The New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich are thrilled to announce their success in the recent round of Arts Council Strategic touring programme applications

They will lead on a new disability and diversity initiative named Ramps on the Moon – a ground-breaking touring project that signals a step change in disability arts provision in the UK and will reframe the way theatre by and for disabled people is made and seen. The six year project as received a total of £2.3m to fund the first 3 years of the project.

Ramps on the Moon will bring together a collaborative network of seven National portfolio organisation theatres including New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and strategic partner Graeae Theatre – Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Nottingham Playhouse, West Yorkshire Playhouse, and Sheffield Theatres.  The network, which spans the country, includes theatres that are committed to offering opportunities to disabled people by putting disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their programmes, to help the mainstreaming of disability arts and culture.

Each venue will co-produce shows over consecutive years, aiming to give all the organisations direct experience at working with disabled artists and learning how to develop disabled audiences.  This will teach each theatre how to integrate disabled people into everything they do going forward, create a collaborative circuit of regional theatres and tackle the current low levels of attendance by disabled audiences.

The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich is a leader in disability arts provision.  They work closely with disabled people, recruiting disabled artists to help shape their programme, participation and customer service, to make everything about the theatre more accessible.  Along with co-producers Graeae – who delivered the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympics – New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich will share its knowledge and experience with its partner NPOs and the wider sector, to ensure that the project will offer opportunities to disabled people across England and affect long term change in the sector.

Disabled people are at the heart of this project – artists will be integrated into casts in a variety of ways such as using sign language, screen projections and live audio descriptions – and organisations will reach out to and develop disabled audiences in each area and beyond.

It is an exciting example of the arts sector taking a lead in prioritising investment, training and development for disabled artists and audiences. 

Sarah Holmes, Chief Executive of the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich says: “This is an incredible funding offer which will enable the first 3 years of an important 6 year project to take root. It will ensure that this network of regional theatres gets to grips with embedding actors and other D/deaf and disabled creative artists into our practise alongside developing what accessible theatre looks like to our D/deaf and disabled audiences and participants.  Our work, in mid-scale theatre, will be enhanced by the creative richness that D/deaf and disabled professionals can contribute, and will help the industry to uncover a wealth of new audiences who think that theatre isn’t for them.”

James Brining, Artistic Director of West Yorkshire Playhouse supports by saying: “At West Yorkshire Playhouse we are committed to making staff, artists and audiences at our theatre more representative of the communities in our region and this project will enable us to really make headway with that commitment.”

Stephanie Sirr, Chief Executive of Nottingham Playhouse adds: “This is a significant award for a really meaningful programme of exciting creative work that is long overdue.  We are thrilled.”

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