The July interview: advocacy a step beyond activism

2 July 2013

Philip Patston was a facilitator and consultant of the Arts Access Aotearoa Making A Difference Arts Advocacy Programme, funded through the Ministry of Social Development’s Making A Difference Fund.

Q. What do you think the impact of the project will be in, say, two years’ time?

A. I think the best possible impact of the programme would be to develop a network of people committed to attending arts events, encouraging others to attend, and having the courage to give both positive and constructive feedback to arts administrators and venue owners.

Richard Benge, Mayor Len Brown and Philip PatstonAdvocacy is a step beyond activism. Advocacy requires a constructive interaction between two parties to work together to identify areas of improvement and find solutions (whereas activism often only identifies problems). Over a couple of years, whether or not the programme is repeated (and hopefully it will be!), it would be great to see this foundation group of a dozen or so people grow in number and confidence. Ultimately, though, the impact of the project will be to see more and more arts events and venues accessible to more and more people.

Q. What do you see as the strengths of the project?

A. One of the key strengths is that all members the group are themselves artists, performers or arts enthusiasts. This has brought a huge amount of passion and authenticity to the group. Another strength, as with all new initiatives, is that there has been an element of uncertainty and organic development that has allowed the group to participate in shaping the programme. The process – visiting a new venue each time, meeting the people who run it, touring the venue and then giving feedback – has also modelled a way of advocating for access that has given the group a very hands-on, practical dynamic.

Q. What’s some key advice for anyone wanting to advocate for the arts being accessible to disabled and sensory-impaired people?

A. I'll take some points that the group itself assembled into an "action for advocacy" model. These include:

  • Talk to people, management and service users. Start communication and conversation.
  • Develop tools such as checklists, case studies and examples of best practice to enable sharing of knowledge.
  • Form networks and share knowledge.
  • Be positive and speak out when you see things that need changed.
  • Learn from mistakes.
  • Take risks.
  • Get assistance, support and mentoring for moving forward.
  • Develop mutual worthiness and spread that energy. “I am worthy of attending/belonging. You are worthy of having accessibility, a more diverse audience and rising to the challenge.”
  • Add value to relationships.
  • Be who you are in your creative process and help others advocate for their creative process.

Philip Patston is Director of Diversityworks Trust, which promotes diversity through education and assists people to fulfil their potential.

The July interview advocacy a step beyond activism


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