Deaf, disabled & neurodiverse young people take over Tate Modern

March 6, 2019

From samba workshops and political demonstrations to Bauhaus ballet - 25 special schools from across London to host unique festival at Tate Modern.

The 'I Am At Tate Exchange Festival' will form part of the 2019 Tate Exchange programme.

From 26-30 March, 200 deaf, disabled and neurodiverse pupils from 25 special schools from across London will join together to take over the 5th floor of the Blavatnik Building in Tate Modern to host a festival which showcases and celebrates their creativity.

I Am At Tate Exchange Festival is a partnership between the schools and A New Direction, a London-based non-profit generating opportunities for children and young people to unlock their creativity. The festival works to advocate for richer cultural opportunities for deaf, disabled and neurodiverse children and young people; making disability more visible in London’s cultural venues, and demonstrating that children of all abilities can play an active role in London’s culture.

The majority of the activity in the space has been devised and curated by the students and teachers and offers an insight into the vital role the arts play in special school education. Elements of the festival will be open to the public, and admission is free. There will be plenty of opportunities for gallery visitors to join in the fun, including:

  • a Bauhaus ballet workshop hosted by The Garden School
  • an introduction to British Sign Language with Eastbury Community School
  • a political demonstration based on the work of Bob & Roberta Smith by Parayhouse School
  • live music by The Vale School band, Backdrop.

Details of all the activities taking place this year's festival can be found on the A New Direction website:  

The festival is part of this year’s Tate Exchange programme - an ambitious ‘open experiment’ which allows other organisations and members of the public to participate in Tate’s creative process, running events and projects on site and using art as a way of addressing wider issues in the world around us. Building on the success of two previous Tate Exchange residencies, this year sees A New Direction’s takeover develop into fully-fledged festival of creativity.

The festival comes at a time when funding for schools supporting pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has been stretched to breaking point. 94% of respondents to a recent National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) survey said it is harder to support such pupils now than two years ago, and 73% reported it was harder to resource support for pupils with SEND due to cuts to mainstream funding [NAHT Empty promises report]. In this climate, offering support for these schools is becoming ever more vital.

While the festival is currently the only one of its kind, A New Direction hopes it can provide a model for other cultural organisations to help address issues around accessibility, representation and inclusion. For 73% of pupils who participated in last year’s residency it was their first ever visit to Tate, and we hope to give even more young people their first experience of Tate Modern this year.

Steve Moffitt, A New Direction CEO, said:

‘We are delighted to once again be partnering with Tate Exchange to deliver this inspirational event. This year we have more schools, more students, and more activities than ever before. It’s been a pleasure to watch the residency grow and develop, and to witness the positive impact it’s had on the teachers and students taking part. Many of them are working in increasingly challenging times, so events like these are so important.’


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