Theatre & Disability Panel – Abigail Brydon, Robert Softley Gale, Suzanne Lofthus, & Ian Manborde
Saturday 16th September, 1-2 pm BST
North East Scotland College, Loch Street, Aberdeen
Industry experts come together to answer questions and discuss challenges faced by disabled artists and performers. We will have views from all perspectives (actors, policy makers, directors, producers, facilitators and educators) with the aim of tearing down barriers and encouraging more inclusivity, hopefully inspiring a new wave of disabled talent.
Accessibility for disabled artists and performers is not an easy subject to discuss. This panel will share their experiences and expertise to highlight barriers that disabled artists face. Only together can real, actionable change and understanding be achieved so that the stories and experiences of disabled people are championed respectfully, authentically and safely, and fairer representation can occur.
Abigail Brydon is a professional actor, course co-facilitator, and Associate Artist with Cutting Edge Theatre in Edinburgh. She has recently been co-facilitating the Let Me Be Theatre-Making Course with Graeae Theatre and 1623, which uses Shakespeare’s plays as a tool for exploring social injustice. Abigail played Beth in Downs With Love which was produced for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016 and toured Scotland in 2018, and again in 2022 on a national tour. She won the Creative Achievement Award at the Scottish Learning Disability Awards, has appeared in voiceover and educational materials for the NHS as well as assistant producing The Enchanted Forest for INSPIRE.
Robert Softley Gale is an established figure in the Scottish arts scene, with over twenty years of experience, including as an activist for disability rights and advocate of equality of access to the arts for disabled people, whether as artists or audiences. He is the Artistic Director of Birds of Paradise as well as an award-winning and recognised writer, director and actor. Robert's artistic practice includes writing and directing 'My Left / Right Foot' alongside the National Theatre of Scotland which won a Fringe First and Herald Angel at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe and toured to Japan. His award-winning writing debut and solo performance – ‘If These Spasms Could Speak’ – was a hit of the 2013 Fringe and toured internationally to countries including Brazil and India. For BBC America he performed in 'CripTales', receiving two BAFTA nominations.
Suzanne Lofthus is Artistic Director for Cutting Edge Theatre in Edinburgh, a director and a writer. She wrote and directed Downs with Love, starring Abigail Brydon, and wrote Mary, The Last Farewell about Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I. Since 2005 Suzanne has directed the annual open air promenade Easter Play in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Cutting Edge Theatre specialise in Community Theatre, and enabling and encouraging disadvantaged people’s potential. This has taken Suzanne from Scotland to Milan, Brazil and Louisiana, USA. They currently work with people of different abilities through their INSPIRE project and are working with other companies towards establishing drama training pathways for learning disabled people in Scotland.
Dr. Ian Manborde is Equity’s equalities and education officer. In his equalities role he leads the union’s equalities, diversity and inclusion activity at a national level around policy, strategy and communications. Ian is also the secretary to Equity’s four equalities committees (women’s, Deaf and disabled, race equality and LGBT+) which act as the advisory bodies to the union on matters of policy. In Ian’s education brief he develops and schedules the delivery of training for Equity staff, its governing body the Council, committees and branches.