Cultural Shift is ARC’s strategic programme of activity, delivered in partnership with Little Cog, actively programming and delivering new and increased opportunities for disabled people in the arts. We are working to ensure our cultural landscape is vibrant and representative of the people living and working in our communities. 

The aims of Cultural Shift are:

• to challenge negative commonly held perceptions about disability and disabled people
• to involve disabled people in the arts at every level

ARC, through its artistic policy is committed to supporting work which is contemporary in its approach and relevant to peoples’ lives today.

The work of disabled artists and participants in the programme may or may not have a disability focus, although we are ensuring that the work is disabled-led.


Disability: We are working to the Social Model of Disability which was developed by disabled people. The social model says that disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. It looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for disabled people. Such barriers include physical, sensory, information and attitudinal barriers and solutions include accessible buildings with level access and lifts, British Sign Language, and infra-red or induction loop hearing access, guide or assistance dog access, braille, large print and audio information, and a change in attitudes and practices by increasing understanding of disability and disability equality. We aim to work with disabled people of all ages and from across all communities.

Disabled-led: A programme or project which is informed, managed and delivered by disabled people

Self-defining: We also realise that many people with impairments do not identify themselves as disabled, for many reasons, but sometimes due to the negative stigma attached to ideas around ‘disability’. This is part of the conversation our Cultural Shift project is having. We believe that in order to achieve equality for disabled artists, practitioners, professionals, managers, participants and audiences, it is necessary to use definitions about disability, although we do not expect people to change how they chose to define themselves.

Disabled Voices: Artists, Directors, Actors and Writers

In line with our existing commitment to present work that is contemporary and relevant to local audiences, artists, and participants, we are exploring the ethics of who tells the stories of disabled people in the work we commission, programme and support. We aim to ensure that work with a disability focus is disabled led and that artists creating work about disability are disabled people or have a lived experience of disability. We expect disabled people to fill the roles of disabled characters and also to encourage artists and companies to cast disabled people in roles where disability is not necessarily a focus of the production.


We aim to both increase the audiences for the work of disabled people and disabled people as audience members in the way that we promote and engage people through our marketing, audience development and engagement plan.


We aim to both increase the participation of disabled people and disabled people as participants in our activities in the way we promote and engage people, both through our marketing, audience development and engagement plan, and developing new partnerships.

Programming and Commissioning

Our programme will create a platform for the voices of disabled artists and companies by increasing the number of disabled-led productions and companies we support and present. We will work with artists to ensure that the content of their work champions changing perceptions of disability and disabled people, and ensure the work we programme and commission does not perpetuate negative stereotypes and myths around disability and disabled people (read more about that here). This will increase our dialogue with companies and enhance partnerships.

If you are a disabled artist or are approaching us about work that considers disability, illness or mental health, please watch our short film first.

Involving and Including Disabled People

Cultural Shift is involving disabled people in the discussion about the development of its programme. We are ensuring that the project is directly informed by disabled people and we have a steering group guiding the project, which involves people as Participants of Change in its first year, Champions of Change in its second year and Agents of Change in its third year. We plan to involve disabled people in any key areas of development for the programme and for ARC.

Furthering the Conversation

Our work on Cultural Shift is not taking place as an ‘add-on’ to our existing work but we aim to embed the cultural equality of disabled people into all aspects of ARC. The programme exists in neither isolation nor a vacuum. All staff have received disability equality training and each department is examining the implications of this knowledge for its work.

ARC is supporting artists to develop new work and in so doing provides a home for the creation of new work, an outside eye, and aims to support artists with mentoring and professional support for anything outlined in this policy. We are developing a useful information bank and will develop creative workshops and development days which artists can take part in.

Equally the work of ARC does not sit in isolation but is part of local, regional and national cultural ecology and we are proactive members and leaders of a number of professional networks with whom we aim to share our work and our practice. Our work will be shared in wider cultural settings by sharing our findings and supporting our Agent of Change as a key influencer.

More than anything we are ready and keen to talk to disabled artists, disabled-led companies and organisations, participants, young people, staff, participants and audiences about improving the many and varied opportunities created through Cultural Shift.

Legacy and Forward Planning

It is an integral aim that the legacy of Cultural Shift continues well beyond the three year programme. We will evaluate the project each year with an external evaluator and with the support of our funder, Spirit of 2012 Trust, and review all policies as we proceed, making any necessary changes as we develop. Longer term aims for Cultural Shift include:

• Further work being supported and developed as a result of demand identified through this project
• More disabled people will engage with ARC at every level
• Disabled participants will be supported towards independent arts activity beyond the project, for example if a group wishes to fundraise for further activity they will be supported
• Full Circle and associated learning disabled performers will have a three year development plan in place
• Disabled residency artists will have received mentoring and supported to draft a development plan for their work beyond the programme
• New networks and partnerships will have been established to continue elements of the project
• The Agent of Change will have become a key influencer in disability and diversity and will continue to work in the field

ARC will continue to act as a beacon for best practice around disability, demonstrated by:

• More work by disabled artists appearing in ARC’s programme
• More disabled people attending ARC as audience members
• More disabled people attending ARC to participate in regular creative learning activity
• Greater visibility of the work of the venue in a disability context 
• Continuing to share our models of practice and learning from the programme across the region and beyond, seeking to influence practice in other venues and organisations