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Nick Priest reflects on the 'Is that all there is?' conference / 25 April 2016

A photograph of a performance from the Is that all there is conference. 3 performers in 1930s costumes are watched by a crowd, two of them are handling large suitcases.

A perfomance from the conference.

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'Is that all there is?' was a two-day conference organised by Open theatre Company designed to encourage fresh thinking about involving young learning-disabled people in the arts. It took place at Birmingham Hippodrome 9-10 March 2016.

Well, the ‘Is That All There Is?’ conference is in the books, and will go down from my perspective as an event that saw the world of learning-disability arts take centre stage where it so richly deserves to be, and hopefully serves as the beginning of a change in the world of arts that is meaningful and positive. So basically, no pressure then!

The two days of this conference saw delegates from the arts world coming to the Birmingham Hippodrome to engage in sessions, activates, and conversations with each other over what can be done to raise awareness of learning-disabled arts, how we can create a platform for artists with learning disabilities to be just as successful as non-disabled artists, and also in the process, maybe even make connections with each other and possibly work together in collaborative projects down the line.  Sounds like a fool-proof plan, doesn’t it?

There were sessions for certain organisations that were being run throughout rooms in the Hippodrome which involved open discussions, practical activates and networking between people, oh the fun we had indeed…

Now of course, the only issue I can think of with the conference itself, and really it is the only one, is that we had more of the practical events (activates and other fun stuff) occur mostly on the first day, and then we had the more lecture-orientated and verbal events occur mostly on the second. This meant the first day was more fun, and the second day more wound down and less energetic, which, let’s face it, is something that we don’t want, right?

So to avoid this in the future should the event be held again, Open Theatre Company needs to make sure that we have a roughly 50-50 blend of both of those elements so that everything over a two-day period is nicely balanced out.  That sounds like a do-able plan, correct? CORRECT!!!

But that one thing aside, the event was great, and it should be held again because more work needs to be done to advocate learning-disabled arts, because let’s face it, we don’t want this event to be ‘All There Is’! Aha, you see what I did there…


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