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Creative project amplifies the voices of learning disabled and autistic adults

Published: 15 May 2023

  •   Featured
A woman holds a book of colourful artwork towards the camera

‘I'm Me’ is a two-year creative research project, set to launch in May 2023, with the aim of amplifying the voices of learning disabled and autistic artists by exploring questions of identity, representation and voice.

Led by Professor Matthew Reason from the Institute for Social Justice at York St John University and receiving circa £380,000 funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, I'm Me will be conducted in collaboration with Mind the Gap and in partnership with a network of six disability arts companies from across the UK: About Face, Confidance, Hijinx, Lung Ha, Open Theatre and Under the Stars. 

Learning disabled and autistic people are often marginalised and perceived as voiceless, with limited opportunities to express themselves, even on issues related to disability. I'm Me: Identity, Representation and Voice seeks to address this disparity by placing the lived experiences of learning-disabled artists at the centre of the research process. Through an approach based on the Creative Doodle Book, a resource that uses open and playful tasks to encourage reflective self-expression, the project will delve into three key areas: identity, representation and voice. 

Learning disabled and autistic artists from organisations across the country will act as peer researchers. Using creative activities, artists will explore their perceptions of their own identity, how others perceive them, and think about how arts and culture can make their presence known. Their insights and creative understandings are the heart of the whole project, creating new platforms for learning disabled and autistic voices to be heard.

The project will run from May 2023 to June 2025, culminating in a festival incorporating performances, exhibitions, and videos showcasing the artistic talents and perspectives of the learning disabled and autistic artists involved in the project. The festival will provide a platform for these artists to share their voices and experiences with a wider audience, fostering inclusivity, diversity, and empowerment. 

Professor Matthew Reason, the lead researcher of I'm Me, said:

"This project will work with learning disabled and autistic artists as researchers, using their creativity to explore their lived experiences of the world and of disability. It asks questions about identity, and about who can be artists, researchers and leaders within our society."    

Jess Boyes, Artists & Partnerships Producer from Mind the Gap said:

“Learning disabled and autistic people so rarely have opportunities for their voices to be heard. I’m Me provides a real platform for people to explore, share and celebrate their lived experiences on their terms - this is at the heart of all of Mind the Gap’s work and we’re excited to be working with York St John University on this pioneering project."

For more information, please visit the I'm Me website.

About the Institute for Social Justice at York St John University.

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