The leading forum for the arts and disability is moving online in 2020. Meeting Place, the signature annual event of Arts Access Australia, provides space for artists with disability to present, perform, discuss and debate. This year, due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the forum will move online.

“We have wanted to introduce a strong online component to Meeting Place for some time,” Arts Access Australia CEO Matthew Hall told Inform. “And present restrictions have created the opportunity for us to do so.

“In 2018, we live streamed Meeting Place from Alice Springs and doubled our audience. We hope for strong interest and high audience participation in this new format for the forum.”

Image is of three people sitting on a panel at Meeting Place 2018. On right, is a person with short hair, wearing a black tshirt under a floral shirt and holding a tablet device. In the centre, a woman wears a black top and pants and wears glasses. To the left, a woman sits with one leg up on her chair. She smiles and wears a red hat and glasses and a red striped top and leggings under a floral dress.
Julia Hales (centre) speaks on a panel at Meeting Place 2018. Image: Arts Access Australia/Oliver Eclipse Photography

Hall says the taking Meeting Place online allows greater accessibility for people unable to attend in person.

“Whether that’s because of the location, a lack of transport, or for accessibility reasons, such as not being able to leave their house for various reasons.

“It allows us to bring Meeting Place to our community, rather than our community having to come to us.

Hall says that Arts Access Australia, the national peak body for arts and disability in Australia, have sought to make this year’s forum as accessible as they can. Many sessions will be recorded and available on-demand for those attending the forum. In addition, sessions will be live captioned, Auslan interpreted and audio described.”

Four actors perform in front of a black curtain at Meeting Place 2019. One woman, wearing an orange and white floral dress, pushes another woman, wearing a denim skirt and a white shirt, in her manual wheelchair. The woman pushing the wheelchair is leaning quite low as her arms are unusually short. Both women are smiling. A man in a black and white stripped shirt stands to their right, a woman in a black shirt stands to their left. Both face the women between them with their arms held high in the air.
An interactive theatre performance by Rebus Theatre at Meeting Place 2019. Image: Arts Access Australia/Andrew Sikorski.

Meeting Place creating space

This theme of this year’s program is ‘Creating Space’. Hall says space can mean space in community, online, politically or otherwise. While the forum may look a little different in 2020, there’s still plenty of highlights in the program.

Jane Gauntlett, a UK based writer, designer and producer of interactive experiences will be deliver the keynote.

“Jane has spent more than ten years working in interactive theatre, film and games. Her narrative-driven works explore the capacity for technology to intensify audience experience,’ Hall said.

 “Since 2007, Jane has been working on a number of projects that help people communicate and reach across boundaries”

“One of the program highlights includes a panel discussion on ‘Creating space in a new world’, featuring performance artist and academic, Petra Kuppers (based in the USA), Melbourne artist, Prue Stevenson and Tasmanian designer, Duncan Meerding.

Artist Kath Duncan speaks to a group at Meeting Place 2019 from her spot sitting sideways on her mobility scooter, one arm raised in the air. She wears bright orange sunglasses, a tie-dyed top and a prosthetic leg. Part of a stage and projector screen image can be seen to her right.
The Last Dance with the Last Avant Garde workshop at Meeting Place 2019. Image: Arts Access Australia/Andrew Sikorski.

“The program also includes a specially curated virtual tour of the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, delivered as part of our wonderful ongoing partnership with the gallery to improve access to the gallery’s art collection.

“The tour will interrogate ‘Invisible disability: creating space in portraiture’, and will provide a unique opportunity to discover some real gems in the Gallery’s collection.”

To close out the forum, there’ll be a dance party presented by dancer, arts facilitator and carer, Katie Cooper-Wares and co-facilitators Sprung!! Integrated Dance Theatre Inc. and senior dancers and independent artists, Max Mcauley and Tallula Bourne.

Disability-led conversations

By bringing together artists, arts worker, government and other key stakeholders in a safe and accessible space, Hall says that Meeting Place provides an opportunity for disability-led conversations in the arts. Conversations where all voices can be heard and the key issues impacting the community can be discussed.

“[This] ensures that our efforts are relevant, targeted and responsive,” Hall said.

Image is of audience members at Meeting Place 2018. A group of people sit in red chairs in a theatre.
Audience members at Meeting Place 2018, which was in Alice Springs. Image: Arts Access Australia/Oliver Eclipse Photography

“Meeting Place is Disability-led—it is only annual forum of its type in Australia that is disability-led. The forum allows us to showcase, and bring to the wider public, the incredible contribution made to the arts by d/Deaf and artists with disability.

“It also unites our community and empowers all of us by forging new connections. For example, there is a Facebook group for disabled artists called CACK! that evolved from connections made at Meeting Place Alice Springs. And there have been other examples of artistic collaborations that have their catalyst from connections forged at the forum.”

Registrations to attend Meeting Place have opened. You can register via the website and if you need assistance to complete your registration, you can contact [email protected].

Ready to read more? Try these Inform links:

Creative possibilities: Andi Snelling on art and disability

Art and the NDIS

Weave Movement Theatre: weaving a new direction

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