The campaign, launched today and lead by the Disability Arts Alliance, is a “celebration of the value, rich contribution and leadership of Deaf & Disabled artists”.
Jenny Sealey MBE, CEO & Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre said: “It is vital we work collectively to support each other through and after the storm of COVID-19 and ensure that our disabled community is at the heart of evolving arts policy and practice”.
At the time of writing, the hashtags #WeShallNotBeRemoved and #EndAbleism is trending at number five in the United Kingdom on Twitter.
The DH Ensemble tweeted: “We celebrate Deaf & disabled artists’ contributions to the artistic landscape. Include Deaf & disabled artists in the conversation about our collective future.”
Deafinitely Theatre added: “Today we stand together with deaf and disabled artists in proud support of #WeShallNotBeRemoved.
“It is an incredibly difficult time for theatre & many other sectors, so today we are celebrating why we make the bilingual work we do, putting deaf theatre centre stage. Stay tuned.”
Meanwhile, captioning charity Stagetext said: “Without subtitles, live subtitles and captions, millions of d/Deaf people would be excluded from arts and cultural events at theatres, museums and galleries.”
As well as organisations, deaf and disabled artists have also contributed to the campaign, with Deaf performer Nadia Nadarajah tweeting: “Today is a celebration of Disability Arts & all Deaf, disabled & neurodivergent artists across the UK who have contributed to its rich culture, progression & pride.
“To those we have lost along the way, today is also for you; your legacy.”
Fellow Deaf artist Charlotte Arrowsmith said many Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists in the UK “have contributed to the rich culture, progression and pride of all art forms”.
“Let’s continue to put EVERYONE on an equal platform and move forwards,” she said.
Elsewhere, London theatres have also promoted the campaign, with the Bush Theatre and Lyric Theatre Hammersmith tweeting their support.
The Royal Court Theatre took to Twitter and said: “We support #WeShallNotBeRemoved and stand with the amazing Disabled artists and #DisabilityArts orgs. The arts sector recovery after #COVID19 has to be inclusive.”
The National Theatre also expressed solidarity, sharing production images from recent productions involving disabled talent.
However, VocalEyes, an organisation focussed on audio description in theatre, responded by saying: “As has been pointed out, none of these have been streamed during lockdown.”
The NT replied and said: “We’d love to be able to stream more shows! But there are lots of factors involved in which plays we’ve been able to programme during lockdown.”
Today’s campaign follows an open letter to the Culture Secretary last week, signed by 140 D/deaf and disabled artists and organisations.
The letter to Oliver Dowden MP reads: “The UK’s vibrant disability and inclusive arts sector is globally recognised as world leading. Across the last four decades a combination of the limitless imagination of disabled artists and essential public funding has led to a never-before-seen flowering of D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled talent on our national stages and screens, in our literature and our galleries.
“Disabled people are increasingly part of the national cultural infrastructure as artists but also as employees, administrators and trustees, in every artform and in every capacity. It was recently established that disabled people also make up 12% of national arts audiences in England.
“All this inclusive progress is threatened by Covid-19,” the letter reads.
The document goes on to add that most disabled people in the creative industries are self-employed and “deeply concerned” due to the Government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme ending in August.
They say that disabled artists are shielding on a long-term basis and are facing a “total loss of income”.
“Disabled cultural leaders call on the government and the sector to ensure the progress we have collectively made does not falter in this moment of crisis.
“Disabled artists, employees and audiences must be prioritised and celebrated in both cultural policy and delivery,” it says.
More information about We Shall Not Be Removed, including the open letter, can be found on Graeae Theatre’s website.