Accessing Access by Paul O’Donnell

A theatre maker’s attempt to make his work more accessible, and how venues/organisations might be able to help

Paul O’Donnell is a solo theatre maker and over the past year, has been using Talking Birds‘ accessibility tool The Difference Engine to deliver captioning and audio description on every performance of the UK tour of his show We’ve Got Each Other. With funding from Arts Council England, he has created a resource pack for artists, companies and organisations to share the learning and experience he gained during the project. It also includes case studies and a list of other resources.

The Fear of Access

Hello, I’m Paul O’Donnell, a solo theatre maker, performer and producer who has set out on the task of trying to make my solo show We’ve Got Each Other more accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired audiences. The show was captioned and audio described using Talking Birds’ Difference Engine, which is covered in more detail on page 4.

My journey started at the East Meets West Symposium run by Little Earthquake in 2017, where I timidly raised my hand in a discussion about access. I explained that I, like a lot of artists, wanted to make my work more accessible, but felt there were two things that were preventing me from doing so: 1. the fear, and 2. the cost. I believe that these two barriers are prohibiting artists like me from giving it a try for fear of getting it wrong, saying/doing the wrong thing or being branded ‘tokenistic’, or being unable to sustainably resource access as an integral part of their practice; the cost of making the show more accessible for the 2019 tour consumed a big chunk of my under £15k ACE application – more on this later.

But, in that room the response I received was “Well, isn’t it better to do something than nothing at all?” and so I thought, “I guess I’d better do ‘something’ then”. My terrifying journey into ‘access’ had begun and I realised that to combat that fear of getting it wrong, I had to dive in head first, make all the mistakes and learn from them. I am still learning.

“Isn’t it better to do something than nothing at all?”

Since then I have:

  • Engaged in a process of making the audio descriptions and captions for We’ve Got Each Other a creative rather than just functional output.
  • Captioned and Audio Described all 23 shows in my 2019 UK tour of We’ve Got Each Other using the Difference Engine.
  • Welcomed in 38 audience members who usually wouldn’t be able to access my work.
  • Engaged 3 deaf or blind focus groups to refine this service and my understanding.

I should note that I am not deaf or blind myself and that I understand and believe that deaf and blind individuals need to be leading on discussions around their access requirements. I do however feel that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that access for all is considered in their creative work. In this pack, I am particularly following the social model of disability with the belief that deaf and disabled individuals are only disabled by the systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusions that society presents. This pack is me doing what I can to challenge and change those barriers.

This pack is in part me sharing the lessons learnt through this process with you, in the hope that if you were to consider embarking on your own journey, it might be just that little bit easier. I also hope to share some of the issues independent artists like me are facing in making access a natural part of their processes. Ironically enough, for independent artists like me access currently feels a little… inaccessible.

For venues/organisations, I hope this might also encourage you to consider what support you can offer independent artists to help combat these barriers in order to make this a sustainable part of all of our practices. I truly believe it can only be achieved as a sector-wide effort, and have to remind us that technically, by law, we all should have started ten years ago now (Equalities Act 2010).

Accessing Access Download the guide by Paul O’Donnell PDF 1,207kb Download

Project Manager Role with NRTF

Job Vacancy Advertisement

Project Manager (P/T)

Application out 13 January 2020

Application deadline 24 January 2020

Start date ASAP

Job Description

Position: Project Manager – National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF)

Responsible to: Director, NRTF

Contract: 22.5 hours per week / 3 days a week

20-month minimum contract with the possibility of extending

Start date – date during February 2020 to be agreed

Travel will be required with some evenings and weekends

PAYE preferred but will consider freelance

Salary:                                   PAYE – Between £26,000 and £29,000 pro-rata, depending on experience

Holiday:                                PAYE – 28 days including Bank holidays

Location:                              The NRTF has no fixed office. The post-holder may work from home or own office.

Probationary Period:       Three months (extending to 6 months if necessary), two weeks’ notice required by both parties

Notice Period:                   12 weeks from both parties

Identity checks:                 Ability to provide official documents to confirm they have the right to work in the UK and undergo a check with the Disclosures and Barring Service

Role Context

The National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) is looking for an experienced and skilled Project Manager to lead, coordinate and deliver on a new and exciting project while supporting the Director to deliver NRTF ambitions and outcomes. The principal responsibility of the postholder will be to manage the new ‘Libraries and Rural Touring Arts’, commencing in March 2020 and funded by Arts Council England. The role will need to be undertaken by someone with experience in working with artists and arts organisations, and the successful candidate will have excellent organisational, managerial, administrative and communications skills. They will need to be comfortable working with a broad range of people, organisations and relationships.

