How can we improve inclusive progression routes into the arts?

Chloe Randall shares her insight from the inclusive progression routes event

12 December 2022

My interest in access and inclusion within the arts started whilst at university studying Fine Art Printmaking at Brighton. In the second year, I selected a module to work with the Rocket Artists for a term. They are a group of adult artists with learning disabilities or communication barriers who we met with once a week to work alongside, to learn together and create an art installation exploring the theme of loss. I’ve often thought about this group and the work of Rocket Studios as I continued my studies and started my career. Now, I have the opportunity to be a small part in driving forward better access and inclusion within the cultural sector through my current role as Programme Manager at A New Direction.

A large part of my role is managing our access and inclusion work which includes a network for arts specialist teachers who work with D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent young people. Over the years, through this network and through our annual I Am Festival, we’ve created opportunities for schools to take part in creative workshops, share best practices and to influence London’s Cultural Sector offer.


There is still a lot of work to do to ensure all cultural offers are accessible for all students, and we are now exploring how accessible progression route options are for young people once they have left school. We hosted a panel discussion in October with AFK (formerly myAFK), Corali Dance, Digit Music and Graeae. All fantastic organisations we have collaborated with over the last academic year, which have access and inclusion at the centre of their work and which we, as an organisation, continue to learn from. The panel discussion explored how the cultural sector can improve progression routes into the creative industries for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent young people.

As well as each organisation speaking from their experienced point of view, we also heard from young people who have worked with each organisation. Ensuring we are listening to the most important voices, those of young people and future industry professionals. It is their insights I have chosen to highlight within this blog post.

We spoke to Matthew, a young person supported by AFK and an alumnus of the Cultural Ambassador programme; Sarah, a freelance artist for Graeae; and Jess, Learning Coordinator at Digit Music about what they had wanted, and what they felt other young people want from creative work experience and guidance opportunities.


The six key needs and wants they highlighted were:

  1. To have a space to belong.
  2. To have a supportive environment.
  3. To be able to easily discover what your starting point is and knowing what the opportunities are.
  4. To be able to develop basic life and work skills, as well as to nurture talent
  5. To be able to connect with others.
  6. To see role models in different roles and across all levels in the creative industries.

Their points, it could be argued, can form the basis of a Manifesto for how to create inclusive progression routes in the arts. Throughout the panel discussion two key headlines stood out to me:

We must listen to young people and hear from them what is needed.

“You can’t wing it!”

Sarah, from Graeae, highlighted that access to programmes, work, events, etc., can not be a tick box exercise. It must be carefully planned for, properly resourced and embedded across all work right from the beginning.

AFK, Corali, Digit Music and Graeae are all organisations that offer exciting and meaningful progression routes opportunities for disabled young adults. Whether that’s careers advice and guidance for schools, young professional companies, supporting young people into work experience across various sectors, or through accredited courses. Whilst these four organisations are shining examples of best practice, there is a clear need for similar accessible options throughout the arts and cultural sector.


To support the sector to think about this further and to commit to actions to drive this forward, we will be holding further sessions exploring accessible and inclusive progression routes in February, where a cohort of 15 organisations will explore and challenge actions within their organisations.

If you are interested in finding out more about this, please email

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