Curating for Change lead Esther Fox nominated for a National Lottery Award

Esther Fox, a woman with light hair and bright coloured clothes. She is a wheelchair user and she is in Hastings Museum, surrounded by collection items.

We are thrilled to announce that Esther Fox, Head of Accentuate at Screen South and strategic lead for Curating for Change, is a finalist for the 2023 National Lottery Awards, celebrating her work in creating opportunities for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people.

The National Lottery Awards are the annual search to find the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded people and projects and celebrate the ordinary people who do extraordinary things with help of National Lottery support. This year’s awards received 3,780 entries, and Fox is one of five nominees in the Heritage category.

The nomination reflects her dedication to creating opportunities for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people to participate and lead within the heritage sector, and to researching and celebrating D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent histories. As the Head of Accentuate at Screen South, she has developed and lead a number of major projects designed to achieve this goal.

Creating opportunities for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people

In 2018, under Fox’s leadership, Accentuate completed the highly ambitious “History of Place”, working with over 100 volunteers to research 800 years of history significant to D/deaf and disabled people across eight built heritage sites. Although this heavily involved disabled people in telling their own histories both as volunteer researchers and as part of community groups, it became clear how few disabled people were in curatorial roles in museums and consequently the difficulty this represented in telling these stories in authentic ways.

This sparked the development of Curating for Change, a ground-breaking project launched in 2022 and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Over the course of 18 months, 16 D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent curatorial Trainees and Fellows are working in museums across England and uncovering new stories in collections. They are creating exhibitions, events and digital collections, and contributing to making their host museums more accessible.

Driving change in the museum sector

Talking about the project, Esther Fox said: “It is essential that D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people are leading the change within our museums. It is through their research and their voices that we begin to see and understand the important contribution disabled people have made to our shared heritage. These stories are often overlooked or misunderstood and it’s time for that to change. It’s also time to recognise the value disabled people can bring to our museum workforces.”

Jo Nolan, Managing Director, Screen South, said: “Esther has been the driving force behind our disability heritage projects, leading on fundraising, building strong and productive partnerships with museums and other sector leaders, and championing our aims across the sector. This nomination reflects Esther’s passion and commitment to this work, the achievements of these groundbreaking projects, and the vital importance of creating opportunities for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people.”

Curating for Change aims to ensure that any experience gained is shared widely across the heritage sector, and at all levels of organisations – from policy and procedure to culture and climate, to help build lasting change. To facilitate this, Fox is the Chair of the Curating for Change Museums Strategic Disability Network, which brings together skills and insight from sector leaders and helps to disseminate the work of Curating for Change.

The 2023 National Lottery Awards will be judged by a panel made up of members from The National Lottery family and media partners, and the winners announced later this year. Winners will receive a £5,000 cash prize for their organisation as well as a National Lottery Awards trophy.