The Project Manager will be part of a small but ambitious team and be responsible to the NRTF Director, helping to deliver the wider visions of NRTF. The postholder will be required to bring a willingness to muck in and undertake a variety of tasks within the organisation, including supporting the work of the Communications Manager with the general membership and event coordination for the NRTF Conference and a range of festival panel talks.

About the ‘Libraries and Rural Touring Arts’ Project

Public libraries have an appetite to increase toured-in product but often lack support, skills, capacity, networks and confidence to achieve this. NRTF will audit the sector and work with Rural Touring Schemes and venues to learn from and expand on projects and activity that is already in place.

The primary outcomes include understanding the language of libraries and identifying what is needed in the sector to create appropriate resources and to provide developmental activities, including bursaries and an investment pot to encourage librarians into programming live arts and performance in their spaces.

‘Libraries and Rural Touring Arts’ – maximising the potential of our nation’s libraries

National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) to support touring into Libraries in a new national project funded by Arts Council England.

New figures reveal almost 800 libraries have closed since 2010. National spending has dropped, as has visitor footfall and the number of paid librarians. Libraries also face numerous external challenges, such as the growth of e-books and people increasingly purchasing low-priced books online. Despite this, the 3,618 public libraries in the UK are still visited 233.1 million times annually and 77% of people believe that libraries are either essential or very important to their community (The Reading Agency 2018). Research by the Arts Council of England found that library attendance is positively associated with well-being and has even related to NHS savings of up to £27.5 annually. One way to address user numbers is to increase the opportunity to participate in touring and overcoming embedded sector obstacles of lack of budget, capacity, skills, knowledge and networks.

The Libraries and Rural Touring Arts project, managed by National Rural Touring Forum, is about understanding the challenges library services face in engaging the public and generating new audiences. Programming live art is one way to diversify users and engage the wider community.

“This is an important strategic project for NRTF. We look forward to identifying and responding to the needs of librarians who have the potential to programme work. It is also a great opportunity for artists and performing companies who will potentially have a new set of venues and touring spaces to show their work” Holly Lombardo, NRTF Director

Public libraries have an appetite to increase toured-in product but often lack support, skills, capacity, networks and confidence to achieve this. NRTF will explore and audit the library programming sector, working with library’s, Rural Touring Schemes and venues to learn from and expand on projects and activity that is already in place.

The project aims to create resources and developmental activities, including bursaries and an investment pot to encourage librarians into programming live arts and performance in library spaces. NRTF and ACE want to instil confidence, though training, and identify what is needed to utilise and build on librarians’ strengths and priorities to make the most out of cultural events. This is a fantastic opportunity for libraries and artists.

www.ruraltouring.org

Download the full job description below.

Programmer Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival and Arts Live

Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival is the largest rural Performing Arts Festival in Scotland. It has been running a highly successful Festival each May since 1979.

In 2016 D&GAF embarked on a new venture and in addition to the Festival, it now works with a network of local promoters, venues and community groups to provide high quality performances all year round, under the banner Dumfries & Galloway Arts Live. 

We are seeking to appoint a Programmer with vision and imagination to lead the future development of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival and Arts Live.

We are looking for someone with:

  • A good knowledge of the contemporary performing arts scene;
  • Excellent organisational and interpersonal skills;
  • Significant experience in programming;

The contract covers two key areas.

  • Programming the annual 10-day Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival.
  • Programming of year-round Arts Live

Description

Title: Freelance Programmer

Commission:  For delivery of core;

  • Finalise Arts Live Spring/Summer – March-August 2020
  • Arts Live Autumn/Winter – August-January
  • Arts Live Spring/Summer – February-July 2021
  • 10-day Arts Festival – May/June 2021

Location: Flexible

Responsible to: General Manager

Liaising with:  General Manager and Project & Communications Manager

Fee: £15,000, payable on completion of agreed targets

Contacts: Relevant local and national agencies, local and national performing artists and arts organisations, international networks and the public.

