and ensuring that the interpreters meet people’s needs.
The focus groups reminded us that the workshops we run are vital and increasingly popular. We need to ensure that the facilitators of those workshops reflect the communities we want to reach. This includes representation for people from the global majority, people who face high barriers to building arts careers, and BSL signers. We also want to explore alternative ways of delivering workshops. We are looking at video courses, short-form workshops, and hybrid workshops with an in-person element.
However, if we increase our in-person work, we must also improve our remote work. We will be assessing the higher profile opportunities we offer across performance. Those opportunities are often inaccessible to people who are unable to work in person. We are applying for funding to build other programmes that focus on people who cannot take on in-person work.
Transparency is vitally important when people look at engaging with an organisation. Alongside this commitment, we are planning to publish the rates we currently pay for freelance work. That way people know what they’re being asked to work for. We hope this will work to help the sector be more transparent also.
It’s not enough to pay transparently if we’re not also paying enough. Where people are expected to attend and participate in workshops on a programme, we want to pay them. In response to advice from our focus groups, we are applying for funding for various projects that offer ongoing and stable financial support to people, rather than just one-off commissions or workshop fees.
We want to ensure that we’re not a ‘here-and-gone’ organisation in the lives of the artists we work with. Instead, we want to proactively ensure that we’re reaching out to people we’ve worked with previously, finding ways of supporting their development into the future.
There is a lot we want to change, but we are also proud of everything we already have to offer. Well over half of the creative team for our show, Self and Other at HOME Manchester, in the spring comprises people from the global majority. We are working with the Deaf Poet Laureate to ensure that we’re supporting BSL signers to enter the Disabled Poets’ Prize, and have been investing team time in developing BSL skills. We’re working with an external consultant to ensure that we’re reaching people who face high access barriers and are deemed ‘too expensive’ to accommodate by the wider arts world.
These focus groups gave us a lot to think about, and we’re excited to see what the difference will be in our work going forward.