This project originates in Screen South’s longstanding Accentuate programme, which launched in 2009 as the Paralympic-inspired 2012 legacy for the South East. It has has gone on to work across England with a range of partners to deliver heritage, arts and research based projects, providing opportunities for disabled people not only to participate, but lead. 

In 2018 Accentuate completed the highly ambitious heritage project 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 also became clear how few disabled people had been able to break through into working in the sector. Those who had built a career path for themselves against the odds stood out as the exception, not the rule.

This experience is also backed up by ACE statistics that show that only about 4% of those working in museums are disabled, despite forming 19% of the working age population. We believe this isn’t just a problem for disabled people themselves, but for the history sector – hindering it from telling authentic disability stories with insights from the inside. It also makes it more difficult for museums – even if committed to access – to properly understand practical barriers for its visitors.

A series of surveys and in-depth group discussions in the aftermath of History of Place convinced us that the absence of d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people in the sector is not due to any lack of enthusiasm or talent. Instead, traditional, rigid museum recruitment processes acted to discount people’s abilities and failed to offer more than the most limited adaptations that would allow them to take up work that they could perform with flair and insight, given the opportunity.

The logical result of this journey is our current Curating for Change project. Through it we are offering eight Fellowships over 18 months and eight Traineeships over 40 days based within host partner museums. You can read more about our Fellows and Trainees here. This group are exploring museum collections for overlooked stories from disabled people’s histories – and creating events and exhibitions, on and offline, which we encourage you to visit.

We hope that by making a decisive intervention to change things, rather than waiting for change to happen, we will greatly increase the number of disabled people visible in the sector. We are hopeful that our Fellows and Trainees will be able to build long term careers in museums – and that in doing so, they also make the path easier for all those who follow after them.

Our project staff

Jo Nolan, Head of Screen South

Jo Nolan’s producing and company management experience covers a wide spectrum of film, media and arts; including, Features, Shorts, Theatre, Publishing; Design, Exhibition and Training nationally and internationally.  Jo has extensive experience in independent film production, having developed her skills through Production Management, AD and Art  Departments. Her support has been integral to the success of several award-winning UK independent filmmakers including: Oscar and Cannes winner – Andrea Arnold, Kat Mansoor  Mark & Nick Francis, Oliver Hodge, Harriet Rees, Jo Southwell, Nichola Bruce, Robert Cannan, Corinna McFarlane and Rob Lemkin – who were all nurtured as part of her Feature Exec Role  and Talent Development lead at Screen South.

She has delivered over 250 productions including features, award winning shorts and music promos. More recently Jo has been lead producer for BBC Arts New Creatives South and C4’s Random Acts delivering over 170 shorts and Interactive projects by new talent for Broadcast. Jo oversaw the set up of the Screen South’s Accentuate programme as the lead programme for the South East Cultural Olympiad offer in 2012. She has worked closely with Esther Fox, Screen South’s Head of Accentuate supporting delivery of History of Place and Curating for Change  for over 12 years.  She has a BA Hons Expressive Arts, Brighton, and PG Dip New Media & Film Birmingham.  Jo is a voting member of BAFTA and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Esther Fox, Head of Accentuate, Screen South

Esther Fox is a Programme Director, Artist and Researcher, interested in exploring the synapses between medicine, art, museums and ethics.  Esther is the Head of the Accentuate programme, creating opportunities for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people to participate and lead in the cultural sector. She is currently taking the strategic lead on Curating for Change, working with over 20 Museums across England to deliver a programme for disabled people wanting to pursue a career in Museums. Esther is also a trustee for Hastings Contemporary. 

Emily Goff, Curating for Change Project Manager, Screen South

Emily Goff joined Screen South as Curating for Change Project Manager in June 2022. Emily is an experienced volunteer manager and museum educator who has worked for a range of independent, national and university museums and collections over her 12-year career.

Emily has recently achieved Qualified Teacher Status through a PGCE in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University, which builds upon her MA in Museums and Galleries in Education.

Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/ebegoff
Twitter: @ebewilson

Susan Potter, Evaluator

Susan Potter has a background in creative and cultural learning, with over 30 years’ experience working with arts and heritage organisations across the UK and Europe. She has consulted with numerous museums and galleries, leading bespoke research studies through innovative and participatory techniques. Susan has delivered evaluation workshops, seminars and CPD courses for national organisations (ACE, BMJ, NHLF, MA, RSPH) and academic institutions (University of Cambridge, City University, University of Lille). She has contributed chapters to ‘The Responsive Museum: Working with Audiences in the 21st Century’, the ENGAGE Journal, ‘Arts and Health: The Search for a Common Language’ and ‘Arts, Health & Wellbeing: A Theoretical Inquiry’.

Susan has completed post-graduate studies in Museum and Gallery Management at City University, Social Science Research Methods at Anglia Ruskin University and Psychology at the University of Cambridge. She is Research Associate with the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health and was awarded the University of Kent’s PhD Health Scholarship (2017-2023), to investigate the impacts of Social Prescribing. Susan has previously worked with Accentuate as Evaluation Consultant with History of Place and is committed to ensuring greater diversity and representation across the sectors of arts, health and heritage. 

woman with brown hair in grey top

Kate Smith

Kate Smith was Digital Editor for Curating for Change from August to November 2022. Her involvement with Accentuate spanned around 8 years, from the History of Place Programme to more recently Curating for Change. With her experience as a freelance writer, editor and project manager in the cultural sector, she was able to create the majority of the content for the Curating for Change website as well as drive the social media for the project. Kate was also instrumental in shaping the digital approach for the project during the development phase of the programme and in supporting our successful funding application.

As a champion for equality and fairness she worked closely with our Curatorial Fellows and Trainees to empower them to shape the website and gave them a voice to share their discoveries relating to disability history. Sadly, Kate passed away in November 2022 and will be hugely missed by the project team. A sample of her professional work can be accessed through her website Goosegrass Culture.

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