Sydney Festival Launches Australia’s First Disability Programming Initiative

SF Wesley Enoch and Kerry Comerford - photo by Joan Cameron-SmithAiming to increase the number of artists with disability creating work for festivals, Sydney Festival has launched Australia’s first Disability Programming Initiative.

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 summer annual 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.

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 takes seriously our role to unite our city and create memorable moments we are all excited by,” said Wesley Enoch, Festival Director Sydney Festival. “We have a long history of inclusion and accessibility for audiences and via this new initiative we will be focussing on giving artists with disabilities a platform for their diverse range of work to be included in the annual Sydney Festival 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.

“Alongside the numerous accessible performances for audiences, it is equally important that what Sydney Festival presents in their annual program reflects the society in which we live, which means including artists with disability or who are Deaf in their programming,” said Kerry Comerford, CEO Accessible Arts.

“Programming more work by, and providing artistic opportunities for artists with disability recognises the under-representation and employment of people with disability in the arts in Australia.”

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 2019 Sydney Festival runs 9 – 27 January. For more information, visit: www.sydneyfestival.org.au or www.aarts.net.au for details.

Image: Wesley Enoch and Kerry Comerford – photo by Joan Cameron-Smith

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