Access All Areas (AAA) and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (Central) are once again offering life-changing opportunities for performers to join their award-winning Performance Making Diploma for Learning Disabled and Autistic Adults.
This ground-breaking course is supported by Sky Studios and has been specifically designed for emerging learning disabled theatre makers. Auditions will take place during the week of 26 July 2021 and the course starts in mid-October 2021. The diploma takes place over two years at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. The deadline for applications is 9 July.
The Performance Making Diploma provides high quality training for learning disabled and autistic artists. The aim is to change the landscape of the creative industries by nurturing generations of exceptional learning disabled and autistic performers and theatre-makers.
Access All Areas and Central have led the way with implementing such change; Katy Cracknell, who started as a student on the diploma, is this year’s trainee co-director alongside course leader Helen Bryer. To ensure the Diploma has gone from strength to strength AAA and Central have recruited industry experts with past tutors including Christopher Holt, Ita O’Brien, Matilda Ibini and Daniel Oliver and companies such as Punchdrunk, Told By An Idiot and Frantic Assembly.
‘The Diploma has the power to change theatre’ – The Guardian
Graduates from the Diploma have gone on to forge outstanding careers in the arts and are changing how we think of representation on stage and screen. Access All Areas believes learning disabled people continue to be drastically underrepresented in cultural spaces, but graduates of the Diploma are now at the forefront of changing the landscape on stage and screen and in also policy and training.
Paul Gilbert, Sky Studios, said: “Sky Studios are proud to be working in collaboration with Access All Areas and share a common goal of making the TV and film industry more inclusive and accessible to learning disabled and autistic artists. The UK industry has a collective responsibility to ensure that everyone gets to see their own life experience represented on television, and Sky is always striving to tell stories using completely unique perspectives.
“Through our work with AAA and Central on the Performance Making Diploma, we hope to inspire more learning disabled artists to express their voice as they forge a career in the creative industries.”
One of the most successful graduates of the Diploma, Cian Binchy [pictured above in the ITV1 drama The Level] added: “ The course made me less vulnerable, it was real and authentic.” He recently became Access All Areas’ digital influencer and has previously starred in their productions including the MADHOUSE re:exit play. Cian was one of a cast of learning disabled and autistic artists who devised and performed unReal City at Battersea Arts Centre.
On television Cian’s acting credits include Doctors (BBC1) and Grace: Dead Simple (ITV1). He also toured his own production The Misfit Analysis throughout the UK tour and at ITESM University in Mexico.
Since graduating from the Diploma Charlene Salter has performed at Battersea Arts Centre, with Mind The Gap and on BBC’s Casualty. She has co-directed for Access All Areas and is currently trainee co-chair of the board of trustees.
Charlene Salter commented:
“The course gave me confidence and taught me to observe things, to take a step back and take time to think.”
Since graduating Emma Selwyn has performed in venues such as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Battersea Arts Centre, Rich Mix, the Brixton Electric and South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell. This year they have directed for the NHS and performed virtually with First Brick Productions as part of the Screaming Inside Showcase.
Other graduates of the Diploma have used the skills they learnt to go on to have illustrious careers and opportunities on stage and television such as Rishard Beckett who starred in Channel 4’s No Offence and most recently a recurring character in BBC1’s Doctors. Rishard is currently working on creating a TV show for Coventry 2021, City of Culture.
Past graduate Daniel Laurie now stars in Call the Midwife on BBC 1. He says he loves being an actor and would recommend the course and acting to everyone; Francis Majekodunmi aka Lady Francesca is the co-director of Blink Dance Theatre. He performs with Drag Syndrome, ‘a collective featuring highly addictive queens and kings with Down Syndrome’. Troupe appearances include Alternative Miss World at Shakespeare’s Globe.
There are many more examples of graduates of the Diploma who have gone on to be successful through their talent and by readdressing the balance of representation in the creative industries thanks to Access All Areas, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and Sky Studios.
The course gives artists the training, time and space they need to develop their work in an accessible, supportive environment. Students will create their own performances in different contemporary styles. On graduation, students will gain a Level 2 qualification in Performance Making and will receive personalised exit strategies to guide them through the next steps in their careers. Training is bespoke, delivered with students’ individual needs in mind, with tutors who understand Access All Areas’ methodologies for creating bold, innovative work devised by learning disabled performers.
Auditions and classes are planned to take place in person, but some may take place online depending on shielding or travel restrictions due to Covid-19. The course is free, however most will need to pay a £400 annual administrative fee. Financial support for this administrative fee is available if required, as is help with relocation if needed. The course is open to anyone over the age of 18 who identifies as learning disabled or autistic with no upper age limit.
Access All Areas and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama won the Guardian University Award for Student Diversity and Widening Participation in recognition of their partnership and their work to “widen participation to a group often excluded from performance-related training courses from the professional theatre industry”.
Formed in 1976, Access All Areas is known for making disruptive theatre and performances by learning disabled and autistic artists. Their immersive performance events create intimate moments of interaction between performers and public, occupying unexpected spaces in venues, on the streets, and in public buildings. The theatre company supports the artistic development of some of the world’s leading learning disabled creatives.
The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama challenges students to be original thinkers, inventive and effective collaborators and creative entrepreneurs who go on to make a difference. With 15 courses at undergraduate level and 14 Masters programmes, alongside an expansive and award-winning Research department, Central offers Europe’s most comprehensive choice of specialist higher education drama, theatre and performance training. The School has an unrivalled range of international partners and collaborators, strong industry links, a wide portfolio of professional placement opportunities and some of the highest graduate employment rates in the sector.