What’s it like to be a young Deaf performer?

George BSL

Forced Entertainment are a Sheffield-based theatre company that are committed to pushing the boundaries of what theatre is. Earlier this year they became an associate company of Southbank Centre, and in December they join us for their first performance of this partnership.

At southbank Centre in Decmber, 2018, the company performed Tim Etchells’ That Night Follows Day, a remarkable play performed by children for adults, which looks at the way adults project their world onto children and young people, and how this world is shaped by language. Among the cast of eight to 14 year olds bringing this story to life are two Deaf performers, Alex and George.

In this fascinating video we meet George, who explains the challenges that can come from being a Deaf performer in a play with multiple speaking parts, and how Forced Entertainment’s BSL Theatre Consultant has helped him and Alex to transform their script into British Sign Language.


I want to be in a professional company. I decided, ‘what’s my dream job?’ and I’d like to do acting, so that’s my aim.
George, performer with Forced Entertainment


With a passion for works that defy categorisation, Southbank Centre is the place to see things you have never seen on stage before. Dance, theatre, comedy, cabaret and all sorts in between, brought to you by international artists and up and coming names. 

upcoming performances

Be inspired with women of colour at WOW

Intersectional feminism has gone from being a concept proposed by academic Kimberlé  Crenshaw back in 1989 to a term that, thanks to social media, is now in common parlance. But in case you’re still not sure. . . it’s a way of looking at oppression as influenced not just by gender, but also by race, health, ability, class, age, religion and other factors.

As WOW – Women of the World has a mission to look at how to make the world a better place for all women and girls, it is imperative that our programme embraces intersectionality. At WOW 2018 we’re proud to present our most inclusive programme to date, and in this blog post we’re highlighting some of the talented women of colour who appear.

We’re honoured that Patrisse Khan-Cullors joins us for Friday night’s event No More. She helped start a worldwide movement back in 2013 when she coined the Black Lives Matter hashtag and has some great advice for activists.

find out more

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at WOW 2017

WOW favourite Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (pictured above), author of Half of a Yellow Sun and We Should All Be Feminists, returns. She’s appearing in conversation with Reni Eddo-Lodge, who burst on to the scene last year with her book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, in a conversation that covers race, gender, feminism and more. At the moment the event is returns only, but do keep an eye out in case more tickets go on sale.

find out more

For those lucky enough to get weekend or day passes, the following events are included (if you missed out, please check our social media channels for coverage).

Melanie Eusebe

Friday has a focus on women at work and in businesses. You can hear Senegalese entrepreneur Mariéme Jamme, as part of Power, Purpose and Progress; and June Sarpong, Melanie Eusebe (pictured above), Deborah Williams and Shona Baijal, who appear together at a talk called Diversify. Also on Friday is our special event Code Switching, which looks whether Black women are forced to compromise to fit into the workplace and the impact this can have.

Reeta Mumbai

On Saturday, outspoken model Munroe Bergdorf, who hit headlines last year when L’Oreal dropped her for comments about white people’s racism, appears as part of Sweep Through the World. We’re asking the question ‘Desi Lesbians, Where are you?’ in an event chaired by Reeta Loi (pictured above), co-founder of Gaysians.

Also keep an eye out for Mother Tongues, a screening of Victoria Adukwei Bulley’s acclaimed film of poets working with their mothers to translate their work into their first language The screening is followed by a discussion with Victoria and poets from her film.

On Sunday you can see Laura Marks and Julie Siddiqi chairing We Stand Together, an event where Muslim and Jewish women speak out, or join the WOW Book Club for a discussion of Sister Outsider by Black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde. There’s also the Power & Protest event looking at activism and disability, hosted by the Sisters of Frida collective, and LGBTQI+ Resilience with Black Pride UK, chaired by Black Pride UK co-founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah.


There are plenty of free things to do if you missed out on a day pass. Search our website for details of events like the Women, Drumbeats and Self Care twerkshop; an interactive demonstration by Muslim Girls Fencing (pictured above); Scar, a film about violence against women in Rio de Janiero’s largest favela; a poetry reading with Momtaza Mehri; and Women for Refugee Women singing songs, to name just a few.


WOW – Women of the World 2018 takes place from Wednesday 7 – Sunday 11 March.

see the full listings

WOW 2018 would not be possible without its generous sponsors and supporters: Bloomberg, UBS, American International Group Inc (AIG) and The Chartered Insurance Institute.