If you wish to be considered for the contract and would like an information and application pack, please email info@dgartsfestival.org.uk

The closing date for applications is 12noon Tuesday 11th February 2020

If you are selected to attend an interview for this freelance contract you will be informed by Thursday 13th February 2020

Interviews will take place on Monday 24th February in Dumfries.

As part of the interview process you will be required to make a 10 minute presentation on your vision for Programming Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival and Arts Live. This will be followed by a formal interview.

www.dgartsfestival.org.uk

The Library Presents Open Call – for Autumn 2020

Open Call for Artists & Performers

About The Library Presents

The Library Presents programme has a two-phase selection process:

  1. An open call, where we welcome Expression of Interest (EOIs) from artists, suggesting material for The Library Presents menu.
  2. The selected EOI’s are compiled onto a Menu that is shared with the public. The public then help choose what arts activities they would like to see in their respective libraries.

This is an open call for artists to suggest material for The Library Presents menu for Autumn 2020.

The Library Presents is currently planning for our Autumn Season (Oct-Dec 2020) which will include a mixture of performances, digital work and participatory workshops.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been awarded National Portfolio Organisation funding from Arts Council England to run The Library Presents in partnership with Babylon ARTS until 2022. The Library Presents programme will bring quality arts activities into Libraries in market towns and villages across Cambridgeshire.

The programme aims to inspire and deliver a vibrant inclusive programme of high-quality arts activities in accessible and welcoming venues.

We need to create a menu that contains a balance of art forms and which is not overwhelming for those choosing from it. There will be a selection process and artists will be notified by 13th March 2020 about whether they have been shortlisted and included on the menu. The Menu will then be shared with Library volunteers and local community groups who will help select the arts activities. In May artists will be notified whether they have been selected for the Autumn 2020 programme.

For more information visit: www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/arts

Creating a vibrant, exciting, diverse and inclusive programme of high-quality arts activities with Libraries across Cambridgeshire.

Deadline for Expressions of Interest: 7th February 2020.

If you are interested in The Library Presents programme, wish to submit an Expression of Interest to our Autumn 2020 season or have any questions surrounding the programme, please sign up to one of the available ‘advice surgeries’ with Florence Rose, Babylon ARTS. Babylon ARTS is the arts partner on The Library Presents project, managed by Cambridgeshire County Council. 

The doodle poll of available advice surgeries can be found here: https://doodle.com/poll/rkqpdwe3yyssz3m8  Please sign up to a surgery with your name, then please email florence.rose@babylonarts.org.uk, with the phone number you wish to be called on, and a brief overview on what you would like to discuss during your surgery. Please provide a website/link to show if relevant.

What we are looking for:

  • High-quality arts activity.
  • Activity drawn from a broad range of art forms (music, dance, theatre, visual arts, digital arts, spoken word, puppetry, circus, magic, comedy etc.). This is not a definitive list, if in doubt please contact us for guidance.
  • Performances / events less than 45 minutes should consider a double bill (of different shows) or an additional workshop / talk with the performance suitable for the whole audience.
  • 2 hour workshops (Proposals for a series of 3 or 4 sessions are welcome).
  • An inclusive and diverse programme of activities that includes work representing different backgrounds, cultures and abilities.
  • Artists and companies who are able to adapt or develop their activity so that it can be accommodated in library spaces.
  • Non-offensive content, we will not programme an arts activity that contains swearing.It is our wish that the menu offers an inspiring range of choices with content for different ages and tastes. We are developing new audiences and would be interested to see arts activity / events that would appeal to younger adult audiences (20-45yrs approx) and young people (12-25yrs approx).
  • It is our wish that the menu offers a wide breadth of choice for the workshops, therefore we would be interested to see a wide range of applications from visual arts/creative workshops.
  • If you are an agent representing multiple performers, please only apply with the one arts activity that you deem most suitable.
  • There are a number of significant anniversaires or themes coming up in Autumn ’20 including: Black History Month (Oct), National Poetry Day (3 Oct), World Mental Health Day (10 Oct), Inktober (Oct), World Kindness Day (13 Nov), Diwali (Nov). If your work covers any of these themes please tell us in your application.

Pricing Model:

We anticipate the cost per event to be approximately the following amounts:

Performances / Exhibitions / Happenings / Event based activity / Digital £500-£900 (excl. VAT). Your fee should include costs for all travel, accomodation etc.

