Sydney Festival has launched Australia’s first Disability Programming Initiative to increase the number of artists with disability creating work for festivals.
The initiative, in partnership with Accessible Arts, introduces a pitching process that is accessible and inclusive, with support available at each stage of the application. Successful applicants are offered an unprecedented opportunity to be part of Australia’s largest annual summer arts festival.
Artists can submit their pitch, via multiple formats including a printed document, audio, video, or in person by 31 March 2019. These pitches will then be individually reviewed and considered by Festival Director Wesley Enoch and his programming team, based on the quality of work, balance of projects, budgets and distribution.
“This targeted initiative by Sydney Festival is an acknowledgement of the fact that artists with disability experience particular disadvantage when attempting to secure artistic opportunities in Australia, and that space needs to be carved out in an effort to change this,” said Riana Head-Toussaint, Chair of the Sydney Festival Access and Inclusion Advisory Panel.
“It is a real commitment to seeing the diversity of Australian life accurately reflected through arts and culture, and I have no doubt it will lead to some phenomenal projects by systematically undervalued artists finally reaching broader audiences!
“I hope it encourages other festivals and arts and cultural institutions to reflect on their own programs and what further positive action they could be taking.”
Sydney Festival has a long history of inclusion and accessibility, providing an ongoing program that aims to remove obstacles and encourage participation from all Sydneysiders and visitors to Sydney.
The focus of previous programs has been to expand audience access to Sydney Festival shows, however the Disability Programming Initiative has the exclusive intention of increasing representation of artists with disability or who are Deaf in Sydney Festival’s program.
Sydney Festival’s Access and Inclusion Advisory Panel has highlighted the complexity of issues regarding programming of artists with disability, such as lack of funding, inaccessible venues, inaccessible application processes and misconceptions about quality of work. With this in mind, Sydney Festival, in collaboration with Accessible Arts, now provides artists with clear information online about how to pitch as well as offering support and guidance for all artists who want to submit work through this program.
Recently, Sydney Festival has featured artists with disability including Dan Daw (Beast, 2018), Heather Lawson and Michelle Stevens (Imagined Touch, 2017) and Ethan Hugh (Kaleidoscope, 2017) and through this initiative will be able to increase representation and opportunities for artists living with disability.
The initiative was launched on December 3, International Day of People with Disability.