History and Development

Disability Arts Cymru (DAC) was established in 1982, originally known as Arts for Disabled People in Wales. Evolving out of the UK disability/disability arts movement of the early 80’s, the social model of disability is deeply embedded throughout. We are unique as the only all Wales disability-led disability arts organisation where the majority of our trustees must identify as disabled people; currently all staff identify as disabled people. We work across all arts forms and are revenue funded by the Arts Council of Wales as the lead organisation for Disability and the Arts in Wales.

Being in existence for 34 years has enabled us to build a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience within this specialist field. We are a registered charity and membership organisation; providing a voice for disabled and Deaf people throughout Wales in all matters relating to the arts.

Vision: Our vision is a creative and equal Wales where disabled and Deaf people are central to the arts of our nation

Mission statement: We believe in ….Opening up access and opportunity, celebrating diversity, nurturing embryonic and established high-calibre disabled practitioners and inspiring change throughout Wales.

Our headquarters are in Cardiff and along with Regional Officers in North and West Wales:-
1. Support disabled and Deaf artists to fulfil their potential and raise the profile of their work.
2. Develop partnerships to boost access and inclusion for disabled and Deaf people – as creators, participants and audience.
3. Educate arts providers to follow accessibility and inclusivity best practice.
4. Engage with the government and other decision makers around disability and the arts.
5. Attract new audiences to art and culture in Wales
6. Strive for equality, excellence and effectiveness in everything, every day.
Services include: disabled-led projects and events; mentoring and 1:1 support for disabled artists; disability art network groups; an information and advisory service for the arts/voluntary sector; partnership and development work.

We are the only organisation in Wales providing arts-specific Disability Equality Training, leading the way since 1993. In addition to DET we offer targeted training such as:- Mental Health First Aid training; Event Equality; Disability Etiquette; Accessible Festivals and Assisted performances. We have provided training and consultation for numerous arts organisations, including the Arts Council of Wales


Major achievements – Time Line

October 1981 – As part of the International Year of Disabled People, South East Wales Arts Association and Wales Council for the Disabled organised a seminar to discuss the possibility of setting up an arts for disabled people organisation.

17th April 1982 – The Standing Conference of Arts For Disabled People in Wales was launched.

1982 Peter Oliver was appointed as organiser of ADPW, funding was from the Carnegie Trust and South East Wales Arts Association.

March 1983 – Tair Erw / Theatre Exchange residency, supported by ADPW.

October 1983 – Swansea Fringe Festival, workshops led in residential hospitals for learning disabled adults throughout Swansea by Peter & Joan Oliver.

May 1984 – ADPW instrumental in bringing Graeae Theatre Company to Wales for the first time.

1985 – The Attenborough Report was published and observed, “There are grounds for thinking that the arts opportunities for disabled people in Wales lag behind those for disabled people elsewhere in the United Kingdom”.  ADPW responded with a paper stating what was needed in Wales for this to stop being the case.

1986 – A series of visual arts workshops took place at the Glynn Vivien Art Gallery in Swansea. This was organised in partnership with West Glamorgan Health Authority and West Glamorgan Social Services.

1987 – A dance, video and photography week took place at Barry Adult Training Centre.

1988 First reminiscence project with older disabled people.

1988 Rhondda Alternative Arts Workshop, a group set up and supported by ADPW, performed at a Disabled Artists Day at Covent Garden and at the Rhondda Community Arts Festival.

1989 – John Gray was appointed as the first North Wales Officer.

1990 – Developed large scale Arts & Reminiscence training programmes for social services staff, local artists, individuals from the library service and voluntary organisations.

July 1990 Two week residential Summer School in Porthcawl for adults with learning disabilities.

1990 – Voyage of Discovery, a joint performance project between ADPW, Welsh National Opera and Hijinx Theatre.

February 1991 – Music and Drama training project for the Deaf in Clwyd.

July 1991 –   Mid Glamorgan Summer School.

