A 12-part accessible video podcast series celebrating the work and telling the stories of Deaf, disabled or neurodiverse artists and their allies in the performing arts, launched recently.
The Green Room podcast aims to engage and empower theatre-makers to be more confident to make small (or big) steps towards integrating access in their work.
“In this podcast, you’ll come across stories you really haven’t heard before,” says Sophie Stone, of DH Ensemble. “Want to learn about the experience of a Deaf performer on Broadway? How do Deaf or disabled artists of colour feel about diversity tick boxes? What does a ‘creative enabler’ actually do? This is not a podcast about barriers and difficulty. We’re talking to some of the amazing artists we love who are Deaf, disabled or neurodiverse and some industry allies who have led fascinating lives and deserve further recognition.”
Story-led, upbeat and entertaining, this new podcast seeks to turn the spotlight on those voices featured less often in Disability Arts, from an intersectional selection of established and emerging artists, directors, writers, casting directors and creative enablers.
By opening up conversations with a diverse group of people with a range of careers and experiences to share, the aim is to inspire confidence in every arts professional that they can build accessibility into their own work and practices, and to demonstrate that considering access for diverse audiences can enhance the work of all theatre makers, not just those already making Accessible Theatre.
The podcast is produced by STRIVE, a new collective of two next-generation accessible theatre companies.
“Both our companies, the DH Ensemble and Hot Coals Productions, put access at the very heart of our work,” says Clare-Louise English, co-founder of Hot Coals Productions. “The Green Room is an exciting opportunity for us to share our love and knowledge of accessible theatre. To chat with some of our friends about the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’ of this interesting and innovative work across the industry, to inspire and empower artists and audiences alike. It’s not about making your organisation more welcoming to a particular audience group, it’s repositioning access as an artistic choice, right at the start. It makes the work more exciting.”
At a time when the industry is reeling from a year of COVID lockdowns and shutdowns, STRIVE is a way to come together as a collective to build resilience and sustainability within a rapidly changing artistic landscape. Disabled people have already been disproportionately affected by COVID, and there is a real risk that as access is seen as expensive, it will be cut, reversing years of progress in accessibility and employment opportunities for disabled artists. “We need to build back better,” says Sophie, “we can’t afford to let access slide while we’re rescuing the cultural sector. We need to keep it front and centre as we emerge from the COVID crisis.”
The podcast launched on 11 February 2021 with an interview with Alim Jayda, a Hard of Hearing musical theatre performer with credits including the RSC and films including ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’, who was the driving force behind the Equity Guide to Good Practice with BSL in the Arts.
Other interviewees include Gemma Harvey, a creative enabler working with actors including Jules Robertson who plays Jason in BBC1’s Holby City, David Ellington, a television, film and theatre actor and BBC Education presenter who was Channel 4’s in-vision signer for the Road to Rio trailer, and Alexandria Wailes, a Deaf actor, dancer, director, choreographer on Broadway and in film and television.
Keen to make ‘The Green Room’ an enjoyable and enriching process for everyone to participate in, as well as meeting the access needs of their interviewees, STRIVE are incorporating Spoken English, British Sign Language, Captions and integrated Audio Description into the video podcast format.