INTERVIEW: Paul Bonham of Arts Council England

Posted on 26.01.2016

INTERVIEW: Paul Bonham of Arts Council England

Arts Council England have a legacy of supporting disabled artists and audiences alike; we spoke to Paul Bonham from the Music Team about the Arts Council's impact upon accessibility in the arts.

What can/does the Arts Council do to support disabled artists?

Arts Council England supports Deaf and disabled artists in many ways. We have a number of organisations in our National Portfolio which are led by disabled artists and specialise in diverse talent development across a range of art forms such as Deafinitely Theatre, Heart n Soul, Mind the Gap and Extant.

Arts Council England also has a strategic fund, Unlimited, specifically to commission ambitious work for disabled artists, delivered by Artsadmin and Shape. Deaf and disabled artists are recognised as making strong contributions to our wider work around diversity and equality and form the foundations of our Creative Case for Diversity.

How can a disabled artist apply to the Arts Council for funding?

Disabled artists can apply individually or through their organisation, and we have a range of funding options depending on the project. Grants for the Arts is our open access funding program, which supports a full range of one-off projects and is usually the first funding relationship artists have with the Arts Council. All of our funding programmes are detailed online.

We have created Access Funds designed to overcome barriers disabled people may have in submitting applications, providing them with scribes or communication facilities. We also have a whole army of client Relationship Managers who specialise in supporting a full range of applicants and are available to discuss your proposals. Our enquiries team are the best place to make initial contact.

What exactly can a disabled artist apply for funding for?

Any artist can apply for almost any project through Grants for the Arts - the range of projects supported really is as broad as people’s creative imaginations. This includes personal artistic development and Research & Development and, specifically in music, can help with recordings, touring, audience development and marketing or festival appearances. It is best you discuss your proposal with other artists you know, have a look at the type of work we have funded in the past or speak with our staff before making an application.

What can/has the Arts Council provided to venues to help them attain accessibility?

We see venues as incredibly important in achieving our aim of great art and culture for everyone. If a venue has not considered accessibility they are missing out on audience income and limiting the opportunities they are giving artists. We encourage all organisations to look at how they can become more accessible through working with our National Portfolio Organisations such as Attitude Is Everything, StageText and VocalEyes who are all funded to support venues and productions’ accessibility.

We also expect all in receipt of funding to have Equality Action Plans to consistently develop and become more accessible; the costs of which are built into the projects that we fund. We have funded some venues such as Cecil Sharp House specifically to develop access by installing a lift, which has since seen the home of English folk music achieve the Attitude Is Everything Bronze Charter status.