Blog New Website Header (11) (1)

How can Rural and Community Touring Schemes be more inclusive, Unanima Theatre?

Monday, 04 December


We chatted with Artistic Director Tracy Radford and Clinical Psychologist Dr Brad English from Unanima Theatre Company about the fantastic work they do and why it's important to make rural touring inclusive. 

Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and your work?

Unanima is an arts organisation that provides a variety of creative, cultural and campaign opportunities for learning disabled and/or autistic (LDA) people in and around Mansfield & Ashfield.

We are a National Portfolio Organisation for the Arts Council and a charity that is run by co-CEOS Tracy Radford and Dr Brad English, and governed by a trustee board, that proudly has learning disabled representation on it.

24 06 2022 States Of Independance Unanima HIGH 24

We have several strands of work...

Unanima Theatre - Unanima Theatre is Company in Residence at The Old Library in Mansfield and has been creating work since 2008. Our cast is exclusively LDA and using a collaborative devising process we create unique, witty, provocative theatre based on their lives, experiences and questions about the world and their existence within it.

Through compelling performances that invite audiences to laugh, ponder and wonder we seek to stimulate social change.  

We are passionate about removing the societal barriers faced by LDA people and we will continue to produce art that sparks solutions to this.

OneFest - OneFest is a week-long culture, comedy and campaigning festival held across Mansfield and Ashfield that has the primary aim of smashing the stigma and segregation LDA people face on a societal level. Though we curate the festival in a way that favours learning disabled and neurodivergent opportunities (both in terms of performers and audiences), we are dedicated to it being a space for everyone, disabled or not, to experience high calibre arts, culture, and partying. OneFest gives the LDA a chance to be out, loud and proud, and creates a rare context where the rest of the community surprises themselves by getting alongside their LDA counterparts and properly enjoying it.

Across seven days we deliver an exciting line-up of entertainment that is rich with high-profile professional artists, comedians and creatives. All events are accessible, reasonably priced or free, and provide experiences that will inspire and excite.

Human Artist - Human Artist is a year-long, entry-level programme in performance making and creativity, delivered by Unanima at Portland College as part of their curriculum offer. Students undergo the exploration of drama elements that expose each learner to the craft of theatre making and allows them to flex their creative muscles, as well as allowing them to enjoy all the well-being benefits and transferable skills that are gained through this.

Local Area Network - The Local Area Network is an initiative developed by Unanima and Inspire Youth Arts to bring all providers of creative provision in Mansfield and Ashfield for LDA people together. 

For LDA people across the region to have an equity of opportunity, there needs to be established programmes, pathways and routes that enable progression and development. The network has come together to map, plan and radically change the arts offer for LDA people in Mansfield and Ashfield predominantly, but looking forward, see this as the beginning of an offer that will be of interest to LDA people from outside of the area.

OneConversation - This is our grassroots activist movement that campaigns by working with organisations, schools and businesses to smash cognitive ableism and make it unacceptable.

How can Rural and Community Touring Schemes be more inclusive? 

Ask yourself why you want to be inclusive.Understand the barriers involved for disabled companies. Identify more funding to enable supported touring.

What challenges are there for inclusive companies in rural touring? 

Our cast is exclusively LDA. Our actors are not professional actors and they have quite structured lives outside of their commitment with us. Many attend Day Service and/or other provisions, and they would be reluctant to give this up, even for a short amount of time. Many have health issues and live with parents or in supported housing and require support with medication. Therefore, a continuous tour run, and at venues that would require accommodation away from home, would present many barriers for our members, with one of the most immediate being that all logistics of the ensemble as a whole, and as individuals become the responsibility of the neurotypical ‘leaders’ of the group.  

24 06 2022 States Of Independance Unanima HIGH 36

Why should rural venues book inclusive shows? 

Because stories from unheard and marginalised voices deserve to be heard. The representation of LDA people within theatre is woeful. If we make the effort to programme LDA work then we can help to educate our communities and make them more inclusive.

How can companies be more inclusive? What support structures exist for more inclusivity in the arts? 

Think about the disability way before you plan to employ someone.Talk with companies that are getting it right and learn from them. 

Do not think that to have LDA people in a show that it needs to be a LDA focused storyline.Ensure that there is no tokenism or virtue signaling in your desire to be inclusive.Undertake ableism awareness training for all staff.Explore and get familiar with Access to Work.Develop Access riders.
Factor in access, when applying for bids.

24 06 2022 States Of Independance Unanima HIGH 3

Do you have any exciting projects lined up to tell us about? 

We are in the middle of devising our next piece of work that explores how little difference there is between the attitudes towards LDA people in the past compared to the now.It is equally revealing and disturbing. 


Thank you to Tracy, Brad and Unanima Theatre for this interview.

More recent posts

All posts

Join our mailing list