January 1992 – Arts & the Environment programme for children with learning difficulties at Theatr Clwyd, Mold.

October 1992 Fundraising art auction at the City Hall, Cardiff.

1993 – Maggie Hampton joined the team as Training Manager.  DAC working with the Arts Council of Wales to develop policy on disability, devising disability equality training programmes for revenue funded arts organisations.

1994 – Moved to Chapter Arts Centre and began preparations for new branding and re-launch. Stopped running projects and concentrated on the information, training and advice services.

September 1995 – the first ever Disability Arts Cabaret in Wales took place at City Hall, Cardiff. ADPW was re-launched as Arts Disability Wales at a collaborative event with Disability Arts Magazine and Cardiff and Vale Coalition of Disabled People. Performers included Julie Fernandez, Common Ground, Kaite O’Reilly, Maggie Hampton, Dave Levett and Johnny Crescendo.

1995Adwaith magazine was launched. This was a publication covering disability arts news and events across Wales and the UK, with articles, poems, short stories and photographs. 500 copies were published in the Spring and Autumn of each year until 2001.

1995 – What’s On our listings magazine began in July 1995, it is still produced in house every two months and is sent out to all our members. 250 hard copies are posted out and we now email to 165. To save on costs we are trying to persuade more people to sign up to the email version.

1996 – ADW & CADMAD Summer Festival, a celebration of disabled artists from BME communities living and working in Wales.

1996 – Deaf Film & Television Festival at Chapter Arts Centre.

1997 – Inclusive Arts Marketing – three one-day seminars on reaching disabled people through the arts took place in Llandudno, Carmarthen and Cardiff.

1997 – Moving Ahead, a guide to reaching disabled people in the arts, written by Maggie Hampton was published.

1998 – Received a substantial European Social Fund to improve ADW’s capacity to provide a better information service. The money went to employ a part time editor and full time Information Officer over a period of two years.

1998 – Organised another Deaf Film Festival at Chapter as part of Deaf Awareness Week.

1999 – Los Angeles Conference Members of staff and the board attended the first ever Coalition Conference presented by the Association for Theatre and Accessibility.

2000 – Worked in partnership with the Centre for Performance Research on their first Restless Gravity festival.

2001 – First year we received revenue funding entirely from ACW.

2001 – Cadwyn, a project linking disabled artists in Wales. There was a competition for disabled artists to enter work and 12 pieces were chosen to be reproduced on postcards. 100 venues across Wales displayed the postcards which were free for people to collect. There was also an exhibition that toured to galleries. The project was funded by the Arts Council and was hugely successful.

2002 – Cadwyn Exhibition launch at Chapter Arts Centre in April.

2002 – Launch of ADW website

2002 – Getting Noticed, ADW organised a Welsh tour of this NDAF project.

2003 – DETonate, this was a 16 day residential course to train 10 disabled people as arts specific disability equality trainers. Funded by ACW and ELWA.

2003- The Write Stuff. This was an ESF funded project for disabled writers across Wales. From Cardiff to Caernarfon there were 7 workshop groups who met regularly to work with a writer on this creative writing project. There were also two groups who worked from home with support from writers, one working in English and one in Welsh. There were 92 disabled participants. This project resulted in the publication of ‘Hidden Dragons’, the first anthology of poetry and prose by disabled writers in Wales. Edited by Allan Sutherland and Elin Ap Hywel and published by Parthian. This was launched at the Hay Festival in 2004 and other events were held across Wales where the writers had an opportunity to read their work. A CD Rom and audio version of the anthology were also produced.

2003 – Cabare! To celebrate our 21st birthday we held a joint event with Cardiff and Vale Coalition of Disable People, who were celebrating their 10th birthday. The Cabare! was held at Chapter in Cardiff and attended by over 100 people. Performers included Hassan Erraji, Mat Fraser, Julie McNamara, Laurence Clark and Chris Tally Evans.

