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Arts Connect Media and Events Team at Towner, Eastbourne

An exciting new partnership based at Towner in Eastbourne, East Sussex is changing the way people with learning disabilities relate to this award-winning contemporary art gallery and museum – and changing the way the gallery promotes its programme to learning disabled audiences.

Arts Connect Media and Events Team are a group of young people with learning disabilities from Eastbourne and the surrounding areas. Between them, the young people boast skills in photography, digital media, 3D design, music performance, creative writing, spoken word and puppetry.

Over four weeks, the Media and Events Team worked with staff from learning, marketing, front of house and curatorial. They learned about the inner workings of this busy gallery, developing skills in event management and arts marketing, and gaining insight into the behind-the-scenes activities of major exhibitions.

Joining Arts Connect was a good opportunity to try something different and meet new people… it made me look at the gallery in a new way. It gave me a better knowledge of what the different roles are. It made me think about how I could use my skills in character design and filmmaking for future projects. For example if Towner wanted to promote the exhibitions coming up.

Crew Member Lucy

The Arts Connect team road-tested ways of reaching new audiences at Towner, for example, devising innovative approaches to increase engagement and access including short infomercial videos and comic strips to a podcast exploring Towner’s recent major Arts Council Collection exhibition, ‘A Certain Kind of Light‘.

You can listen to the Arts Connect podcast here:

This project has provided a two-way learning experience for the Media and Events Team and Towner staff, with staff developing an improved understand of how Towner’s offer, and the promotion of this offer, could be tailored to the need and interests of people with learning disabilities.

As one crew member put it:

If we see someone like us represented in a poster, it makes us feel welcome.

Crew Member Mikey

The Media and Events Team project has grown out of Culture Shift’s four year Arts Connect programme, which showcases the creative achievements of people with learning disabilities and offers opportunities for participation in the arts and cultural life of their communities.

Following their experiences at Towner, the Media and Events Team put their new skills to good use during the Every Sort of People festival, which took place on 13 May 2017 at Lewes football ground. This accessible, community festival featured an array of disabled and non-disabled artists, bands, DJs and art across three stages including performances by Richard Hadfield, Delta 7, Tongue and Groove, Lizzie Emeh and Arthur Brown.

The Media Crew were down there documenting the whole event with video and photographs… There was a mixture of bands and it was cool meeting Arthur Brown from the Crazy World of Arthur Brown from the 60s. I got his autograph. There were lots of creative activities to do and different organisations promoting what they do.

Crew Member Lucy

Following a successful pilot, Towner is continuing to run the Event and Media Team, with support from Culture Shift. As Esther Springett, Learning Coordinator says:

It was great to work with colleagues to explore audience voice and visibility alongside supporting a group of creative individuals within the community to develop their relationship with Towner. I am excited to develop on our integrated approach to programming at the gallery which is inclusive and promotes diversity.

Esther Springett, Learning Coordinator, Towner Art Gallery


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