Led by New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, â€˜Ramps on the Moonâ€™ will bring together a collaborative network of seven National portfolio organisation theatres including New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and strategic partner Graeae Theatre - Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Nottingham Playhouse, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and Sheffield Theatres.
The network, which spans the country, includes theatres that are committed to offering opportunities to disabled people by putting disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their programmes, to help the mainstreaming of disability arts and culture.
Sarah Holmes, Chief Executive of the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich said: “This is an incredible funding offer which will ensure that this network of regional theatres gets to grips with embedding actors and other D/deaf and disabled creative artists into our practise.”
Awarded £2.3million to fund the first three years of the ambitious six-year project, it will create three new pieces of high quality touring theatre. Each venue will co-produce shows over consecutive years, aiming to give all the organisations direct experience at working with disabled artists and learning how to develop disabled audiences. This will teach each theatre how to integrate disabled people into everything they do going forward, create a collaborative circuit of regional theatres and tackle the current low levels of attendance by disabled audiences.
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich is a leader in disability arts provision. They work closely with disabled people, recruiting disabled artists to help shape their programme, participation and customer service, to make everything about the theatre more accessible. The organisation plans to collaborate with Graeae Theatre Company to share its knowledge and experience with its partner NPOs and the wider sector, to ensure that the project will offer opportunities to disabled people across England and affect long term change in the sector.
Disabled people are at the heart of this project – artists will be integrated into casts in a variety of ways such as using sign language, screen projections and live audio descriptions – and organisations will reach out to and develop disabled audiences in each area and beyond.
Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said: “We are thrilled to be giving the largest award in the history of the Strategic touring fund to the ‘Ramps on the Moon’ project led by New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich. The scale and ambition of these plans have the potential to change the lives of a generation of disabled people across the country.”
The programme starts with a day of performance and provocation on 5 June at New Wolsey Theatre, as part of the PULSE Festival. Aimed at inspiring theatre-makers to think and act differently around disability and inclusion 'Ramps On The Moon' will include talks and performances from Fingersmiths, who work sign language into their performances alongside spoken English, and Sue Maclaine, whose 'Can I Start Again Please' is both a duet and a dual between spoken and sign language, and tests the trust between narrator and interpreter.
This year, working with Agent for Change Jamie Beddard, PULSE aims to increase the number of deaf and disabled audiences by offering more accessible performances and programming more work with disabled performers.