terptree: What Is Shape Arts?

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Thursday, 19 May 2016

What Is Shape Arts?

Shape Arts 40 Years Logo

Shape Arts focuses on leading the way - in innovative fashion - for the inclusion of disabled people in the creative and cultural sector. Over the 40 years since Shape was founded, the first legislation recognising the rights of disabled people was introduced; Shape, keen to make a difference to disabled people, developed highly valuable access audits for arts and cultural venues.

These audits clearly mapped out the improvements and changes that would have to be made to include disabled people as audience members, employees and creatives. Disability Equality Training was delivered by Shape to staff from various organisations. Shape is also responsible for the very first National Disability Arts Conference back in 1991.

Due to their constant work with major cultural institutions their ultimate goal is to see disabled people reach their full potential and for their full inclusion into the mainstream of arts and culture.

Shape Arts workshop

Shape facilitate a workshop for disabled young people with Graeae Theatre Company

Shape has partnerships with high profile National Portfolio Organisations, such as:

  • Royal Opera House
  • National Theatre
  • Southbank Centre

Shape is a disability-led arts organisation continuously working to provide better opportunities and support for disabled artists. They also work with cultural organisations with the aim of generating greater inclusiveness and better confidence in working alongside disabled people. Shape’s main values are:

  • Inclusion
  • Ambition
  • Creativity
  • Excellence 

These values allow Shape Arts to work towards promoting greater accessibility and inclusion, thus opening talent and audience gateways. Accessible learning and development opportunities are also provided to help disabled artists and individuals build a sustainable career.


Shape provides a number of professional development opportunities, including:

  • Workshops
  • Networking Opportunities
  • Mentoring schemes

Exhibitions and events can be accessible both live and online, where the work of talented artists can be received and recognised, critiqued and congratulated, all in front of a diverse audience. Shape work with people of all ages and those from a whole range of cultural and economic backgrounds.




Shape Arts 40th Anniversary


Shape Arts 40 Years










This year sees Shape turn 40 and is undoubtedly going to be a special year for the organisation. There are sure to be many events and special occasions to mark the milestone and the hard work doesn’t slow up now they’ve reached four decades of constant campaigning for inclusion and better support for the disabled community.




Beyond their 40th anniversary year, Shape’s plans are to create free mobility and open pathways for all disabled people where their creative work is simply put forward and honoured on merit alone.

Accessible Venues


With Shape promoting equality and accessibility, it is only right that they list and promote accessible venues, providing:


  • Audio Description
  • Captioning
  • Sign Language Interpreted Performances (Our personal favourite, we’re only a little biased)
  • Relaxed Performances


Sign Language interpreted performances are a regular feature of the London theatre, allowing for Deaf people to have access in their preferred language British Sign Language (BSL). An Interpreter will be clearly visible and provide interpretation for everything that is spoken and heard during the show.

Shape Art Artist At Work
Artist NoĆ«mi Lakmaier creating work in residency at one of Shape’s pop-up galleries

Now we know throughout this post we’ve used the word “disabled” a fair few times. While we recognise that many of the Deaf community view themselves as a linguistic, cultural minority, this has been used to explain the work of Shape Arts.

Apart from working with D/deaf artists and emerging creatives, Shape promotes accessible events through its website and social media that are accessible for deaf people. To take a few examples:


  •  Accessible Cinemas (Cineworld/ODEON) 


Subtitles for deaf people are available at certain performances at Cineworld. Hearing loops (either infra red or induction) are installed at all of their cinemas’ auditoria (except at The O2 Greenwich). Please check with the box office which facility is available. Next generation text service calls are available on their telephone booking service.



To find a subtitled performance at your local ODEON, simply select the “Subtitled” filter when viewing the performances at your cinema. In addition, the "Your Local Cinema" website provides full listings of captioned performances at ODEON and other cinemas. They also have Infra Red headsets available to support your hearing of the film soundtrack. Please enquire at the cinema Box Office if you require one of these headsets. In addition, hearing loops are available at some of their Box Office and food and drink counters, just look for the hearing loop symbol.
  • Accessible Heritage Sites (Banqueting House/Hampton Court Palace/Kensington Palace/Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage)


All are accessible in BSL, with induction loops available at Banqueting House and Hampton Court Palace.

  • Accessible Multi-Arts Centres (Barbican/Cecil Sharp House/Roundhouse/Southbank Centre) 
Roundhouse’s box office desk is equipped with a hearing loop system for those using hearing aids. The Main Space and the Studio Theatre are equipped with a Sennheiser Hearing Enhancement System. Details of captioned or signed performances will be listed under the dates and times tab on individual production pages. The Southbank Centre states BSL interpretation, speech-to-text and captioned performances are provided. The other two simply state they help deaf people be as independent as possible. 
  • Accessible Galleries (The Barbican Gallery/Dulwich Picture Gallery/National Gallery/National Portrait Gallery/Photographers Gallery/Royal Academy of Art/Shape Arts Gallery/Wellcome Collection/William Morris Gallery)
  • Accessible Museums (Design Museum/Geffrye Museum/Science Museum/Victoria & Albert Museum/V&A Museum of Childhood/Royal Museums Greenwich/Wallace Collection)


  • Accessible Theatres (Arcola Theatre/Donmar Warehouse/National Theatre/New Diorama Theatre/Royal Albert Hall/Royal Opera House/Saddlers Wells/Soho Theatre/Tricycle Theatre/Unicorn Theatre)

From all of us here at terptree we hope you have found this post interesting and informative. If you’d like to find out more about Shape Arts you can visit their website here >> http://www.shapearts.org.uk/




From wherever and whenever you’re reading this, we hope you have a great day J

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