Workshops / Participatory activity for at least 15 people costing up to £250 (excl. VAT) per 2-hour session. Your fee should include costs for all materials, travel, and delivery.

Please give us your usual rate and/or a range of pricing options, for example, a mix of performance and workshop or multiple performances.

About our Venues:

Our venues are Library spaces with capacities of between 40 and 80 people for performances and between 15 and 30 people for workshops (depending on the artist & type of activity).

Our activity programme fits around normal library opening times. Therefore your get-in time must be no more than 3 hours and the less time required the more options there will be for dates and start times. We can provide and operate basic PA, static lighting and backdrops but please note that our venues have no in-house technicians to support the setting up and running of additional equipment artists bring with them.

The space available at venues varies. Our smaller venues (approx 6 libraries) can offer a maximum performance area of 4m x 2m and 2m height. Our largest venues can accomodate most performance sizes (approx 6 libraries with a 2.8m height restiction). If your performance requires a much larger space please specify this as we have occasionally programmed in non-library venues. Flooring is variable with the majority of spaces being carpeted. There is currently limited raised staging available and seats are not raked. Please let us know of any issues this might cause with visibility of your arts activity, and ideas on how this might be addressed.

In this, our third year, we will be working with approximately 23 libraries, located in market towns and villages. This map shows the Cambridgeshire libraries.

How To Apply

‘Please  click here to view the open call for artists & performers and submit an online application suggesting material for The Library Presents menu for  Autumn 2020 (Oct-Dec 2020).’

Spot On Lancashire: Library Touring Commission

Spot On Lancashire is a rural and library touring network, currently engaging with 30 libraries and 25 rural community venues across the county. We deliver two season of professional touring theatre, dance, music and family shows a year in partnership with libraries and rural volunteers. 

Spot On is part of the Arts Council’s National Portfolio through a consortium with Cheshire Rural Touring Arts. This commission is funded by Arts Council England’s National Lotteries Grants Programme, Super Slow Way (Creative People and Places) and the Near Neighbours Fund. It is managed by Culturapedia who are the accountable body and deliver Spot On Lancashire.
We are seeking to commission a touring company or freelance ensemble/individual writer/performer to devise a touring production which can take place in any library and rural community setting but will be inspired by the town of Great Harwood. The finished work will be launched in Great Harwood library. You must demonstrate an understanding of the creative challenges involved in rural or library touring. You will work in partnership with our library and their audiences. You will develop an idea to scratch/public-sharing performance level which is suitable for presentation to every scale of library and rural touring venue we work with. It will be shown to an invited public audience. We then will support you to develop and tour the completed work through our library/rural touring networks from Autumn 2020 onwards. We expect a tour-ready production but after the launch and initial tour, Spot On will support you in making further applications for wider touring of the show.

Deadline for submissions: 9am,  Friday 7th February 2020 with interviews Wednesday 26 February 2020.

Outreach activity to happen during the Spring/Summer and touring Autumn 2020

The fee is £10,000 exclusive of VAT and must cover all costs.

If you have any questions or want an informal conversation about this commission please email sue@spotonlancashire.co.uk or phone her on 01254 674777

To find out more about Spot On Lancashire visit the website.

Download the full commission details here.

A new year of rural dance: An eclectic mix of shows to visit village venues this Spring

A new year of rural dance: An eclectic mix of shows to visit village venues this Spring

Rural Touring Dance Initiative kicks off its 2020 with a programme of seven works from leading dance companies comprising new shows and returning favourites

  • Luca Silvestrini’s Protein – The Little Prince 25 Jan – 7 Feb
  • Mr and Mrs Clark – Louder Is Not Always Clearer 29 Feb – 19 Mar
  • Patfield and Triguero – Gibbon 5 – 14 Mar
  • Altered Skin – Confessions of a Cockney Temple Dancer 14 Mar – 1 May
  • Sadhana – Under my Skin 20 – 27 MarLost Dog – Juliet & Romeo 22 Apr – 12 Jun
  • Dan Watson – VENUS 24 Apr – TBC

Kicking off the start of a new decade and celebrating five years, the Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI) will tour a fresh selection of shows created by dance companies whose work has been enjoyed on both national and international stages and can now be seen in village halls and rural venues across the UK. The shows on offer have been selected by local promoters from ‘menus’ which enable them to choose the work that best suits their venue. 

