The UK has a fantastically creative and inclusive arts scene with plenty of opportunities for disabled people to express themselves.
By Alison Dando
There are lots of opportunities for disabled people to engage in the arts, with benefits for doing so not just confined to enhanced creativity. Getting ‘arty’ can give disabled people the chance to gain new skills, to look at things from a new perspective, build confidence and meet like-minded people.
According to Damien McGlynn, of arts participation charity, Voluntary Arts, getting creative is a life-affirming experience.
“Having an outlet for creative expression is an essential part of everyone’s life and has a positive impact on people’s wellbeing.”
Whether it’s joining a drawing class or taking to the stage with a local theatre group, participating in the arts is hugely rewarding.
The arts are also highly adaptive, so you can bring your own unique experiences and participate largely on your own terms.
Here are just a few ideas to inspire you to channel your inner ‘arty’…
As one of the most expressive art forms, dance is more popular than ever, thanks in part to the influence of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing but also due to improved engagement and participation.
If you fancy having a go, then dance can be hugely beneficial. From salsa to classic ballroom, not only can adapted dance help with fitness, weight and mobility but it’s also a great social activity. A typical dance class costs between £5-£10 for a session and most accredited dance schools can cater for people with physical or learning disabilities.
To find local dance classes check out the easy-to-use Exercise, Move, Dance website: www.emduk.org.
Glasgow-based charity, Indepen-Dance, also runs inclusive dance classes for able-bodied and disabled people: www.indepen-dance.org.uk
You could also consider wheelchair dancing – an exhilarating dance form suitable for pleasure or for competition. There are groups in England and Scotland – for more information, visit:
Take to the stage
If you like a good drama, then amateur dramatics could be for you. Most theatres offer disability access and also have a programme of community participation and theatre courses you could consider.
Alternatively, contact the regional office of a national disability charity such as SCOPE or MIND for details of specific drama groups and courses for disabled people.
Derby-based Hubbub, www.hubbubtheatre.org is just one example of a local theatre group that hosts drama classes and workshops for disabled adults and also stages performances with mixed able-bodied and disabled casts.
Drawing and painting
There are many therapeutic benefits to painting and drawing and whatever your skill level, there is a Picasso, of sorts, in all of us.
Getting involved in painting and drawing doesn’t have to be expensive or
complicated. It can be as simple as working with a pad and pencils or paints at home but for added social benefits, you could join a local art group or class.
Check out your local adult education centre for evening classes or short courses – most venues should have disability access but it’s worth checking. Or there are organisations that run classes tailored for people with physical or learning disabilities. Arts Disability Online host a directory of organisations that provide visual art classes and programmes: www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk
The music scene
If live music is your thing but you’re put off by concerns over accessibility, check out the websites of individual venues to see what they offer in terms of access and facilities, event experience and support; you might be surprised at what’s available to you. According to disability charity, Attitude is
Everything, who work to improve deaf and disabled people’s access to live music, over 170 venues in the UK have so far signed up to their accessible charter.
There are also plenty of opportunities for you to get involved in making music, either learning or participating – both provide a great way to get out and make new friends. Test out your vocal chords in one of the growing number of community choirs around the country – www.choirs.org.uk is an online
directory listing over 420 community choirs from across the UK. The number of signing choirs for deaf and hearing-impaired people is also on the rise. Search ‘signing’ via: www.makingmusic.org.uk to find one near you.
Meanwhile, Music for All, aim to get more of us to play an instrument and holds ‘Learn to Play’ days around the country. For more information, visit: www.musicforall.org.uk
Join the wood folk
For something a bit more down to earth, woodcraft is a fun activity to try and can also be a great stress-reliever. Workshops can be readily adapted for wheelchair use and, as well as creating something beautiful, it’s also a chance to learn some practical skills. From crafting wooden bowls and carved platters to larger items of furniture, woodwork is both creative and deeply satisfying.
Contact your local adult skills and community learning services for more information on courses available or for details of local groups that provide woodworking classes. The network, Men’s Sheds (www.menssheds.org.uk) supports activities that help to prevent isolation and The Disabilities Trust (www.thedtgroup.org) are also good sources of information.
Clay is wonderful medium to work with, making it a therapeutic way to release your tension – and inner creative. Adaptive to differing physical abilities, ceramics and pottery are usually seated activities, so are ideal for wheelchair users or people with limited mobility.
Your local adult education service will have details of ceramics courses and community workshops that are suitable for disabled people. ClayCraft magazine also has an excellent UK-wide directory of ceramics and pottery courses: www.claycraft.co.uk while Museum Crush, lists smaller independent courses: www.museumcrush.org
With the advent of the smartphone, we can all be photographers. Photography is a great way to document and relay a story or experience. Whether you choose to informally document your particular viewpoint or look to develop your skills and technical knowledge within a group or class setting, photography is an adaptable way of engaging with the arts. From those based on simple ‘point and press’ digital cameras up to using a digital SLR, there’s a wide variety of community courses for all levels and abilities. As well as exploring local photography groups and courses, check out organisations such as the Disabled Photographers Society (www.the-dps.co.uk) for ideas and inspiration.
If you’ve been inspired recently by the success of Britain’s Got Talent winner, Lost Voice Guy (aka Lee Ridley), you’ll be pleased to know that there’s plenty of opportunity to try comedy, even if you don’t ever take to the stage. Yes, it can be nerve-racking, but comedy courses and groups can really improve writing skills, build your confidence, and of course, give you a good laugh too!
The Comedy School runs a six-week intro to comedy course: www.thecomedyschool.com. The Two Can Theatre (www.twocantheatre.org.uk) is another initiative for regional courses specifically for disability-led comedy.