Inspired by WOW? You can support the future of the festival by donating today.

donate to WOW

Accessible events at Imagine 2018

Imagine is one of our most popular festivals, each year presenting a fantastic line-up of authors, performances, workshops and opportunities for kids to have a great time.

At Southbank Centre all our venues are wheelchair accessible and we make provision for people with hearing impairments wherever possible. But for Imagine 2018 we’ve added some extra special events for children with disabilities – read on to find out more.

Heroes of the Imagination

For everyone

I have Tourette syndrome and here’s why I want you to laugh - Jess Thom | Comment is Free

Video: Jess Thom talks about why Tourette’s can have its funny side

Join us for two days of free, fully accessible, multi-sensory drop-in activities for disabled and non-disabled children (and their grown up sidekicks). Jess Thom, AKA Touretteshero, and her team are here to help children develop their own superhero identities and create the costume and the moves to fit. All ages.

find out more

Living Paintings

For children who are blind or have visual impairments

This event has been designed especially for children who are blind or have visual impairment, which is led by Living Paintings, the only charity in the UK who design, create and publish tactile and audio books for blind and partially sighted people. It is aimed at children aged 5 – 7, accompanied by an adult.

find out more

Sensational Sensory Poetry

For children who are blind or have visual impairments

Shelley Boden proves that poems are not just for the pages of books, in this event designed especially for children who are blind or have visual impairments. This workshop is aimed at children aged 6 – 10, accompanied by an adult.

find out more

Through the Eyes of Me with Jon Roberts

Relaxed performances

Through The Eyes of Me by Jon Roberts

Welcome to the world of Kya, who loves to run, read and eat ice cream. Through the Eyes of Me is a joyful picture book that describes the everyday life of a child with autism. Join Jon Roberts as he discusses and reads from his book in this event which is ideal for all children, including those who are on the autistic spectrum or who have special education needs. For ages 6-9.

find out more


BSL interpreted

Windibops Promo

Windibops combines dance, science and characters with names that are, quite frankly, preposterous (Daisy Parphead, for example). So as you can imagine, it’s a lot of fun – and you might learn something at the same time. Created by Moxie Brawl, this show is suitable for ages 5+ and all performances are BSL interpreted.

find out more

An afternoon with Jacqueline Wilson

BSL interpreted

Wave Me Goodbye by Jacqueline Wilson

Bestselling author Jacqueline Wilson discusses her much-loved characters like Hetty Feather and Tracy Beaker, as well as her latest paperback, Wave Me Goodbye, a novel set at the start of World War Two. This event is best for children aged 9 – 12 and is BSL interpreted.

find out more

Harry Hill presents Matt Millz

BSL interpreted

Harry Hill reads an extract from Matt Millz

Harry Hill is famous for his brilliant comedy, but now he has written a book for children and he is coming to Imagine to introduce it to you. It's all about Matt Millz, who is Britain's best young comedian – at least in his own head, he is. Harry is joined by illustrator Steve May, and you can expect live drawing, plenty of humour and even a joke-telling competition. This event is BSL interpreted and best for children aged 8 – 12. 

find out more

Snigel and Friends

For 0 – 1s


Caroline Bowditch, a disabled dancer, stars as an inquisitive snail in this charming show for babies aged 12 months and under. She is joined by dancers Welly O’Brien/Alex McCabe and performer and musician Zac Scott to create a gentle yet stimulating sensory experience for the very youngest audiences and their grown-ups.

Find out more

Access at Southbank Centre

We are working hard to ensure Southbank Centre facilities and events are available to as wide an audience as possible. Find out more about accessible facilities, step-free routes, help available on site and how to keep updated with our accessible programme by clicking below.

Find all the access events for the 2018 Imagine festival in one place

access events

Leading female voices join thousands of women at WOW Festival 2017

Leading female voices join thousands of women at Wow – Women Of The World Festival 2017 to call for swifter change.

Download press release

Following a year of change and political upheaval across the globe, with a questioning of women’s roles and rights, famous female artists, writers and activists including Gillian Anderson, Angela Davis, Sandi Toksvig, Jennifer Nadel, Catherine Mayer, Elif Şafak, Fatima Manji, Lydia X. Z. Brown, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Gemma Cairney, Margaret Hodge MP, Harriet Harman MP, Baroness Jenkin, and Bettany Hughes are uniting to call for solutions to modern societal challenges for women.

