Open letter to the Culture Secretary – #WeShallNotBeRemoved

By We Shall Not Be Removed collective, June, 9 2020

The below is an open letter to the Culture Secretary from Deaf and disabled cultural leaders, artists, and inclusive companies on safeguarding the future of disability arts in the UK.

The press release can be downloaded here, and accessible versions are below:

Easy Read by Jade French
Audio Flyer by Vici Wreford-Sinnott
BSL interpretation by Becoming Visible. SLI Nicholas Padden-Duncan

The Rt Hon Olivier Dowden CBE
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
100 Parliament Street
London SW1 2BQ

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Dear Secretary of State,

The UK’s vibrant disability and inclusive arts sector is globally recognised as world leading. Across the last four decades a combination of the limitless imagination of disabled artists and essential public funding has led to a never-before-seen flowering of D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled talent on our national stages and screens, in our literature and our galleries.

Disabled people are increasingly part of the national cultural infrastructure as artists but also as employees, administrators and trustees, in every artform and in every capacity. It was recently established that disabled people also make up 12% of national arts audiences in England.

All this inclusive progress is threatened by Covid-19.

The pandemic impacts on livelihoods, health, social care and creativity are all frighteningly magnified for disabled people. Worse, most disabled people operating in the creative industries are self-employed and deeply concerned about their future as a consequence of SEISS ending in August.  Many disabled artists are facing long term shielding, a total loss of income, compromised independent living and the risk of invisibility in wider society.

Disabled cultural leaders call on the government and the sector to ensure the progress we have collectively made does not falter in this moment of crisis. Disabled artists, employees and audiences must be prioritised and celebrated in both cultural policy and delivery.

Additionally, the industry that closed in March, simply didn’t work for many of us. The renewal and recovery of the wider cultural industries must be guided by a fully inclusive approach informed by disabled creative professionals to strengthen the accessibility of the sector and implement the learning from this crisis about home working and online access.

Our visionary Disability Arts Movement used a phrase in the 1980s that greatly advanced the cause of the Social Model of Disability being adopted across the world. That phrase is as relevant now in the midst of this pandemic as it was then: nothing about us without us.

In this sentiment we are in full solidarity with our Black and Asian theatre colleagues who wrote to you on 28 May and with the seismic actions being taken across the world through the Black Lives Matter movement.

Disability arts is a uniquely British success story and as disabled people, we wish to play our part in the national recovery. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our concerns directly, as with your support Secretary of State, we shall not be removed.


