Making a Difference workshop at Aotea Centre

8 May 2013

We’ve had a very busy period running the Making A Difference workshops in Auckland. Five workshops about arts advocacy have been scheduled between March and June, and attended by 13 Aucklanders with a range of impairments.

tour of Aotea CentreEach workshop session is held at a different arts venue - the most recent at the Aotea Centre, recently refitted to improve its accessibility. This means that as well as learning about their own capacity as advocates for improved access, participants are learning about Auckland art and cultural venues, and how they are working to increase their accessibility for disabled people.

As the annual general meeting for Arts Access Aotearoa approaches, it’s always an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the previous year. This is an essential thing to do every year because in the business of looking forward, it’s important to recognise the steps you've taken to get to where you stand today.

Our AGM is from 6pm to 7pm on Friday 17 May in the Community Room at Toi Pōneke, 61 Abel Smith St, Wellington. Felicity Connell, former Marketing Manager at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth, is our guest speaker and will be giving her personal perspective about accessibility and the arts in Taranaki.

Matching mentees with mentors

In 2012, we developed a mentoring project to help build the capacity of creative spaces. In March this year, leaders in the field (mentors from within and outside of the creative spaces sector) were matched with developing leaders in the creative space sector and creative space managers who want to step up to the next level. Supporting the professional development of creative spaces is an important role for Arts Access Aotearoa.

Richard Benge and mentor Lisa Howard-Smith, Leadership New ZealandA key question that concerns me is how we can build on the remarkable achievements of current co-ordinators, directors and mangers of creative spaces. What are we doing to bring forward the next generation? So the mentoring project is contributing to the development of current and future leaders.

In the May interview, you can read about Bev Lowen, Community Support Co- ordinator at SkillWise in Christchurch, and how she is benefitting from this project. Incidentally, you can also read an interview with her mentor, Ana Terry of Dunedin.

Other features of 2012 were improvements to our information service, new branding and a great new website. Earlier this year, we added a blog to the website to provide an opportunity for different voices and perspectives to be heard. If you would like to write a blog for our site, please get in touch.

Sign interpreted performances

This month's In Touch includes two news stories about sign interpreted performances for Deaf and hearing impaired people. It's great to see the New Zealand International Comedy Festival providing six sign interpreted shows in Wellington and Auckland. Read our story.

Last year, Silo Theatre produced Nina Raine’s play, Tribes, and presented three sign interpreted performances to receptive Auckland audiences. Tribes is a play about family and community, communication and miscommunication, belonging and personal empowerment. The central character, Billy, is Deaf in a hearing family and yet Billy is the only one listening.

A scene from the Circa production of TribesIn April this year, Circa Theatre brought the play to Wellington and last Friday, it presented a sign interpreted performance for Deaf patrons. The audience was invited to stay after the play and have a discussion with the cast afterwards. Read our story.

Both Silo and Circa theatres excelled in both their production standards and also in reaching out to develop a new audience. For many, these sign interpreted performances of an extremely relevant and thought-provoking play will have been the first time they will have been able to enjoy the full experience of theatre.

If you have any questions or feedback on this column, or if you would like to let me know about your art, organisation, group or project please email me on


Building on the year that was


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