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The Creative Case / 22 January 2014

Yesterday I received an email from Creative Case North 'consortium' ( - smacks of a dehumanised post- armageddon cultural landscape). There's going to be an event. The ever optimistic side of me thought Great! Something positive for diversity in THE NORTH. Maybe something will change, maybe we are making progress. But then with heavy heart i remembered the last Creative Case event I went to in the north last year. On the back of that i wrote this rant for Axis. I do so hope things are different this time and i feel represented and heard as a diverse artist. I do so hope I feel part of a conversation and not just talked at. But then there is hope and there is experience - maybe one day they will match up.

The Axis article

I’m sure we’ve all heard of the Creative Case – Arts Council England’s new approach to diversity and equality, where the focus is on great art rather than a limiting label of gender, sexuality, race or disability for instance.

I recently attended a regional Creative Case conference – as a ‘diverse artist’ an invitation would have been nice – but then I realised that the conference wasn’t really for me, neither was it for the few other freelance artists present. It seemed more for organisations to collectively say ‘Yes, we do diversity’, satisfy their Arts Council England National Portfolio funding criteria and dispense a self-congratulatory pat on the back. Tick that box!

In an ‘Open Space’ forum I got told many things including ‘It’s hard for everyone in the arts’ and I’ve ‘Got the same access to opportunities as everyone else’. It was clear most of the people present had little experience, understanding or awareness around issues of getting seen, heard or making a living as a ‘diverse artist’. Clearly, if we all had the same access to opportunities and there really was a level playing field, what were we doing at a conference devoted to diversity in the arts?

As I tried to express the difficulties faced by diverse, particularly disabled, artists, I felt I was marginalising myself even more. The more I tried to convey that we haven’t all been to art school and that a massive schism exists between how ‘diverse arts’ and ‘mainstream arts’ are valued and represented, I could feel the disconnect intensify. Oh, the irony!

The word disability returns 89 search results on Axisweb and 69 on the a-n site. Disability is under-represented in society as a whole and this is reflected and magnified in the arts. Shouldn’t arts organisations be doing better? How can there be ‘great’ diverse art if diverse artists are consistently excluded? So if you do diversity like you say you do, then invite us in. Go on, take a risk, let’s converse, let’s collaborate!


Paula Dower

6 February 2014

I agree Colin. Swings or roundabouts? A wider context opens up the inequalities in society as a whole, but as you say does the disability message get lost? Does positioning as a distinct sector within an unequal society give a stronger voice to a smaller group? Or does it get unheard anyway battling with the voices of other diverse groups?

Paula dower

31 January 2014

This has been a very relevant topic of discussion for me this week. Experiencing the need of an artist who does not want to be profiled as disabled, who has experienced the mental health system/hospital. Who Felt that the label of disability was sending them backwards.

And as part of a small disability arts organisation (with an increasingly louder voice) should we embrace a wider approach? Should we become a diverse arts organisation?

It would mean we could open up to more excluded/marginalised people and would perhaps relieve people from the tags of ethnicity, impairments, sexual orientation. Which can be difficult to accept, especially for those with acquired disabilities, or experiences of mental health.

Hope we can talk Soon Aidan.


31 January 2014

As I see it there are pros and cons to the whole 'diversity' repositioning of how we talk about art and artists who experience exclusion. In favour I think it promotes a healthy conversation about Art in a broader context, but equally it can mean the barriers we face as individual artists are sidelined or ignored completely.

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