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> > > New conference to encourage fresh thinking on work with young people with learning disabilities

A new conference will take place on 9-10 March 2016 aiming to encourage fresh thinking on how to work with young people with learning disabilities (ypwld).

A photograph of a group of young learning disabled people outside the Birmingham Hippodrome, they have a large paper maiche nose in front of them.

Photo Credit: Birmingham Hippodrome

Is that all there is? is organised by Open Theatre Company, a West Midlands-based organisation with a track-record of 25 years’ ground-breaking work with ypwld, working in partnership with Birmingham Hippodrome and supported using public funding from Arts Council England.

Richard Hayhow, Executive Director of Open Theatre Company and organiser of Is that all there is? explains, “This is a timely provocation for the arts sector to reconsider its provision for ypwld. Over two days we will wrestle with key issues around how we work in this field and be inspired by some of the country’s leading creative practice.”

Richard continued:

“We need to build on the many excellent examples of work that is created with young people with learning disabilities, but often happen in isolation, away from the ‘mainstream’. The arts sector has much to offer in every area of our organisations: we have creative and technical expertise, as well as knowledge of management and administration, and ypwld can be involved in all of these specialisms. Our conference will address some of the fears and misconceptions on extending access to ypwld and will challenge arts leaders to be more bold. I hope it will be a game-changer in how the arts sector deals with issues of diversity and inclusivity.”

Is that all there is? is open to anyone involved in the arts sector, including Chief Executives, Artistic Directors, senior managers, Learning specialists, practitioners, funding bodies, policy makers and voluntary organisations.

Over two days, delegates will hear about latest thinking in work with ypwld and see case-studies from, amongst others, Birmingham Hippodrome, the CBSO, The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, and Birmingham Repertory Theatre. The conference will seek to challenge established thinking around artistic practice and organisational structure and demonstrate the real benefits of working with ypwld.

Graham Callister, Birmingham Hippodrome’s Director of Creative Programmes, added:

“The West Midlands, and the work of Open Theatre Company in particular, is leading the way in terms of delivering and creating new opportunities for ypwld to engage with the sector.  Naturally Birmingham Hippodrome is delighted to be hosting this important conference given our long-standing relationship with Open Theatre Company and their talented young performers.  We are looking forward to some stimulating discussion and practical ways to move this agenda forward.”

Young people with learning disabilities will attend Is that all there is? to give their perspective on working in the arts. In addition there will be a chance to view work created by ypwld, encompassing visual art pieces and solo stage performances, including The Misfit Analysis, a one-man performance in which Cian Binchy delivers a captivating exploration of the an autistic mind. Binchy was autism consultant for the National Theatre’s hit play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

Is that all there is? is organised in association with Arts Council England and supported using public funding.

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England, said:

“We all have a part to play is making diversity integral to what we do, ensuring everyone has opportunities to take part in and enjoy our nation’s great arts and culture. We’re very pleased to be investing in Is that all there is? and look forward to seeing people from across the sector come together for the conference. We hope it will be a challenging and inspiring event for all who attend.”

Tickets £70 (£50 concessions), booked via Birmingham Hippodrome Box Office on 0800 338 5000.