In the return of Southbank Centre’s annual flagship festival WOW – W omen of the World, supported by Bloomberg, female stars will join t housands of women and girls, politicians, business leaders, artists, activists and refugees from across the UK, and the globe, to celebrate women and girls and explore together the paths to a gender equal world.

WOW – Women of the World takes place from Tuesday 7 – Sunday 12 March 2017 and asks what Trump, Brexit and beyond mean for women. It celebrates everything that women and girls have done, and will do in the future, whilst taking a candid look at wide-ranging issues that prevent them from achieving their potential: from violence against women and girls, ageism, to “locker-room talk” and everyday sexism in the UK and across the world. It tackles subjects such as alcoholism, rape, toilets, intersectionality, the role of men in gender equality, refugees, and criminal justice, alongside live music, comedy, dance classes, workshops, and performance. The festival also sees a celebration of the Nordic nations, as part of Southbank Centre’s year of Nordi c programming Nordic Matters, and explores the social learnings of these countries that consistently top the gender equality indexes.

Founder of WOW festival, Southbank Centre Artistic Director, Jude Kelly CBE said: “Events of the past year have shown that, despite great strides by the feminist movement, the world still speaks a largely male language. More than ever, we must keep up the fight for gender equality and look at the far-reaching implications of the current political climate on our women and girls – from the localised to the global. We take the opportunity to hone in on women in politics, and the achievements of older women, a subject too often overlooked. We also look to the Nordic nations, who have long been seen as leaders in advocating gender equality, investigating the impact of their approach, a nd what we can learn from each other.”

Launched by Southbank Centre in 2010, WOW is now a global movement, with international WOW festivals reaching over one million people across five continents, and growing year on year. Over 25,000 people came to WOW London in 2016. This year’s festival once again marks International Women’s D ay on 8 March and coincides with the first WOW Hull, part o f Hull UK City of Culture 2017, and the first WOW Finland.

Highlights of WOW 2017 include powerful new calls for change. Co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party Catherine Mayer laun ches her new book, Attack of the Fifty-Foot Women, in conversation with Sandi Toksvig. This looks at why no single country or culture has yet achieved parity and whether we will ever live in a gender equal world (Tuesday 7 March). Actress, writ er and activist Gillian Anderson ( The Fall, The X-Files) and broadcaster, writer and activist Jennifer Nadel also launch their new book WE: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere, an inspiring and provocative manifesto for change, proposing a vision for a different, fairer and more fulfilling way of living (Friday 10 March). Southbank Centre Artist in Residence, TV and radio personality, journalist and teen ambassador Gemma Cairney talks about her publishing debut O PEN: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be; and Harriet Harman, one of Britain’s most prominent campaigning politicians, will discuss her groundbreaking memoir A Woman’s Work, a rare political autobiography by a woman about the last 30 years in British politics, and of a life dedicated to fighting for equality and respect for women (Saturday 11 March).

WOW also welcomes prominent American activist, scholar and author Angela Davis, who has been at the forefront of movements for economic, racial, and gender justice over many decades (Saturday 11 March).

