Access for all

Access for all is key priniciple throughout the work being done both by the Council and the cultural organisations working in the borough. Much of this work focusses on how to make sure that existing and new opportunities to enjoy culture and to join the borough’s creative workforce are available and accessible to everyone. There are also areas where additional opportunities are commissioned to those who would benefit from specialist support.

Case study: Supporting people to fulfil their potential

Nnena Kalu, a Wandsworth resident, joined ActionSpace in 1999. She has complex autism, a severe learning disability, and is functionally non-verbal. She requires 24-hour support and a high level of supervision at all times. Nnena was originally introduced to ActionSpace through Atheldene Day Centre, who were looking for activities outside the centre that some of their more complex service users would be able to access. Nnena quickly showed an aptitude and a strong desire to create art. This gave her a sense of purpose and Nnena currently comes to ActionSpace two times a week.

Over 18 years of working together, artist facilitator, Charlotte Hollinshead, and Nnena have developed a warm and intuitive relationship. Charlotte is able to support Nnena’s needs to such an extent that Nnena is completely in charge of the direction her work takes. This relationship between the artist facilitator and the artist is a central feature of ActionSpace’s model for nurturing and developing artists with learning disabilities. Also important is the ability for the artists to attend weekly supported studio sessions over a number of years. This gives them a safe, comfortable, familiar environment in which they feel able to explore, experiment and take risks in creating their artwork.

Nnena is now one of ActionSpace’s most accomplished and respected artists. Her work has been widely exhibited in mainstream contemporary arts venues and festivals with national recognition. She has had solo exhibitions at Glasgow International (2018), Humber Street Gallery in Hull (2019), and Studio Voltaire at Old Burlington Street London (2020), as well as having her work regularly displayed within Wandsworth.

Case study: Reimagining theatre for young audiences to make it more accessible

Oily Cart challenges the accepted definitions of theatre and audience by creating innovative and highly interactive Sensory Theatre productions for disabled children and young people who experience multiple barriers to access.

Each year, Oily Cart, based in Wandsworth, tours two original productions to over 5,000 children, young people and their families/carers across the UK. Working with the specialist schools in the Borough and local families, they tailor performances to individual children and young people for whom standardised theatre formats or larger audiences create barriers to access and engagement. They also produce accessible family shows that provide opportunities for the integration of both disabled and non-disabled audiences.

For almost forty years Oily Cart have played a key role in supporting young people, demonstrating their absolute commitment to:

  • Making a positive difference to the lives of disabled children and young people and their families, who are often excluded from cultural activities because of the barriers they face.
  • Encouraging participation in and enjoyment of cultural activity for disabled children and young people who face complex barriers to engagement, and to provide shared social experiences where families can participate together
  • Responding to significant demand from specialist school and family audiences where there is a serious gap in cultural provision for these audiences
  • Raising the public and cultural profile of these audiences and the importance of cultural provision for them
  • Placing the disabled child or young person as the reason for and the central focus of the work.

“Every child’s need was met. We saw reactions in some children that we hadn’t experienced before. Very emotional and very moving!” – Audience feedback from Oily Cart’s ‘Splish Splash’ show

“I have taken my daughter to five different Oily Cart shows and each time I am reduced to tears. Tears of relief that a group of talented artists actually want to work with children like mine and are attuned to awakening interest and enjoyment in a wide variety of needs. In an Oily Cart show, everyone is equal. You cannot put a price on the feeling of acceptance and pride in seeing your child take part in a performance with people they haven’t met before; these are valuable skills being taught beyond just the experience of the show.” – Audience member