When I spoke to the graduates of the first ever Arts Access Aotearoa Make A Difference Arts Advocacy Programme, back in 2013, I said:
"I think the best possible impact of the programme would be to begin to develop a network of people who are committed to attending arts events, encouraging others to attend and having the courage to give both positive and constructive feedback to arts administrators and venue owners.
"Advocacy is a step beyond activism. Advocacy requires a constructive interaction between two parties to work together to identify areas of improvement and find solutions (whereas activism often only identifies problems).
"Over a couple of years, whether or not the programme is repeated (and hopefully it will be!), it would be great to see this foundation group of around 14 people grow in number and confidence. Ultimately though, the impact of the project will be to see more and more arts events and venues accessible to more and more people."
Key strength of programme
One of the key strengths of the programme was that all members of the group were themselves artists, performers or arts enthusiasts. This brought a huge amount of passion and authenticity to the group. Another strength was that, as with all new initiatives, there was an element of uncertainty and organic development to the programme, that allowed the group to participate in shaping the programme.
The programme structure – visiting a new venue each time, meeting the people who run it, touring the venue and then giving feedback –also modelled a way of advocating for access that gave participants a very experiential dynamic.
Better access to Basement Theatre
Auckland Mayor Len Brown attended the graduation and, to his credit, showed total support for increasing access to the arts for all. It also gave me the opportunity to make him aware that the Basement Theatre has been in a stoush with Auckland Council and Auckland Transport over funding to create better access to their venue, despite their wish to do so.
This came to my attention when I was asked to promote a play showing there in July about disability and I had to point out my discomfort with promoting a show about disability in an inaccessible venue.
Watch this space for more about that ...
Philip Patston was involved in designing and delivering the Arts Access Aotearoa Make A Difference Arts Advocacy Programme. This blog was first published on his blogsite.