The Spring touring shows are an eclectic mix of dance adaptations of classic novels and real-life stories and will visit an ever-growing audience in rural communities, taking them from East London to India, from holiday camps to operating theatres. The initiative is a partnership between the National Rural Touring Forum, The Place, China Plate and Take Art.

Based on the internationally adored story by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince is brought to life using Luca Silvestrini’s Protein’s award-winning mix of dance, humour and text, inviting us to look at the world through one’s heart and to reconnect with our inner child. Upon landing on planet Earth, the Little Prince is welcomed by a mysterious snake and a truly wise and friendly fox before encountering the lone pilot. Together they discover the power and beauty of friendship and the complexity of love.

As a child Dan Watson lost a British holiday-camp dance competition, largely because he totally misunderstood what competitive dance was, and they didn’t play his song of choice: Venus by Bananarama. Combining contemporary dance, confessional and comedy, VENUS is the dance he would have performed had he known better, had he been braver.

Breakout juggling stars Chris Patfield & José Triguero present Gibbon, a humorous and surreal show combining mesmerising juggling with dance and physical theatre. Together they explore the absurd and comedic in what it is that drives us to try and try again. Lifting the veil on the rehearsal room Gibbon shows how two charming performers work at working as one.

Developed in association with a leading surgeon Under My Skin is a show about surgery and operating theatres drawing on classical Indian dance technique Bharata Natyam and real-life surgical procedures. Three razor-sharp dancers invite the audience to share an insider’s perspective on surgical procedures, where intricate detail, timing and precisely controlled exchanges are not just an artistic goal, but a matter of life or death.

Louder Is Not Always Clearer follows Jonny, a teacher, an artist, a campaigner and an avid football fan. He’s just become a father, and he is deaf. He loves to dance, but he can’t hear the music unless the bass is turned right up. Louder Is Not Always Clearer focuses on the importance of connection with others and the struggle to do so affectively and a warm, humorous and honest portrayal of a man perceived to be full of confidence, who is inwardly vulnerable and at times isolated.

After winning the 2017 Rural Touring Award for the most innovative and inspirational show for their previous show, Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me) Ben Duke’s Lost Dog return with Juliet & Romeo which imagines Shakespeare’s infamous lovers as middle-aged and in therapy. Through its playful blend of dance, theatre and comedy, Lost Dog picks apart out cultural obsession with youth and our inability to accept uncomfortable truths.

And returning to the rural touring circuit after Autumn touring dates, Confessions of a Cockney Temple Dancer sees Complicité Associate Shane Shambhu reflect on his personal journey of growing up in east London, learning and performing Indian dance in the UK, and plays with the ways in which race, language, identity and culture have defined him.

Speaking about the forthcoming season RTDI Project Manager Claire Smith said “Rural schemes and audiences are so looking forward to the RTDI spring season. Across the country we are seeing audiences confidence and enthusiasm for our RTDI brand of dance/theatre grow year on year. People who have never thought of going to see dance are returning, showing a loyalty to companies who are returning with their second or third show as well as embracing companies that are new to the scheme. The quality and diversity continues to impress.”     

In 2015 The National Rural Touring Forum joined forces with The Place, China Plate and Take Art to launch a brand-new initiative designed to assist in the making and touring of contemporary accessible dance to rural areas. The project was set up to address the paucity of dance performance happening in rural areas in smaller community venues.  The project has been made possible by a grant from Arts Council England’s Lottery funded Strategic Touring Programme. Due to RTDI successes in November 2017 the project was given a further £417k to develop the project until July 2021. Over 160 performances have taken place to date along with numerous workshops and training opportunities for artists. 

The Rural Touring Dance Initiative is a partnership project led by The National Rural Touring Forum with The Place, China Plate and Take Art. The project is funded by Arts Council England through its Strategic Touring Fund.

Listings information 

Please note dates may be subject to change, please contact local schemes for confirmed details

Luca Silvestrini’s Protein – The Little Prince

Mr and Mrs Clark – Louder is Not Always Clearer

Patfield and Triguero – Gibbon

Sadhana – Under My Skin

Lost Dog – Juliet & Romeo

Dan Watson  – VENUS

Altered Skin – Confessions of a Cockney Temple Dancer