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Liam Bairstow on Staging Change

Staging Change was created to give artists with learning disabilities like myself more independence and more opportunities outside of the company. It has allowed us to gain work experience, present at conferences and work on events.

An image of Liam Bairstow - an early thirties white man with downs syndrome. He has dark hair swept across his forehead and is wearing a white t-shirt

I have been with Mind the Gap for eleven years now, seven of them as an Artist for the company. I have toured both nationally and internationally and even landed the role of Alex on Coronation Street in 2015. Over the past three years I have been involved in the Staging Change programme alongside other Artists at Mind the Gap.

Staging Change was created to give artists with learning disabilities like myself more independence and more opportunities outside of the company. It has allowed us to gain work experience, present at conferences and work on events.

Staging Change has given us the time to have more positive conversations and discussions about learning disability and disability arts and look at how the world can change and become a more accessible and inclusive place. This has helped to take away the fear of upsetting people. We have been able to talk about barriers that people might have and understand that these barriers are caused by the world we live in and not by the disability we have. By talking about disability more we have more knowledge of how to support each other.

Staging Change has given us all the tools to work more independently. We found out more about the arts sector. We met people who work for different organisations, learnt about their roles and how they could support us. We also explored the history of learning disability and examples of disabled artists using their art to get their message across. This has helped the Artists develop confidence in our own ability and allowed us to take responsibility for our own careers.

All of this has made us more confident to talk to different people and find opportunities instead of waiting from them to come to us. It has also helped us to discover what our strongest areas are, where we are most talented and how to use that talent. It has made sure that we, as learning-disabled artists, have our voices heard.

By Liam Bairstow, Mind the Gap Artist

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