By Bee Skivington
23 March 2021
Since September 2019, Mind the Gap has been running Supported Work Placements for six Artists with learning disabilities. These placements enable the Artists involved to work alongside experienced tutors at the company with the long-term aim that all of our courses can be co-facilitated by a learning disabled and non-disabled practitioner.
While the programme has only been running for around 18 months, the idea has been brewing for a long time. Mind the Gap Artists were already well experienced in co-facilitating workshops and training sessions outside of the building, but the Staging Change programme has allowed us to embed this model within the Academy. These Artists have a huge wealth of lived experience as performers with learning disabilities and/or autism, which is invaluable to students at Mind the Gap Academy. Furthermore, working alongside Artists with learning disabilities helps build aspiration and understanding for our students about what is possible in terms of future career opportunities.
Tutors have been working with the Artists involved to pick and plan what they are going to run each week. This may be a warm up, a game, an activity or even a full session. The amount of facilitation by each Artist grows and develops weekly over a full academic year to build confidence, skills in leading a wide variety of sessions and to help them understand how to develop the students’ skills over a long period of time.
One of the Supported Work Placements, Emily Kent, says: “I have really enjoyed teaching workshops so far. The opportunity has really allowed me to develop my skills, both as a teacher and as a dancer. It has been strange over the past year teaching online but I think this has challenged us even more. I can’t wait to get back into the studio to try out some of the skills I have developed in live sessions.”
Hopefully, one of the outcomes of the Supported Work Placements will be a pool of new tutors who will be able to lead sessions both inside and outside of our building with support. The most exciting part of it for us as a company though is the ability to up-skill people with learning disabilities and/or autism in order to further their career within the arts.
Mind the Gap’s Staging Change programme is funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.