The Learning Diaries | Increasing audiences for disability arts

How to create and increase diverse audiences for disability arts...

In my personal time I’m involved in a community interest company that aims to create opportunities for musicians with learning disabilities, Constant Flux. A recent tour I was involved in, got me reflecting on what makes a successful project of this type.

With funding from Grants for the Arts, we were able to organise an integrated tour for Daniel Wakeford, a singer/songwriter with autism from Brighton. The project created the opportunity for Daniel to play to new audiences in accessible venues across the UK. The tour was also a chance for Constant Flux to test new methods of supporting the touring network for musicians from the burgeoning learning disability scene.

An ‘integrated’ line-up
In order to make these gigs integrated and accessible, part of my role involved booking other acts with additional support needs to play alongside Daniel, plus acts without disabilities in each city. It was really interesting to see how easy this was in places like Brighton and London, where we already have a lot of contacts, and there is an established scene for this kind of work. In comparison, elsewhere in the UK it was quite difficult to source even one band with disabilities to play. This seemed to be for a variety of reasons: either there aren’t any organisations doing music work with people with disabilities, or you really have to be connected to local networks to find them.

Supporting people to attend
In terms of audiences, I also made contact with as many local learning disability organisations as I could find in each town to encourage people with a learning disability to attend. Again, we achieved the most integrated audiences in Brighton and London, which shows the importance of really strong links with disability organisations in those towns in terms of getting parents, carers and support staff on board to support other people to attend. It’s also key to get these people on board to help promote the shows in the first place.

Accessible venues
The third element is choosing venues that are accessible to all, so with flat access, an accessible toilet and a low entry fee, plus carers free or by donation.

All in all, it was an extremely successful project in terms of Daniel’s artistic development, links made with other disability organisations and enthusiastic promoters across the country, finding some new bands making great music, and raising the profile of this area of disability art to new audiences.

Hopefully we can continue our ultimate aim of breaking down barriers and creating a more sustainable infrastructure for these types of events in the future.