Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health

(Reimagining) Parenting, Theatre, and Disability Network/Event


(Reimagining) Parenting, Theatre, and Disability Network/Event

This is an exploratory networking project engaging professionals in theatre who are also parents/carers of disabled children or adults. It is grounded in co-production, bringing researchers and practitioners together to examine narratives of parenting and disability in theatre and considers how these might reflect a range of real-life experiences and disabled people’s valued contribution to society.  

The project is led by Nina Worthington, Principal Research Fellow at the SDHRC, in partnership with the New Vic Theatre, Staffordshire. It is co-facilitated by Caroline Wilkes, associate director at the New Vic Theatre, and supported by Prof. David Bolt, director of the Centre for Culture & Disability Studies. It received internal funding through CCCU’s Participatory Research Challenge.

The project acknowledges accurate arts and cultural representation as crucial in countering misunderstandings of disability. It positions parents/carers, and decision makers in the theatre industry, as powerful in shifting disability views. It builds on a recent literature review, supported by CCCU’s RKE internship initiative, which identified dominant themes in recent plays depicting parents/carers of disabled children as rage or anger, relationship breakdown, alcoholism, violence and cruelty, bitterness or resentment, guilt, pity, or struggle, and escaping from caring responsibilities.

Participants are invited from across the UK to both online and in-person networking events. These will facilitate open discussion among theatre makers about personal experiences of parenting/caring, professional engagement with disability, and industry influence towards change. Together, we will explore samples of dramatic text and cultural disability studies. The events will promote interdisciplinary and multidimensional narratives of disability and allow space for a creative response to the question, “How can theatre reimagine portrayals of parents/carers that accurately reflect lived experiences of disability among UK families in a way that positively impacts the arts and social inequalities?” It is hoped this will spark a continuing network of theatre professionals with lived experience of disability in their families, which can later extend to local communities and offer guidance to decision makers within and beyond theatre.

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