A few words on Triple C (also known as the Creative Confidence Collective) – an organisation helping to increase disabled peoples’ access to the film and TV industries.
Triple C is an organisation giving deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people greater access to the film and TV industry. Today, disabled people make up 21% of the UK’s population but only 6% work in the arts. Triple C wants to change that.
It all started when disabled actors Cherylee Houston and Melissa Johns met whilst working on Coronation Street. They were both frustrated by the lack of opportunities for disabled people both in front of and behind the camera. So they set up the Creative Confidence Collective, which is known as Triple C. They wanted to use their experiences as professional actors to challenge the way the industry thinks about disability as a barrier to a career in the arts.
Houston and Johns didn’t know the impact they would have. The team run drama and theatre workshops for people with disabilities and help connect disabled people with industry professionals through DANC: the Disabled Artists Networking Community. They raise awareness and try to influence decision makers in film and TV. The ultimate goal is to make sure that no one who wants to get involved in the arts is left behind.
The grassroots level
At the grassroots level, they’re trying to help disabled people by giving drama classes in schools, youth groups and adult workshops. They want to give disabled people the chance to be actors from an early age and help adults who want to start acting. But that isn’t their only focus. They are also using drama to give people with disabilities more faith in themselves.
“Drama is so important and it gives you so much confidence,” co-founder Melissa Johns says. “We have young people who the teachers say would never have stood up and performed and now they’re leading improvisations.” They want to raise more funding to bring drama classes to more disabled people in schools and communities.
DANC: The Disabled Artists Networking Community
Their biggest success has been establishing the Disabled Artists Networking Community. They created this community to help disabled creatives on a professional level, particularly in connecting with industry experts. It has grown rapidly over the last five years. Today, there are over 1300 members. The pandemic led to many new members joining the community as events moved online.
DANC events let disabled creatives meet industry professionals. There are many workshops and masterclasses about different aspects of the industry. Many members have found work through the connections and guidance they have gained from these classes. Triple C also sends potential job opportunities to members. At the same time, through DANC, members of the industry were also able to meet disabled creatives they would never otherwise have encountered.
“We’ve put a lot of work into talent development at the same time as ensuring the industry has everything in place, so that one side isn’t ready before the other,” Johns told Bafta.org. “We knew from the start that we had to elevate both talent and industry together.”
The writing programme has been particularly rewarding. Members of DANC have gone on to write for shows like Casualty and Moving On. More than 30 trainees have had the chance to work on Ralph And Kate, a spin-off of The A Word, a show about a family finding out their son has autism. The success of the writers programme led Triple C to produce a set of guidelines about the difficulties disabled writers face and what the industry can do to become more inclusive.
Being part of a community has been vital for many disabled creatives. It gives them the chance to meet each other, discuss issues and feel less alone in the industry. It has also encouraged them to think of the film and TV industry as a space they could belong in rather than focusing on how their disability could hold them back.
For years, the industry did not know how to include disabled creatives and had been scared of getting it wrong. DANC events have led to conversations with industry professionals about how they can help break down the barriers disabled people face and come up with creative solutions. Triple C has been instrumental in encouraging industry leaders like Bafta to make their facilities and events as accessible as possible. They want to make sure that everyone is able to work in the arts, no matter what disability they have.
An industry leader
Triple C has spent years pushing past barriers to change the industry. But as they have become more established, more people in the arts are approaching them to find out how to make the industry more inclusive. After they won the Bafta TV Craft Special award earlier this year, they gained greater recognition.
“Now the industry is the one asking, ‘can we talk to you?’” co-founder Cherylee Houston told Bafta.org. “The biggest thing for us was to overcome our isolation in having perpetual discussions about being included and why access should be considered. Now it’s an industry-wide conversation.”
There’s also a lot more focus on the need for truthful representation. Many in the industry want guidance. Triple C are advising them on potential mistakes in their ideas and scripts and letting them know how they could make improvements.
The team is in the process of developing their Talent Finder which will be launched soon. It will allow disabled people to upload their profiles and CVs, noting their skills, training, disability and career highlights. The aim is to make it easier for employers to find them. Employers will also be able to upload jobs and opportunities for disabled people.
The hope is that this will enable Triple C to bring about even more groundbreaking change in the industry and result in more disabled people in front of and behind the camera. The work they’re doing to increase the accessibility of the film and TV industries is incredibly important, and we hope it continues long into the future.
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