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Bristol hosts celebration of equality, diversity and accessibility in the arts

Doing Things Differently, presented by Diverse City and Bristol City Council, is a series of inspirational talks, practical workshops and ground-breaking performances that will have people celebrating, learning and talking about equality in the arts this September.


Supported by the Arts Council, the festival is a platform to share and explore ideas about how we can change the face of performance regionally and nationally, moving us closer to a reflection of the true diversity of the population.

Claire Hodgson, CEO, Diverse City, says: “Our aspirations are that people are able to see fantastic work that is good, precisely because of the diversity of performers and viewpoints.

“We want to encourage arts and culture to include all people in society - onstage, behind the scenes and in the audience. We want audiences to be excited by the range of companies and artists moving forward to a fairer society where all people are seen and heard.”

One of the festival’s highlights is Weighting, an outdoor circus spectacle by integrated circus company Extraordinary Bodies, which will take place in Bristol’s Castle Park and be accompanied by a mass community choir with BSL interpretation, audio description and touch tours.

Other acts involved include Cirque Bijou, pioneering the integrated circus company Extraordinary Bodies with Diverse Cityan intimate and enticing performance by Caroline Bowditch, one of the UK’s leading disabled artists;  a solo dark comedy about the life of recent graduate by Yolanda Mercy; and Hijinx Theatre's story about the two foot tall cloth puppet that fights prejudice every day. 

Alongside these extraordinary performances there will be workshops including circus workshops welcoming disabled participants and those of any fitness level; a ‘how to’ in BSL where participants will learn how to finger-spell, sign their name and discover some key topics to have a chat in BSL; and a session for people to find out more about the Arts Council’s funding schemes and how to apply, particularly artists and organisations representing the diverse communities taking part in Doing Things Differently. 

This is a new event for Bristol and the South West and contributes to the City Council’s diversity agenda.

Laura Pye, Head of Culture at Bristol City Council: “Doing Things Differently is part of our ongoing work around equality and diversity in the arts, from programming and physical access at the Harbour Festival to working with partners to plan a weekend of events which highlight many topics of relevance to the sector. Building partnerships and confronting issues around access and inclusion will be key to developing a cultural strategy that benefits communities across the city and we hope it can help people to make a difference in the future.”

Abid Husain, Director, Diversity, Arts Council England: “Diversity is one of the most important issues of our age. We live in a remarkably diverse society, and how we evolve and face the challenges of the future will depend on how we can use the creative resources that diversity gifts us.

“The arts have a significant role to play in giving all our communities a voice and to see their stories reflected across our stages, galleries and public spaces.

As the Paralympics in Rio are taking place, this festival is a reminder of the legacy of the 2012 Paralympics.

“The Paralympics in 2012 was a game changer in terms of how disabled people are seen,” says Claire Hodgson. “The Cultural Olympiad work profiled art that changed people's minds. Sport and art has the potential to shift mindsets. However, in real terms life, it has become more difficult for disabled people since 2012. Many of the changes to the benefit system are now being seen as challenging basic human rights. 

“Art, music, performance and artists themselves have a role to play - we can imagine and physically realise a different way of living. We can challenge audiences and ourselves to live differently, and make different choices. People who have power can share it and we can all 'pass the mic' to people who get less air time. We can all point out when events, panels and performances are not fully representative of society and make them more inclusive. We can create art that shows what the world could look like if there was equality.

“I think Bristol has a long and distinguished history of diversity and equality in the arts and elsewhere.  This is the rightful home of this festival because this city really understands that including everyone means that everyone benefits. Talent  is distributed evenly across all sectors of society so if we don't give everyone the chance to participate, we are missing out on so much talent - songs that never get heard, dancers we never get to watch, circus performers that never get to make an audience gasp as they fly in the air. We can do things differently - it is within our grasp."

Find out more:  

See the whole Doing Things Differently programme here

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