I’m Me: Identity, Representation and Voice

I’m Me is two-year creative research project that will work with learning disabled and autistic artists to explore questions of identity, representation and voice.

Learning disabled and autistic people are amongst the most marginalised and voice-less within our society. They are often seen as vulnerable and needing protection or care, while rarely having a voice, even with issues that directly relate to disability.

I’m Me will work with learning disabled and autistic artists’ lived experiences, placing them at the centre of the research process exploring:

  • Identity – how do we perceive ourselves
  • Representation – how do others perceive us
  • Voice – how do we make our presence in the world known

The project will adapt an approach based on the Creative Doodle Book, a resource that uses open and playful tasks to encourage reflective self-expression. Through this approach the perceptions, insights and creative understandings of the peer researchers will be at the heart of both the process and the outcomes.

I’m Me is generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is led by Professor Matthew Reason from the Institute for Social Justice at York St John University. The project will be conducted in collaboration with Mind the Gap and in partnership with a network of six disability arts companies: About Face, Confidance, Hijinx, Lung Ha, Open Theatre, and Under the Stars  

The project will run from May 2023 to June 2025, culminating in a Festival that will incorporate performances, exhibitions, and videos, showcasing the artistic talents and perspectives of the learning disabled and autistic artists involved in the project.


About Face

About Face Theatre Co started in 1995, we use masks and all forms of puppetry to perform our work which we tour locally and across the country. We are constantly striving to make theatre that is new and changes perceptions of Learning Disabled actors


Confidance are a dance company with integrity, creativity and inclusion at its heart. Through three core pathways – education, community and professional training – Confidance are developing high quality dance opportunities for people with learning disabilities in Kent.


Hijinx are a professional producing company working to pioneer, produce and promote opportunities for artists with learning disabilities and/or autism. The heart of our work is always our learning disabled and/or autistic identifying artists, who constantly challenge perceptions of what theatre and film can be and how they should be made. Performances that change the way that we perceive the world are the performances that remain with us forever. This is what we aspire to make. 

Lung Ha Theatre Company

Lung Ha Theatre Company is Scotland’s leading theatre company, founded in 1984, for actors and theatre makers with learning disabilities. Our productions can be seen locally, nationally and internationally.

Open Theatre

Open Theatre’s vision is to make the West Midlands a centre of innovative practice and excellence for young people with learning disabilities (YPWLD). Our core purpose is to develop and promote the creativity and artistry of YPWLD. We enable YPWLD to access and integrate into culture and society and make meaningful contributions to the life of the region and beyond, becoming artists, leaders and practitioners of the future. 

Under the Stars

Under the Stars is a creative arts organisation for people with learning disabilities and/or autism. Through our weekly workshops in drama, music, and dance, we help to develop people’s skills and confidence to create original theatre, music, and film. We work with local venues and arts organisations to give people opportunities to perform plays, DJ at our regular nightclubs or other events and play gigs in places where people with a disability are often underrepresented.

“We are thrilled to be part of the I’m Me Project. Identity, knowing who you are and how you are seen, is fundamental in devising work . Shouting out and being proud, being seen is what it is all about. Having the opportunity to share ideas with other theatre makers and creatives is very exciting. We hope we will find and create a larger vocabulary and understanding of who we are.”

About Face

“We are so thrilled to be part of the peer network for the “I’m Me” project, giving our ConfiCo training artists the opportunity to share their experiences and learn from peers at such an early stage of their careers. This project is timely for ConfiCo, offering a chance to learn more about the wider context of their work and express themselves amongst peers. We are proud to be included in such a wealth of knowledge and excellent inclusive practice.”


“We are looking forward to being involved in the ‘I’m Me’ project as for our artists being able to explore big and complex issues, such as identity, in an accessible and inclusive manner will strengthen their voices as artists and their confidence as individuals. We are also aligned with the project in our commitments and ambitions to shift public perceptions and assert the need for learning disabled and autistic voices in public discourse and policy.”


“We’re really pleased to be part of this much-needed national project to help ensure far better representation of people with learning disabilities and autistic people within culture and society: in particular we are keen that effective ways for the appropriate representation of those with more complex needs are discovered within this research and disseminated widely.”

Open Theatre

“As an organisation we are committed to placing our participants voice at the centre of everything we do and we endeavour to amplify the voices of people who are often overshadowed and forgotten. We hope that I’m Me will provide not only insight into individual’s thoughts and opinions that we work with but also highlight any commonalities or findings across the board that will inform our work and others in the sector in the future.” 

Under the Stars

“Lung Ha Theatre Company is excited to participate and contribute to this UK wide research opportunity.”

Lung Ha Theatre Company

Research Team

Matthew Reason

I’m Me Principal Investigator

Matthew is Professor of Theatre and Director of the Institute for Social Justice at York St John University. His work uses creative and participatory methods to explore applied and socially engaged theatre across a number of contexts.

Kelsie Acton

I’m Me Post-Doc Research Fellow

Kelsie a neurodivergent access consultant and researcher. Her PhD research into the accessibility of timing in disability dance rehearsal was funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She was the plain language translator for Alice Wong’s Year of a Tiger and MsSweeney’s The Audio Issue. She is a member of the Critical Design Lab, a multi-national, multi-institutional collective focused on access, disability and design.

Jade French

I’m Me Co-Investigator

Jade French is a practice-led researcher at the University of Leeds who explores inclusive art and museum studies. Between 2021-23 she lead the AHRC research project ‘Irregular’ Art Schools which aimed to innovate professional development opportunities for learning disabled artists

Daniel Foulds

I’m Me Research Assistant

Daniel is a writer and researcher with a learning disability based in Bradford. He joined Mind the Gap in 2013 and is now an Associate Artist with the company. He has worked in multiple research led projects including Daughters of Fortune, Hidden History, ENGAGE and more recently his own experience led project In Neither Camp which looks at Identity and belonging as someone with a Learning Disabilty.

A headshot of Zara Mallinson. Zara is a white woman with dark ginger hair and blue eyes. She is smiling and is wearing a grey jumper with a blue star on the front. She is pictured against a dark background.

Zara Mallinson

I’m Me Research Assistant

Zara is an Artist from Mind the Gap. She joined the company when she was 16, and over the last 20 years she has toured all over the country as an actor and musician with shows like ZARA, CONTAINED and Anna. Zara is a natural facilitator and recently she has worked as a co-facilitator on MTG’s Get Into Performing Arts course in Calderdale, and the One Day Theatre course.

Vicky Ackroyd

Totally Inclusive People

Vicky currently holds the ‘Trainer Award’ for 2016/17 from the National Learning Disability and Autism Awards. She has worked in a variety of education settings for over 15 years, and has developed a number of training offers to support organisations in best practice, and students at the beginning of their professional lives. Vicky has co-written journal articles with academics from the University of Leeds, and her innovative teaching approaches have been evaluated by researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Jess Boyes

Leadership and Change Producer

Jess is Artists & Partnerships Producer at Mind the Gap. She works closely with the company’s learning disabled & autistic artists to co- design leadership development opportunities and develop ideas for independent work, and works with partners to make the arts sector more accessible for artists.

Brian Hartley


Brian is a Glasgow based artist and designer with a multi-disciplinary practice incorporating visual art, design, and working in participatory settings. He is looking forward to working on Im Me, to be able to continue the creative practice begun through the Creative Doodle Book Project with Matthew Reason and Mind the Gap.

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