Guest Blog: Max May, Access all Areas
Access All Areas makes urban, disruptive performance by learning disabled and autistic artists. We create immersive productions through our performance company, provide artist development and have an industry-first partnership with a casting agency to represent seven professional actors with learning disabilities and autism. We deliver the Performance Making Diploma at the Central School of Speech and Drama, run a range of exciting and innovative participatory projects and train organisations in best practice skills for working with people with learning disabilities and autism. All with just three full-time members of staff!
We like to think of ourselves as the little company that could.
We were formed in 1976 as The Rainbow Theatre Group but our current Artistic Director Nick Llewellyn took over in 2009 and the company underwent rapid development. We won the 2015 Guardian University Award for Student Diversity and Widening Participation, were nominated in the 2018 National Diversity Awards. We were finalists in the National Learning Disability and Autism Awards 2017 and the Living Wage Awards 2018.
We’re dedicated to providing support, training, opportunities and employment for people with learning disabilities and autism. Only 6% of these communities are employed nationally, although 70% of them would like to be. This just isn’t fair – or good enough.
That’s why, just over a year ago, we made the decision to join the Living Wage Movement, despite then only having two full-time staff and having to navigate the complex and ever-changing UK benefits system so as not to jeopardise our artists’ day-to-day existence.
The arts itself is an underpaid and overworked industry. People often work for free, let alone for less than a living or minimum wage. And while we often work long and unsociable hours, we strive to make sure that everyone we work with professionally – with or without learning disabilities and/or autism – receive rates above the Living Wage. As a small charity, we’re reliant on (and so grateful for!) the support of our amazing volunteers, and where we can we progress volunteers up to paid positions as quickly as possible.
Our “little company that could” provided over 200 days of paid work to people with learning disabilities and autism in 2016/17, and in 2017/18 that shot up to 556.
This work comes in many forms: as actors on our own productions, on TV and film, and – thanks to a free training course we ran – as accredited trainers on our own participatory programmes and on training we run for organisations across the country.
Whether a flyerer, a freelance learning disabled or autistic artist or full-time member of staff, Access All Areas wants to make sure you’re valued, supported and fairly paid.
Cian Binchy, Access All Areas performer:
Access All Areas has changed my life. A few years ago I was on benefits, never expecting to receive any form of work or make real progress in my life. Now I make a living as an artist. Is anyone else this happy to have to complete a self-assessment tax return?!