WOW – Women of the World highlights

  • Over 200 events across six days, including talks, debates, live music, comedy, workshops, the smash-hit WOW Speed Mentoring and WOW Market – a range of stalls providing information, raising awareness, and showcasing work, craft and fashion
  • What Does Brexit Mean for Women? – a debate on the pros and cons of the referendum result with leading UK political voices (Friday 10 March)
  • Political Titans: The Secret Power of Older Women in Politics – women including Margaret Hodge MP and Baroness Jenkin of Kennington talk about their careers and experiences in politics, the double standards displayed in the portrayal of male and female politicians, and the force of older women in campaigning and party politics (Friday 10 March)
  • Women on the Move Awards support the contribution of migrant and refugee women to UK society, and the stories of refugee women are featured throughout WOW
  • A Nordic focus throughout the festival covers topics such as: what we can learn from Nordic parenting; the Nordic approach to prostitution and its legal framework, Sweden’s feminist foreign policy and its objectives: and comparing how rape and sexual assault are dealt with by criminal justice systems in the UK and in the Nordic countries
  • Turkish author Elif Şafak and historian Bettany Hughes discuss Istanbul, how women have shaped the city, and the lives of women living there today (Sunday 12 March)
  • Comedian and #periodpositive campaign founder Chella Quint breaks taboos around ,menstruation in her one-woman show Adventures in Menstruating (Saturday 11 March)
  • Under 10s Feminist Corner brings young boys and girls together for an interactive workshop on what it means to be a girl and how to start a campaign in your bedroom (Saturday 11 & Sunday 12 March)
  • Journalist and author Reni Eddo-Lodge presents an exclusive extract from her forthcoming book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, on the frustrations, discomfort and social implications of talking about race (Saturday 11 March)
  • Channel 4 journalist Fatima Manji talks about Muslim women and the media, and her own experiences of prejudice (Saturday 11 March)
  • Writers Paula Varjack, Jules Grant and Michelle Tea are highlights of this year’s Polari – a platform for LGBT writers returning with a women’s special hosted by author and journalist Paul Burston (Wednesday 8 March)
  • Mirth Control – WOW’s annual night of comedy and music inspired by great women returns with a nod to our Nordic neighbours, hosted by Sandi Toksvig (Sunday 12 March)
  • Des James – father of Private Cheryl James whose tragic death at Deepcut barracks revealed a deeply misogynistic environment – talks about his long battle for justice and use of the Human Rights Act for his daughter with lawyer Emma Norton and Director of Liberty, Martha Spurrier (Saturday 11 March)
  • Sessions to empower women in the world of technology, from discussions featuring the women making up 14.4% of the STEM industry, to free crash courses on app building, digital literacy and practical tools for online safety, with expert guidance from UK Government advisor and founder of #techmums Dr Sue Black OBE, Dr Elina Berglund Scherwitzl, former particle physicist, discoverer of the Higgs Boson and co-founder of start up NaturalCycles, and Silkie Carlo, Policy Officer at Liberty
  • An abundance of free activities including a Friday Lunch concert featuring singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya (Friday 10 March)

WOW 2017 would not be possible without the support of its generous sponsor Bloomberg.


For further press information please contact the Southbank Centre press office

WOW Day Passes (£22) and WOW 3-Day Pass (£50)- please note some events at WOW are separately ticketed and cannot be accessed as part of the Day Pass.

Please refer to the website for ticketing information on standalone events.

Events go on sale to Southbank Centre members on Thursday 15 December and to the general public on Friday 16 December.

Tickets for Angela Davis will go on sale 17 January 2017.

WOW panel highlights

Friday 10 March

  • What Does Brexit Mean for Women? – a debate on the pros and cons of the referendum result with leading UK political voices
  • Political Titans: The Secret Power of Older Women in Politics – women with long political careers talk about their experiences, the double standards displayed in the portrayal of male and female politicians, and the force of older women in campaigning and party politics
  • Women & Pensions – in the wake of the increased state pension age for women and the impact on women born in the 1950s, a discussion about gender-based pension inequalities what how women can protect themselves
  • The Nordic Model – a discussion on the challenges, controversies and benefits of the ‘Nordic Model’ (Sex Buyer Law) which makes it illegal to buy ‘sexual services’ but not to sell them
  • Guilty Until Proven Innocent – a session on rape, sexual assault and the UK justice system, looking at models in countries such as Sweden and Iceland, to consider what systems would serve UK women better
  • One Planet, Double Standards: Women, Climate Change and Equality – a panel debate from women at the forefront of climate change to find out what role gender has to play in actioning change
  • Please Sir, Can I Have Some More – an interactive and practical session on how to know your worth and get a payrise
  • The Great Imposter – a session exploring how ‘imposter syndrome’ is connected to gender inequality, providing tools to overcome it
  • International Activism – a discussion led by international activists about how to turn local activism into global solidarity
  • Crash and Burn – a discussion around women’s experience of alcoholism, addiction and mental illness, looking at how women deal with crisis and survival

Saturday 11 March

  • Disability, Women and Taking Action – speakers including activist Lydia X Z Brown discuss why disability is so often left out of conversations about intersectionality and marginalised by much of the women’s rights movement
  • Childcare Utopia: What Can We Learn from Nordic Parenting? – a discussion about the policies which put Nordic countries at the forefront of childcare and if these could work in other contexts e.g. Finland’s famous baby box and Sweden’s generous shared parental leave
  • Women Crossing Borders – a chance to meet the real women behind the headlines about refugees and migrants, asking why women flee their home countries and make life-threatening journeys to unknown futures
  • Teens Talk Back – a panel of teenage girls discuss feminism, their opinion of it, and that of their peers
  • Badass Lesbians from History – a celebration of overlooked lesbian women from history
  • WOW Bites featuring Maria Munir (who came out as non-binary to President Obama), Edie Jones, a 15-year-old student challenging gender equality in the curriculum, Emma Beeson and Elise Bevan, clinical negligence lawyers, Peter Tai Christensen on how the Swedish Mansplaining hotline caused a domestic stir and went on to take the international media by storm, and Gynelle Leon, who quit her city job to start PRICK, London’s first ever cactus shop

