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Bridge06 and Hot Coals announce diversity event

Cherylee Houston
Cherylee Houston

Created by Bridge06 & Hot Coals Productions, ABOUT TIME! takes place on Friday 28th October to challenge the lack of representation and opportunity for talented disabled actors working in the British creative industries today.

Presented in partnership with ITV, ITV Studios and the Walt Disney Company UK & Ireland, the event will feature ten talented actors and be hosted by BAFTA nominated actor Ruth Madeley (Then Barbara Met Alan, Years & Years), and Cherylee Houston - pictured above - (Coronation Street, Tinsel Girl)

Taking place at the newly refurbished and fully accessible BAFTA,195 Piccadilly, the invited audience of industry decision makers will be asked to agree to adopt a set of five commitments designed to support continued systemic change

ABOUT TIME!, a performance event in celebration of Deaf, Disabled and Neurodivergent talent will tackle barriers and lack of representation and opportunity for talented actors working in the British creative industries today.

The event has been created as a call to action for broadcasters, commissioners, casting agents, producers, and agents who are central to improving the opportunities for Deaf,Disabled and Neurodivergent creative communities.

Taking place on Friday 28th October at the newly refurbished and fully accessible BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly, ABOUT TIME! will feature ten talented working Deaf, Disabled and Neurodivergent actors, musicians and performers and will be hosted by BAFTA nominated actor Ruth Madeley (Then Barbara Met Alan, Years and Years, Don’t Take My Baby) and Tinsel Girl (BBC Radio 4) and Coronation Street actor Cherylee Houston.

Five key commitments to support systemic change within the industry have been created as part of the continued drive to increase visibility and opportunity for Deaf, Disabled and Neurodivergent talent on and off screen. Invited guests will be asked to commit to making one or a number of suggested agreements, as part of accepting the invitation to attend.

1. Cast a Deaf, Disabled and/or Neurodivergent as a lead or co-lead performer in a new show

2. Develop a new title around a Deaf, Disabled and/or Neurodivergent actor

3. Cast a returning drama with a Deaf, Disabled and/or Neurodivergent actors in key roles/as a lead role

4. Apply a 1 in 5 rule for talent meetings and castings to improve the opportunities for Deaf, Disabled or Neurodivergent talent

5. Schedule meetings with each of the actors taking part in ABOUT TIME!

The vision is that ABOUT TIME! will be the last event of its kind because it’s about time that we all do better for the representation and inclusion of disabled, deaf and/or neurodivergent talent within the industry.

ABOUT TIME! has been devised and created by leading executive producer and industry veteran Sara Johnson, from Bridge06, and award-winning Production partners Clare-Louise English and Jo Sargeant from Hot Coals Production, in partnership with the ITV, ITV Studios and the Walt Disney Company UK & Ireland.

Along with their own varied lived experience, Sara, Jo, and Clare have continuously created projects, content, and strategic interventions via Bridge06 and Hot Coals Productions to increase opportunities for Deaf, Disabled and/or Neurodivergent talent.

Sara Johnson, Bridge06 said, “This event was born out of conversations with Sam Tatlow, ITV’s Creative Diversity Partner, both of us keen to address and tackle the misconceptions and repeated excuses of an industry who are still asking ‘where are the talent and are they any good?’ We were incredibly pleased when Disney also wanted to get on board and from that strong partnership Clare and Jo at Hot Coals Productions were able to forge ahead,powered by their own lived experience of the barriers.”

“Bridge06 is rooted in our belief that representation isn’t difficult, but that it takes commitment and fresh thinking to enact the practical and attitudinal changes necessary. Listen to Television Access Project (TAP), Underlying Health Conditions (UHC), TripleC/DANC, Deaf and Disabled People in TV (DDPTV) and others who are showing you how to make your actions speak louder than your words. Isn’t it About Time we stopped asking disabled actors to be in showcases and instead just gave them the opportunity to show their talent in major roles, on the screens where they belong? It really is that simple.”

Clare-Louise English and Jo Sargeant of Hot Coals Productions said “This is not the first time our community has asked for better opportunities, these conversations have been happening for decades, but it’s only now that the industry seems ready to listen. There is a thirst for more inclusive work and diverse characters.”

“As one Deaf and one Dyspraxic artist, we created Hot Coals to produce a better kind of accessible work, to be the change we want to see in the industry, to challenge the status quo and to create opportunities for our community to thrive. We are driven by a desire to bring Deaf and disabled artists and their stories out of the fringes and into the mainstream, and the is now. It is our hope that ABOUT TIME builds on the great work of those in the industry who have come before us, and moves the conversation forwards, focusing always on the talent and not the challenges and creating meaningful change.”

Sam Tatlow MBE, Creative Diversity Partner, ITV said “We’re proud to work with Bridge06 and Hot Coals Productions to launch ABOUT TIME! and play our role in improving the access and inclusion of Deaf, Disabled and Neurodivergent talent both on and off-screen, and to celebrate the excellent talent that we know is out there.”

“ITV is committed to creating a television industry where no one is excluded, with initiatives like our Diversity Commissioning Fund aiming to drive change towards disability equity in whose stories get told and who gets opportunities in TV production.

Added Johanna Devereaux, VP Scripted & DE&I Strategy, The Walt Disney Company, EMEA, “We are incredibly proud to support this talented and passionate group in celebrating Deaf, Disabled and Neurodivergent artists. As we ramp up our UK and European productions, Disney+ is committed to fostering a more inclusive, accessible UK TV industry, both on- and off-screen.”

ABOUT TIME! follows Bridge 06’s development and execution of the new ScreenSkills-funded training for a raft of new Access Coordinators, to support the hiring and working life of disabled professionals in television.

Access coordinator positions were a key recommendation from new disability pressure group Underlying Health Conditions (UHC), forming part of their recently published report into accessibility for disabled professionals both in front of and behind the camera Everybody Forgot About the Toilets. UHC were formed by BAFTA award winning screenwriter Jack Thorne (Help, His Dark Materials), actor Genevieve Barr (Then Barbara Met Alan, The Fades, The Silence, Ralph & Katie), production manager Katie Player (Treason, Churchill) and producer Holly Lubran following Jack Thorne’s disability focused MacTaggart lecture in 2021 at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

About Time! follows the establishment of the cross-industry TV Access Project (TAP), which demands better accessibility standards on sets. Nine of the UK’s main broadcasters and streamers joined TAP, including ITV and Disney UK & Ireland, along with support from industry body CDN, the Creative Diversity Network, and PACT, representing the indie sector.

TAP was also formed in response to the campaign by UHC and is supported by TripleC DANC (Disabled Artists Networking Community) and DDPTV (Deaf & Disabled People in TV). It has been formed to rid the sector of appalling accessibility problems and aims to ensure the industry no longer has the excuse to ‘not know’ about talent working in the industry.

TAP has also published a set of new production guidelines for Disability Inclusion, the 5 As. The organisations which adopt these standards will: Anticipate, Ask, Assess, Adjust, Advocate when it comes to working with disabled talent, to ensure a collective responsibility to radically change the culture and practices of disabled people working in the entertainment industry.

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