2003 – Digital Visions. We worked with Sgrin on this project for disabled film makers. Awards were won by Twiz Evans for her film, ‘I Aint Looking for your Sympathy’ which was filmed at the Women In Tune festival and Sherrall Morris for her film, ‘Body on the Runway’.

2004 – Get It On  DAC worked with Chris Tally Evans on four drama/music workshops with disabled people to try out disability arts. The workshops were very well received and attended by 35 participants.

2004 – Launch of DAC We launched our new name in October 2004 at an event in Swansea Grand Theatre. Laurence Clark and Hassan Erraji performed at this sold out event and there was also a very enjoyable auction. There was also a launch event in North Wales the following year.

2005 – Moving Beyond, Maggie Hampton worked with Diane Hebb at ACW to produce their disability strategy. The publication included photographs from DAC events.

2005 – After Dark. A Deaf arts cabaret and workshops held at the Riverfront, Newport. An event celebrating deaf arts with performers from all over the World.

2006 – The Unusual Stage School, with funds from the Wales Millennium Charitable Trust and ACW, ran a 13 day residential training course for 12 disabled actors took place at Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan. At the end of the course there was a performance of the Unusual Stage Show which was very well attended and highly praised. The show was performed the following year at Swansea Grand.

2006 – Connect & Create, provided opportunities for disabled artists to get together, try out new things and start to get a sense of a disability arts network in Wales. A series of events took place across Wales and enabled us to bring leading disabled artists from England, Australia and the United States. The project was funded by the Arts Council of Wales Inclusion Through the Arts WEFO initiative.

2007 -Face On  Maggie Hampton contributed to this publication by Arts & Disability Ireland, we arranged a Welsh launch and invited disabled artists from Ireland to speak at a seminar in Chapter Arts Centre.

2008 Equal Spaces: Best practice guidance for arts providers on disability issues – written by DAC for the Arts Council of Wales

2008 Equal Spaces – Live!: Seminars – Disability equality in the arts Information/Seminar Days in Caernarfon and Newport with performance by disabled actors.

2008 DaDa Festival, Liverpool – The Unusual Stage School performed at the DaDa Fest

2009 – Unity Festival. The Unusual Stage School performed a very popular promenade piece, At the Moulin Rouge, as part of the Unity Festival. We also organised for the Oska Bright Film Festival to screen films and run a masterclass in making films with learning disabled adults.

2009 – 2012 Whose Flame is it Anyway? This was the start of our project leading up to the London 2012 celebrations, we were part of ACW’s Power of the Flame project, funded by Legacy Trust UK. Projects included the following –

2009 – Rise & Shine Drama Workshops.  As part of Whose Flame is it Anyway? we ran drama groups for young learning disabled performers, in Barry until 2012 and in Caernarfon where the group met up until November 2015.

2010 – UnEqual Spaces. We ran disability equality in the arts seminars in Cardiff, Swansea and Mold during March and April. The day was compered by two of our USS members and provided an opportunity to showcase the work of young talented disabled performers.

2010 – Breaking the Wall. We commissioned young disabled composer Lloyd Coleman to compose a piece of music to be performed by BBC NOW in 2012. This was a partnership project with UCAN. Lloyd worked with mentor Larry Ashmore to create the piece.

2010 – Disability Pride. DAC were instrumental in organising a day of celebrations in Cardiff Bay, Mat Fraser hosted the event and performers included the Unusual Stage School, Heavy Load, Vaguely Artistic and Citrus Arts.

2010 – Galeri Dance Group was established for young disabled people and took place in Galeri in Caernarfon, run by Dawns I Bawb it ran until 2012. The group performed at a number of events over the years.

2011 – Ignite the Flame This was a writing project for young disabled people. Several groups met across Wales working with a variety of writers for the duration of the Whose Flame project, including Kaite O’Reilly and Francesca Kay.

2011 – Go Get Started, a visual arts project for young disabled people was launched. As part of the project we worked with artist Sian Donovan who ran workshops with ABCD Cymru, an organisation that works with young disabled people from black and ethnic minority families.