Sunday 12 March

  • The World Remains Silent: Yazidi Women and Girls - campaigners and activists tell of the current situation for Yazidi women and girls, and how government and individuals can help
  • Potty Parity – a session explaining why you should give a sh*t about toilets, and the devastating effect toilet facilities can have on women and girls across the world
  • Old Age is For The Brave – a panel of experts discuss the realities of ageing and look at loneliness, health and austerity.
  • BBW (*Big Beautiful Women) – speakers including columnist Callie Thorpe, plus-size blogger Stephanie Yeboah and journalist Anita Bhagwandas discuss the media’s negative attitude to fat women and how fat activists and plus-size bloggers are changing the landscape.
  • We Need to Talk About Alcohol – an investigation into the drinking habits of British women, 50% of whom drink too much according to World Health Organisation
  • Ending Violence Against Women and Girls – a debate about how to change attitudes towards one of the most common abuses of human rights, what prevention methods work, and
  • what don’t
  • Badass Feminists from History – a celebration of overlooked heroines
  • No Country for Young Women – a talk outlining the financial and safety concerns for young women in the UK

Notes to editors

Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, comprising three iconic buildings (Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery) and occupying a 21-acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Building on this rich heritage, Southbank Centre offers an extensive artistic and cultural programme including annual and one-off themed festivals and classical and contemporary music, performance, dance, visual art and literature and spoken word events throughout the year.

Southbank Centre's WOW – Women of the World festival is a global festival movement launched by Jude Kelly CBE in London in 2010 (with the first festival in March 2011) that celebrates women and girls, and looks at the obstacles that stop them from achieving their potential. To date, WOW has reached over one million people worldwide and this number is growing year on year. With the HRH Duchess of Cornwall as President, Southbank Centre is now planning a WOW Commonwealth festival at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 with all 53 nations. Each festival across the world - made up of talks, debates, music, activism, mentoring, pop ups and performance - celebrates women and girls, takes a frank look at what prevents them from achieving their potential, and raises awareness globally of the issues they face and possible solutions. It reaches girls and women, boys and men from a broad range of social backgrounds and supplies a completely different sense of action and energy than a conventional conference approach. Speakers have included Malala Yousafzai, Christine Lagarde, Salma Hayek, Annie Lennox, Gordon Brown, Julie Walters, Patrick Stewart and many more including hundreds of women and men who don’t have public profiles but are working everyday to achieve gender equality. Over 25,000 people came to WOW London in 2016, thousands more have come to WOWs across the world and festival organisers have collaborated on cross-continental projects. 

WOW 2017 festivals around the world

  • 18 February – WOW Kathmandu
  • 7 – 12 March – WOW London, UK #WOWLDN @WOWtweetUK Facebook
  • 8 – 12 March – WOW Finland #WOWFIN @wow_finland Facebook
  • 10 – 12 March – WOW Hull, UK
  • 23 – 25 March – WOW Melbourne, Australia
  • 4 – 7 May – WOW Apollo, New York, USA - #WOWApollo
  • 20 – 21 May – WOW Chester, UK


Bloomberg, the global business and financial information and news leader, gives influential decision makers a critical edge by connecting them to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas. The company’s strength – delivering data, news and analytics through innovative technology, quickly and accurately – is at the core of the Bloomberg Professional service. Bloomberg’s enterprise solutions build on the company’s core strength: leveraging technology to allow customers to access, integrate, distribute and manage data and information across organizations more efficiently and effectively. Bloomberg Philanthropies, which encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation, corporate and personal giving, supports arts and culture, education, environment, sustainability and public health charities and non-profit organisations around the world. Bloomberg's support of Women of the World builds on a long history of collaboration across Southbank Centre that encompasses a wide range of arts exhibition, public commissions and literature programmes.