Jenny Sealey MBE, CEO/Artistic Director, Graeae Theatre
Andrew Miller, Disability Champion for Arts & Culture
Tony Heaton OBE, Chair, Shape Arts
David Hevey, CEO, Shape Arts
Ruth Fabby MBE, DL, Director of Disability Arts Cymru
Robert Softley Gale, Artistic Director, Birds of Paradise Theatre Company
Jodi-Alissa Bickerton, Creative Learning Director, Graeae Theatre
Jo Verrent, Senior Producer, Unlimited
Vici Wreford-Sinnott, Artistic Director, Little Cog / Disconsortia
Barry Farrimond MBE, CEO, Open Up Music and National Open Youth Orchestra
Carien Meijer, Chief Executive, Drake Music
Gareth Cutter, independent artist & Artist in Residence (Drake Music)
Melanie Sharpe, CEO, Stagetext
Julie McGowan, Trustee at The University of the Atypical, independent artist.
Stephen Bailey, Resident Assistant Director, Chichester Festival Theatre
Toki Allison, BFI FAN Access Officer, Inclusive Cinema – Film Hub Wales
Aisling Gallagher, freelance director, theatre practitioner, Councillor London Borough of Lewisham
Kelsie Acton, dancer/choreographer, Inclusive Practice Manager, Battersea Arts Centre
Becki Morris, Director of Disability Collaborative Network C.I.C.
Robert Sanderson, venue manager retired, arts management consultant occasional
Jonny Cotsen, Freelance Theatre Maker / Access Consultant & Facilitator
Chris Tally Evans, freelance artist
Trish Wheatley, CEO, Disability Arts Online
Stephanie Fuller, Director/CEO, Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft
Linda Rocco, Freelance Curator, Producer and Consultant
Andrew Roach, Talent Agent/MD, Andrew Roach Talent Ltd
Daryl Beeton, Daryl Beeton Productions
Jonathan Harper, Chief Executive, Paraorchestra
Michèle Taylor, Director for Change, Ramps on the Moon
Lloyd Coleman, Associate Music Director, Paraorchestra
Sophie Woolley, Freelance Writer & Performer
Simon Morris, General Manager, Blue Apple Theatre
Ellie Page, Writer, Designer & Consultant, Managing Partner Still Ill OK + Nice Time Arts
John R. Wilkinson, Freelance Theatre Director,  Artistic Associate, York Theatre Royal
Caglar Kimyoncu, Artistic Director, filmpro
Dr Jessi Parrott, Performer, Poet and Academic
Steve Moffitt, CEO, A New Direction
Joanne Roughton-Arnold, Opera Singer & Company Director, formidAbility
Julian Gray, Freelance Illustrator
Mik Scarlet, Broadcaster, Musician, Actor & Inclusive Practice Consultant.
Mat Fraser, actor and writer, co-director of ONEOFUS
Paul Wilshaw, actor and producer, Assistant producer at Mind the Gap
Tim Wheeler, freelance theatre-maker, arts consultant and lecturer
Kyle McCall Wilson, Social Media Marketing Officer at EGO Performance Company
Charlotte Darbyshire, Artistic Director, Candoco Dance Company
Jo Royce, Executive Director, Candoco Dance Company
Becky Morris Knight, Freelance Comms & working with Drake Music
Donna Holford-Lovell, Director, NEoN Digital Arts (NEoN)
David Proud, Freelance Actor, Writer, Director
Samantha Tatlow, Talent Coordinator, thinkBIGGER! Ltd,
Justin Edgar, Film Director, Writer and Producer, 104 films
Sam Oldknow Film Studies Masters Student
Kim Tserkezie, Actor, Presenter, Producer, MD Scattered Pictures
Jamie Beddard, Co-Director Diverse City & Agent for Change New Wolsey
Philippa Cole, Actor
Kyla Harris, Actor, Writer and founder of The Other Screen
Ella Glendining, Filmmaker and Writer
Sho Shibata, Executive Producer, Stopgap Dance Company
Lucy Bennett, Artistic Director, Stopgap Dance Company
Jennifer Gilbert, Director Jennifer Lauren Gallery and freelance producer/curator
Amy Cunningham, Creative Director, Dark Horse Theatre
Jess Thom, Co-artistic Director, Touretteshero
Matthew Pountney, Co-artistic Director, Touretteshero
Bobby Baker, artist, Artistic Director, Daily Life Ltd.
Joe Stevenson, Freelance Writer and Musician
Hannah Quigley, freelance director/practitioner/arts manager
Eleanore Hall, artist, Project Manager, Club Soda Croydon
Flossie Waite, Communications & Engagement Producer, Oily Cart Theatre Company
Alison Garratt, Touring Producer, Oily Cart Theatre Company
Martin Wilson, Director, TIN Arts
Georgie Morrell, Comedian, Actor and Writer
Tom Wentworth, playwright, screenwriter
Midnight Memphis, BFI FAN Access Coordinator, Beacon Films Exhibition Officer, Relaxed Screenings programmer.
Nick Llewellyn, Artistic Director, Access All Areas
Rachel Rogers, Producer, DaDaFest, Liverpool
Hana Pascal Keegan, Freelance Director / Writer / Dramaturg
Nabil Shaban, founder of Graeae Theatre, actor, writer, painter, novelist, poet, film-maker (Sirius Pictures), disability rights activist
