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Free course for deaf and disabled theatremakers hailed as 'vital'

The initiative is supported by Ramps on the Moon

Some of the course participants
© Becky Payne

Twenty-four people have taken part in a new free course aiming to get deaf and disabled writers, directors and producers on the road to a career in the theatre industry.

The joint venture between Leeds Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres and Ramps on the Moon gave participants the opportunity to enhance their skills, create valuable connections and develop new work guided by industry professionals.

The participants – from Yorkshire, London and Wales – attended hybrid sessions (on Zoom and in person) in Leeds for writing and producing, and Sheffield for directing. The working groups were developed to ensure that a wide range of needs could be catered for, including "complex mental health challenges, chronic illnesses, physical impairments, learning disabilities, and neurodivergence".

The writing course at Leeds Playhouse was led by the theatre's writer in residence Leanna Benjamin and producer Rio Matchett, while the producers were led by Leeds Playhouse agent for change Paul Wilshaw and freelance producer Ben Rothera. The directing course was led by Sheffield Theatres' agent for change Ben Wilson and associate artistic director Anthony Lau. At least one leader in every group was a disabled theatre professional.

Wilson commented: "For me personally, as a disabled artist and one of the people running these courses, it was thrilling to create an incredibly warm and supportive community of fellow disabled people with a whole range of experience, and then to bring them together to create some work. Support from fellow artists and fellow disabled people is vital, and the sense of community it brings is one of the most enjoyable things about working in this industry."

Amy Leach, deputy artistic director at Leeds Playhouse, added: "From the commitment and rigour shown by the delivery teams at both theatres to the creativity and passion of the artists involved, this has been a wonderful celebration of the wealth of deaf and disabled talent we have in the region and I can't wait to see what emerges from the seeds planted in this project."

All participants received a stipend to pay for travel, access and practical expenses.

The courses were supported by Ramps on the Moon, a collaborative network of six major regional theatres aimed at "normalising the presence of deaf and disabled people both on and off stage".

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