For more information on Bloomberg, visit www.bloomberg.com

For more information on Bloomberg Philanthropies, visit www.bloomberg.org

About Nordic Matters

Nordic Matters is a year-long festival of Nordic art and culture in 2017 at London's Southbank Centre, featuring music, dance, theatre, visual arts, participation, talks and debates, and gastronomy. Chosen from a number of international applicants, Southbank Centre is the sole recipient of a grant from The Nordic Council of Ministers for a new festival celebrating the very best of Nordic art and culture throughout 2017 – one of the biggest cultural-political partnerships of its kind. A particular emphasis will be placed on the idea of play fostering curiosity and creativity, for people of all ages but especially children and young people. Moving beyond popular perceptions of ‘Nordic Noir’ the programme is designed to embed Nordic culture and artists in Southbank Centre’s year-long artistic offer and offer a platform to some of the more ‘hidden voices’ from Greenland, Åland and the Faroe Islands. www.southbankcentre.co.uk/nordicmatters

About The Nordic Council of Ministers

The Nordic Council of Ministers is the official inter governmental body for co operation in the Nordic Region. The Council brings together representatives of the governments of Denmark, Sweden, Norway Finland and Iceland, as well as the three autonomous areas, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland Islands. The Presidency of the Nordic Council rotates between the five Nordic countries and is currently held by Finland. In 2017 Norway will hold the Presidency. www.norden.org

Unlimited blog

From Shakespeare’s Richard III to Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim, disabled people have often been portrayed by artists as villains or martyrs, while disability has been the subject of cheap jokes. In recent years, disabled artists have grabbed the narrative from non-disabled hands and created art that reflects their experiences and addresses the issues they face, not those imagined by the able-bodied. 

In 2016 at Southbank Centre, a selection of differently abled artists offer a peek into their world. Learn how tying shoelaces is more complicated than it looks and watch pieces that investigate how our bodies are perceived by society. It’s not all serious: there’s comedy from Lee Ridley and a new show by Touretteshero Jess Thom. Here, the artists explain how their experience of being disabled is entwined with their work.

Unlimited at Southbank Centre

Liz Carr

Why do you think it’s important to laugh about a traditionally dark, taboo subject like disability?

To me, as a disabled woman, disability isn’t taboo or dark; it’s my life and my experiences of living in a disabling world. My creative work is really just me talking about what I know best: my life. I think it’s important to laugh at all the messy and difficult aspects of being human, including disability. 

As new government cuts to disabled people meet continued cuts to the arts, does this increasingly make being a disabled artist an impossible task?

Obstacles to work are becoming increasingly tough to overcome – cuts to the fund that provides employment support for disabled people, and increased rationing of social care budgets means many don’t have assistance to get out of the house. Cuts to the arts mean fewer grants and venues less willing to take risks, preferring instead big names that are guaranteed seat fillers. There’s less appetite in many ways for new work and work by unknown or emerging artists – and this impacts on many of us, including disabled people.

Lee Ridley, Lost Voice Guy - Comedian with cerebral palsy

Lee Ridley

Why do you think it’s important to laugh about a traditionally dark or taboo subject like disability? 

I’ve always seen the funny side of my disability, mainly because if I didn’t laugh about it, I would most definitely cry! I think I’ve also used it to remove the stigma from my situation. As long as I joke about it, no one else can get in first and take the mickey out of me. From a general point of view, I think that laughing about taboo subjects is a good way of approaching something  you might feel awkward about. 

What questions and thoughts are you hoping to inspire in your audiences?

I realise that I’m sometimes people’s first experience of disability, so I hope I change their perceptions a bit and show them that disabled people are just like anyone else. It probably helps educate them because they are forced to think about topics that maybe they wouldn’t normally, whilst enjoying themselves. 

Claire Cunningham - Performer and creator of multi-disciplinary performance

Claire Cunningham

After watching your performances, what questions do you hope your audiences go away with?

I want audiences to question how much their perceptions or opinions might be couched in notions of privilege or of one way being better than another, or of simply not recognising the presumptions they have made about the world. I want to raise questions of experiences not being better or worse than each other but rather just being different.

What more do you think needs to be done to encourage disabled artists?

There needs to be more work to create accessible training and performance – ‘integrated’ opportunities. Creatively embedding access into artistic processes offers incredibly rich material for artists, if more would recognise that it offers them not only new ways of thinking, but also wider audiences.

I would also like to see more bespoke training: a recognition of the specific skills that disabled artists bring and cultivate, and spaces where disabled dance artists could train emerging disabled artists in the specifics of that acquired knowledge – for example, in manual wheelchair techniques, power chairs, crutch technique and training specifically between sensory impaired artists.

