DanceEast & Gecko joined forces to deliver a project working directly with deaf or disabled Children and Young People (CYP). Working with the theme ‘belonging’ the selected students created dance pieces for film which premiered at Move | Be Moved Festival in 2015.

There are a range of challenges in engaging with Deaf and disabled people in the arts – as artists, participants, audiences and staff.  In addition to physical access, which remains problematic in many venues and rehearsal spaces, audiences have had little exposure to, and can consequently be reticent towards work identifying as disabled-led.  The opportunities for, and aspirations of disabled people fall way short of those held by their non-disabled counterparts, and the arts are simply not on the radar of many disabled people.  Under-representation continues to be rife, particularly in the regional context, where transport and access provision is often unlimited, unsuitable or absent.

Inaccessible buildings reinforce inaccessible practice and attitudes, and apathy around equality and inclusion.  And, even, where arts organisations are committed to action, this is often small-scale and initiated through participatory initiatives.

The lack of exposure to exemplar productions and practice, reinforces notions that such work is niche, rather than encouraging arts organisations, practitioners and audiences to think differently about deaf and disabled artists and aesthetics.  In 2012, the Paralympics triggered shifts in perceptions around disability, and ‘Moving Stories’ consolidated and built upon these legacies by placing disabled people, stories and talents centre-stage!

This project was one of a series of Moving Stories projects delivered by a collection of We Are Ipswich Partners. Other Moving Stories projects were delivered by The New Wolsey Theatre & Paccitti Company. Each Moving Stories project set out to examine the notions of belonging as a Deaf/disabled person within a wider community and work with deaf/disabled stakeholders.

The project began with Helen Baggett (Gecko) & Jamie Beddard (NWT Agent for Change) delivering a series of workshops. The workshops introduced students to the project and its themes, encouraged engagement in the arts and provided a wider reach for the project. Prior to the commencement of the project the school and Helen identified key CYP to engage further with the project. Over the following weeks Helen then worked with these CYP in small groups and as individuals working along the theme of ‘belonging’. The short group pieces/solos were then created for film, working with film artists Kate Flurrie and Rich Rusk.

The films premiered at DanceEast’s Move | Be Moved Festival at The Jerwood DanceHouse as well as the Open Season at the New Wolsey Theatre in summer 2015.