Speaking at the launch of a new all-party parliamentary group dedicated to improving diversity in the creative industries on July 22, former culture minister Ed Vaizey has argued that there has not been “any significant change” in terms of the representation of disabled people on stage.
Speaking to The Stage, Vaizey said, “I think to a certain extent we’re seeing [diversity] on stage in terms of black, Asian and minority ethnic performers, but I don’t think it’s gone much further than that. We haven’t got anywhere near talking about recruitment, retention and promotion or senior leadership, all of which is woefully inadequate. I think certainly [there’s a lot more work to be done]… there hasn’t as far as I’m aware been any significant change in terms of disability.”
Michèle Taylor, Director for Change at Ramps on the Moon, said; “We agree that there absolutely is not enough representation of D/deaf and disabled people on our stages, which is why the work of the Ramps on the Moon consortium partners to address that is so vitally important. And a number of other organisations are working hard to increase this representation throughout the entertainment industry too! It is not true to say that there is no change – insufficient change, certainly, but there has been some and that work continues.”
“We whole-heartedly recognise Mr Vazey’s comments and completely agree that there is more change waiting to happen. We hope that he recognises that there needs to be further exploration of the systemic factors working against organisations trying to implement these changes in their work forces and on our stages; particularly clarity around Access to Work, the wider benefits climate, the training opportunities available to everyone and the wider-spread myths around disabled and D/deaf people.”
The Ramps on the Moon consortium, formed of six mid-scales theatre and Graeae in 2016, has toured three productions in the first three years of the initial project and was award £2.1m by Arts Council England in 2018 to continue investigating opportunities to increase the representation of D/deaf and disabled artists in the theatre industry.
The next production to be toured across the consortium’s partner venues has recently been announced as Oliver Twist, produced by Leeds Playhouse and directed by Amy Leach.
Amy Leach, Associate Director at Leeds Playhouse said; “At Leeds Playhouse we have been delighted to work during our most recent season with a Deaf actor in our production of Europe and an artist from Mind the Gap who has Down Syndrome, in Be My Baby. Whilst it is absolutely the case that as an industry we need to continue to grow representation and opportunities on and off stage, there has been a massive step change at Leeds Playhouse, largely thanks to being part of the Ramps on the Moon consortium. From creative access being embedded in shows to artist development opportunities, from commissioning new plays with D/deaf and disabled characters to a plethora of staff training and awareness building, the rate of change is palpable and is thrilling to be a part of.”