2011 – Skills Week. We ran a very successful residential training and development week for our USS performers. Tutors included John McGrath, Kaite O’Reilly, Jamie Beddard and Ian Morgan.

2012 – Culmination of Projects

The Birds After a year of development and preparation the USS performed an adaptation of The Birds at Sherman Cymru. Written and directed by Cheryl Martin it was a fantastic opportunity for our USS actors to experience professional theatre and was a challenging and exciting journey for all involved.

Out of the 250 pieces of art work submitted to the Go Get Started competition, 25 were chosen for the touring exhibition and 12 were produced onto postcards that were distributed to arts centres, galleries and libraries across Wales.

The Whose Flame is it Anyway? Anthology was launched in July at the Norwegian Church, the publication includes art work from Go Get Started, poetry from the Ignite the Flame project and photographs of all the performance groups.

Both Rise & Shine drama groups and Galeri Dance performed pieces to audiences of family and friends.

Lloyd Coleman’s ‘Breaking the Wall’ was performed by BBC NOW at the Live Nation concert in St.David’s Hall. Lloyd and UCAN also worked with visually impaired poet Giles Abbot to create a narrative to go with the music and members of UCAN performed this at the RWCMD.

2013 – DAC’s 30th Birthday. We celebrated with an event at Chapter where the USS performed ‘Remote Exit’, a play we commissioned Meredydd Barker to write, launched our new website and were entertained by singer Dai Sharkey.

‘Remote Exit’ also toured to Wexford Arts Centre in Ireland, to be performed at an International Disability Arts Festival.

2013 – First Annual Art Exhibition John Griffiths AM launched the exhibition at the Norwegian Church in December. In 2014 the exhibition toured to Llandrindod Wells and Gwynedd.

2014 – Launch of Tu Fewn. A partnership project with DASH (Disability Arts in Shropshire) to create opportunities for disabled artists to work with established galleries across Wales.

2014 – USS. Thanks to funding from ACW and the BBC Performing Arts Trust we ran another successful training and development week for members of the USS, workshops included audition technique, circus skills and acting for camera.

2014 – Real Human Being. We worked in partnership with Taking Flight Theatre Company on their disability hate crime project, providing staff training and disability equality training to the schools across Wales the performance was touring to.

2014 – Annual Art Exhibition. DAC’s second annual exhibition was launched at the Norwegian Church by Professor Dai Smith. The exhibition was in memory of artist Mark Annis. The exhibition then toured to the Ucheldre Centre in North Wales, Arts Central in Barry and Celf o Gwmpas in Llandrindod Wells.

2015 – Update of Equal Spaces: Best practice guidance

2015 – “Dyma Ni” Welsh Language publication – a publication of work from DAC’s writing group of disabled writers in Caernarfon; in partnership with the Gwanwyn Festival.

2015 – Little Sparks, the first Mental Health Arts Festival in Wales. Events included a seminar at the WMC; open mic night at the Gwdihw, MaDCaff events in Merthyr and Carmarthen; Blackwood Little Theatre’s, ‘The Ruins of Talgarth’; Artefact workshops in North Wales; Ynys Mon and Gwynedd Mind seminar; exhibitions at the Ucheldre Centre in Holyhead and the Hearth Gallery in Llandough.

2015 – Launch of the North Wales Artists Network Group

2015 – The first Annual Poetry Competition was launched, culminating in an Anthology of poetry and artwork from the 2014-2015 Annual Exhibition.

2015 – 2016 – Annual Art Exhibition, for the first time was launched in North Wales, at Plas Glyn-y-Weddw in Pwllheli in December 2015.  In Spring 2016 the exhibition toured to Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay; Oriel Cric in Crickhowell and on to Llandrindod Wells.

2016 – “Dweud ein Dweud/Having our Say” – a Welsh and English Language Publication of writing and poetry by individuals from our English and Welsh language writing groups.

2016 – Launch of South Wales Artists Network Group meeting.






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