Space for All: Towards Inclusive Practice

Wed 18 Oct

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What needs to shift in order to better support a thriving inclusive arts landscape in Ireland? Our panel of creatives will share their current arts practices and learnings from developing work with and for people of diverse abilities.

We will hear from practitioners who are breaking down barriers and exploring what it means to make performance work in an inclusive way, some of whom are, by their own admission, learning as they go. The discussion will explore what it takes to create inclusive work for and with all artists and audiences, including those with intellectual and physical disabilities and what is needed to better support this work. Expect a generous sharing of expertise and experience from some of the most pioneering makers of work for adults and children in Ireland.

Chaired by Linda Geraghty. In partnership with Branar’s Meitheal Initiative.

Brian McSweeney is a dance artist with Down syndrome based in Waterford, Ireland. He has been dancing for over 17 years, initially with WYDmoves and then as a founding member of Traces Dance Ensemble Waterford under the direction of Libby Seward, Jess Rowell & latterly Dee Grant. He has featured in the 12th World Down Syndrome Congress in South Africa, performed for the President of Ireland and danced at festivals in Waterford, Dublin, Wexford and Birr. Most recently Brian has worked with Jess Rowell during her three year dance residency at Draíocht, Blanchardstown (2020-2022) as a co-facilitator and performer on numerous projects presented on stage, film and live on RTÉ News.

Jess Rowell is an inclusive dance artist, facilitator and maker of multisensory dance theatre for young people with additional needs based in Ireland. Inclusivity is at the heart of her practice and she is committed to making dance accessible. She has performed, collaborated and directed work in both professional and community contexts for over thirteen years. Jess completed a three year dance residency (2020-2022) in Draíocht, Blanchardstown supported by Arts Council Ireland, during which time her work was documented and presented on film, stage and live on RTÉ national news. She was awarded a YPCE Bursary and Touring Award from the Arts Council in 2022 and recently received a Cruinniú na nÓg 2023 commission from Creative Ireland. Jess is very proud to be supported by Meitheal: A Branar Initiative 2022-2023.

Jody O'Neill is an autistic theatre maker and screenwriter, based in Dublin. She has spent the past five years researching and developing ways of making inclusive theatre that promote acceptance and social change. Her play What I (Don’t) Know About Autism received the WGI Zebbie Award for Best Theatre Script in 2021. She is Theatre Artist-in-Residence at University College Cork and Cork Opera House and received a 2022 Markievicz Award from the Arts Council. She is currently under commission by Graffiti Theatre and The Gate Theatre, and is co-lead artist for Home Sweet Home (CMF & Suisha Arts/Cope Foundation).

Michael Hayes is an accomplished actor with a career spanning award winning productions of stage and screen such as Sanctuary by Christian O’Reilly and most recently Into the Dark Woods by Charlene Kelly. Michael is an integral member of Blue Teapots acting ensemble, He is an actor with great sensitivity and a subtle sense of humour, he has a unique dreamy quality. Michael’s other creative interests include drawing, animation and puppetry.

Niall Cleary is the Artistic Director and CEO of Graffiti Theatre in Cork. Graffiti directing credits include: ‘Humans: A Robot Musical’ by John McCarthy, ‘The Sleep that Ceased to Settle’, ‘This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing’ by Finegan Kruckemeyer and ‘Trasna’; a bilingual show devised by the company. Niall has directed numerous productions for youth theatres including The National Youth Theatre 2023 for the Peacock stage at the Abbey Theatre and has presented work at festivals including; Cork Midsummer Festival, Galway Arts Festival, Baboró and Connections at the National Theatre, London. He is the current chair of TYAI and former chair of Youth Theatre Ireland.

Petal Pilley is Blue Teapot's Artistic Director and it’s therefore no surprise she has a deep commitment to inclusive theatre practice. She has extensive experience in creating theatre with ID actors and inclusive casts, commissioning new plays such as Christian O’Reilly’s Sanctuary and Charlene Kelly’s Into the Dark Woods, theatre direction, and bringing to fruition creative projects and people.

Linda Geraghty (Panel Chair) has over 15 years experience working within professional creative settings and holds the role of Creative Producer to lead an exciting and dynamic artist/producer support initiative, Meitheal. Devised by Branar, Meitheal works to advance the development of high-quality work for children and young people across the performing arts disciplines in Ireland. Formerly Venue Director at Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, Linda spent 12 years working to develop a core programme strand for young people, and position Riverbank as a key venue within the YPCE sector. Linda has also worked in the audio world as a radio producer, creating documentaries on a diverse range of subjects from music, wreck diving and science for young audiences. She is passionate about children and their right to access excellent arts experiences.