Jess Thom, Touretteshero - Artist, playworker, expert fundraiser and part-time superhero.

Jess Thom, Touretteshero

What kinds of questions do you hope to inspire in your audiences?

I get all sorts of questions after my set and they’re nearly always welcome. In particular I’d hope to make audiences feel more comfortable with talking about difference and I’d like some questions about the benefits of lamp-posts vs cats.

Disability seems to have come into its own as an issue of representation in the arts this year. What more do you think should be done?

Visibility of disabled people within arts and media is crucial for building a more inclusive society. But this needs to focus on people with real lived experience of disability at all stages of the production process, and not on someone who’s jumped into a wheelchair in the hopes of winning an Oscar. When hard-won equalities are being disastrously dismantled, now is a pivotal point for disabled and non-disabled performers and artists to speak out.

Aaron Williamson - Performance artist who is profoundly deaf

Aaron Williamson

What kinds of questions do you hope to inspire in your audiences?

With Demonstrating the World, I want to portray various activities that might be banal to non-disabled people – climbing steps, removing a jacket, sitting, lifting, tying a shoelace, etc. – as a reflection upon the fact that, for disabled people, many aspects of the everyday world may not be transparent or easy.

As new government cuts to disabled people meet continued cuts to the arts, does this increasingly make being a disabled artist an impossible task?

It is certainly one of the obstacles to disabled artists. Since we are now leaving the EU, we will become even more isolated as there will be no protection against the stripping back of human rights generally, which will ultimately impact earmarked arts commissioning for marginalised communities. Another, perhaps more long-term problem that disability artists face is the reluctance of the mainstream art world to commission and represent disabled people.

Candoco Dance Company - Unlimited Commissions

Candoco Dance Company - Unlimited Commissions

Candoco Dance Company present an evening of bold new dance featuring 12 disabled and non-disabled performers, with works choreographed by Marc Brew and Claire Cunningham.


This project is an Unlimited Commission for the Cultural Olympiad and is supported by The Brazilian Embassy.


6 September 2012

The Musical Genius: Derek Paravicini - Trailer

The Musical Genius: Derek Paravicini - Trailer

TV's musical genius Derek Paravicini, the world famous musical savant, makes his London debut with the Emerald Ensemble Chamber Orchestra playing classical, blues and jazz compositions plus some sensational improvisations.

Although blind and severely learning impaired Derek can play any piece of music after hearing it only once.

Derek has performed at Ronnie Scott's, Beverley Hills, Hollywood and boogied with Jules Holland. His remarkable abilities have been investigated in the film The Musical Genius. Derek's life story, In the Key of Genius, written by his music teacher Professor Adam Ockelford, is a best-seller.

He will be performing:

  • Leonard Bernstein: /Mason: West Side Story Suite
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams: /Martin Pring: Fantasia on Greensleeves
  • Johann Pachelbel: Canon in D
  • Claude Debussy: /Martin Pring: Le petit negre
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Air from Orchestral Suite No.3 in D, BWV.1068 (Air on a G string)
  • George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
  • Johannes Brahms: Hungarian Dance No.5 in F sharp minor


  • Dmitry Shostakovich: Waltz No.2 from Suite for Variety Stage Orchestra
  • Lowell McKennitt: Marco Polo
  • George Botsfield: Black and white Rag
  • Keith Emerson: Honky tonk train blues
  • Astor Piazzolla: Oblivion
  • Requests and improvisations
  • Nicolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov: The Flight of the Bumble Bee

A trailer from The Musical Genius, produced by A Focus Production for FIVE & Discovery Health. Distributed by Channel 4 International.

Claire Cunningham in conversation

Claire Cunningham in conversation

A much sought-after performer internationally, Claire Cunningham discussed her views on work, life, disability and sexuality in conversation with Southbank Centre’s Head of Performance and Dance, Wendy Martin.

WOW Artist-in-Residence Claire Cunningham’s unique performance style integrating the dynamic use of her crutches has been acclaimed for its humorous and intelligent challenges to issues of disability, aesthetics and dance.

In her dance performance Ménage à Trois, Claire asks whether her crutches have prevented potential partners from being interested in her or if she uses them as a defence mechanism.

Her next project ‘Pink Mist’ explores the legacy of landmines and conflict in Cambodia and their role in creating a population with one of the highest instances of disability in the world.

More about WOW - Women of the World Festival