Lorna O’Brien, Creative Manager, MarketPlace, Creative People And Places
Sarah Horner, Chief Executive, Hijinx Theatre
Laura Jones, Head of Talent Development, Stopgap Dance Company
Ellie Griffiths, Artistic Director, Oily Cart Theatre
Elise Davison, Artistic Director, Taking Flight Theatre Company
Stephanie Back, Actor, workshop facilitator and lead artist of Deaf & Fabulous Productions
Laura Rees, Actor and current student of MA in Applied Theatre at Goldsmiths University
Ashokkumar Mistry, Artist, Curator, Writer
Deborah Dickinson, Senior Producer, Mind the Gap
Heather Andrews, Sound Artist, Sound Designer and Recordist
Casey Bottono, BA (Hons), MA Writer and Workshop Leader, The Writers’ Block
James Rose, Conductor
Rona Topaz, Singer/Actress/Choir Leader
Phoebe Kemp, Freelance Theatre Maker, Chair,Equity D/deaf and Disabled Member’s Committee
Liz Porter, Freelance, Arts & Heritage Access Consultant/performance storyteller
Br. Andy TSSF,Singer/ Disabled Artist / Producer. Chair Disability Advisory Group. NHS.
Beth Hinton-Lever, Actor.
Lady Kitt, Artist and Drag King, co-founder of Nasty Women North East
Nicola Cashin, General manager, EGO Performance Company
Tim Nunn, Artist, Curator and Producer
Simon Yuill, Artist
Amy Trigg, Actor and Writer
Jude Škulec, Stage Technician and Dresser
Charlie Fitz, artist and writer
Will Sadler, Development Director, Beacon Films
Mike Layward, Artistic Director DASH
Katie J Redstar, actor,writer,director
Pauline Heath, Actor and writer
Kathryn Barnett, director of disability-led arts organisation Regeneration NE CIC
Elaine Collins, Artist, Actor, Performer, Theatre Maker, MA student LIPA, Dadafest theatre makers
Dan Edge, Actor, Model, Pro Wrestler, Equity D/deaf & Disabled Members Committee Vice Chair
Tanya Raabe-Webber, Disabled Artist, Painter of People, Director of PortraitsUntold and ArtStudio01-Artists Collective
Michelle Rolfe, Producer, BOP TheatreMorna McGeoch, Development Officer, BOP Theatre
Caroline Cardus, Visual Artist, Creative Producer
Samuel Brewer, Actor/Theatre Maker BA(hons) Acting Student Central School of Speech & Drama
Sarah Archdeacon, Artistic Director, Corali
Georgina Egan, Artistic Director, EGO Performance Company
Corinne Robinson, Artistic Director, EGO Performance Company
Kacey De Groot, Development Manager, EGO Performance Company
Richard Nutter, Executive Director, DaDaFest
Aidan Moesby. Artist/Curator
Dr Vole, disabled singer/songwriter/poet
Ben Pettitt-Wade, Artistic Director, Hijinx
Alan Whitfield, National Visual Arts Officer, Disability Arts Cymru
Sydney Thornbury, CEO/Artistic Director, The Art House, Wakefield
Jen Garrick, Marketing & Communications Director, The Art House, Wakefield
Ellie Tait, Critical Friend and Curator
Samantha Renke, broadcaster and disability rights campaigner
Dame Evelyn Glennie – Musician, President of Help Musicians
Beth House, Development Director/Joint CEO, Taking Flight Theatre Company
Charles Hazlewood, Conductor, Founder and Artistic Director of Paraorchestra
Stella Patrick, Marketing Consultant, Taking Flight Theatre Company and Freelance
Louise Ralph, General Manager, Taking Flight Theatre Company
Olga Macrinici, theatre maker
Emily Garside, Chair Taking Flight Theatre Company.
Garrin Clarke, Stage Manager, Freelance
Katy Stephens, Actor/Manager, EGO Performance Company
Clare-Louise English, Co-Artistic Director, Hot Coals Theatre
Jo Sargeant, Co-Artistic Director, Hot Coals Theatre.
Jamie Hale, freelance writer and theatre practitioner, ensemble artist Graeae Theatre Company
Zara Rush, Producer for Corali Dance Company & People Make It Work
Andrea Swainson, Engagement and Outreach Manager of Corali Dance Company
Jade French, Artist-Facilitator and Academic, University of Leeds
Amit Sharma, Deputy Artistic Director, Birmingham Rep
Jacqui Adeniji-Williams, Artist, Poet, Songwriter, Facilitator
Rachel Gadsden, visual and performance artist
John Kelly, musician and activist
Amble Skuse, composer
Allie Walton-Robson, Creative Director Headway Arts
Luke Pell, Associate Artist at Dance Base and Fevered Sleep
Rhianne Rowson, General Manager Extant
Rosie Heafford, Artistic Director, Second Hand Dance
Nickie Miles-Wildin, Associate Director, Graeae
Kate Adams, Artist Director & CEO, Project Art Works
Selma Dimitrijevic, Artistic Director, Greyscale
Paula Garfield, Artistic Director, Deafinitely Theatre
Alec Finlay, Artist and Poet
Sarah Pickthall, Artist, Consultant, Coach Co-Founder
Ninian Perry, Creative Director, Paragon Music