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This research would not be possible without the help of all the interviewees and preceding research. I, therefore, publish my abstract, conclusion and full bibliography below. You can request a copy of the research in full, which includes the literature review, methodology, findings and discussion by filling out the form below. 

Creative Methodologies
to improve access 

MA Arts and Cultural Enterprise, Dissertation, Published 8 December 2022.

Can Band 1 and 2 Arts Council England funded visual arts organisations in the National Portfolio employ creative methodologies to better provide accessible contents and programmes? 


This paper seeks to answer whether Band 1 and 2 Arts Council England (ACE) funded visual arts organisations in the National Portfolio can employ creative methodologies to better provide accessible contents and programmes, through exploring the motivations, challenges and limitations of these organisations. This research is grounded in ACE’s ‘Let’s Create’ Strategy (2020) which prioritises a shift towards inclusive practices as evidenced by their Creative Case for Diversity established in 2011, which as a public body responsible for the majority of public arts funding in England, has huge influence over the behaviours, ambitions and direction of the organisations they fund. As an institutional critique of the structures of National Portfolio Organisations (NPO), and of ACE itself, this research aims to investigate the structures, ideologies and attitudes that we as society consider accessible and the challenges organisations face in trying to meet these varied and multiple demands. In doing so it poses the hypothesis of considering alternative methods in the form of creative methodologies as a possible solution to organisational hurdles.

The qualitative data for this project was collected through conversations in the form of structured and semi-structured interviews with 14 NPO’s and four expert organisations and individuals.

With the rise in attention given to inclusive movements in society currently (such as Black Lives Matter, the disabled people’s movement, and trans, asexual and people of colour in the LGBT community), there is a fear of doing wrong or not being sufficiently inclusive which in turn paralyses organisations into inactivity. By analysing the challenges and difficulties organisations face, this study establishes the viability of creative methodologies for organisations with limited time, budget and resources encouraging organisations to find creative ways to maximise their inclusive practices, meet ACE funding requirements and provide accessible arts and culture to a broad public audience. Other findings include the need for attitudinal shifts, knowledge sharing amongst organisations with similar goals, the involvement of people with disabilities in the creation of provisions, the redefining of ability and taken-for-granted understandings of access, and the integration of access in the creative process.

This paper also argues for further research into alternative methodologies to provide access that place less strain on organisations’ resources and abolishes the emphasis on segregated provisions in favour of valuing differing abilities.

This study acts as an open invitation for ACE funded visual arts organisations in the National Portfolio to use their practice to their strength and to think creatively about new methodologies for access provisions.


This study aimed to establish creative methodologies usefulness supporting ACE funded Band 1 and 2 National Portfolio visual arts organisations to provide more accessible content. It aimed to assess the needs and challenges organisations face through interviewing NPOs and experts and whether the hypothesis of creative methodologies can support them in overcoming hurdles. What makes this study unique is its focus at organisational level, empowering organisations to act and develop provisions suitable to their resources and audiences.

The results from the interviews and case studies indicate creative methodologies potential in helping organisations overcome many perceived challenges with significance laying in practical suggestions and implementations. Most evident are the attitudinal changes

required before accessible provisions can be employed; with focus on progress rather than fear of wrongdoing. Greater emphasis is needed for alternative and different experiences, and provisions must be employed from anti-ableist perspectives removing the emphasis on normality. For organisations not doing so, this study provides evidence and permission, shared by those who are disabled or work closely with them, to provide what is possible whilst leading with transparency, to communicate authentically and to get creative.

This study expands on existing literature calling for more creative and ambitious methods and emphasises the possibilities of what the creative sector can offer accessible provisions, especially when operating outside existing guidelines, as demonstrated by the case studies (Kleege, 2018; Kudlick and Luby, 2019 and Partington, 2017). This is significant as it demonstrated gaps in instruction for accessible provisions for the arts, but also an opportunity for the sector to leverage their practices as a strength. The endorsement of creative strategies by experts, and NPOs’ curiosity of these methods, alongside the case study findings indicates need for creative approaches that create equitable experiences by being less mechanistic and more aligned with what artworks/programmes convey to non- disabled audiences. It must be noted that providing access creatively comes with responsibility to ensure inclusive environments are created, enabling equitable experiences. Additionally, this paper suggests consideration of different social contextual approaches to disability models, including the social model, beyond ‘just barrier removal’. This is significant within Britain, whose social model reliance contributes to some challenges. Despite recognition of the social model's strengths, considering alternative models alongside it is significant in moving organisations beyond hurdles and allowing new perspectives on inclusion to be developed that consider how individuals want to be seen within society.

Additionally, the importance of including disabled voices in devising provisions and decision making is significant in countering ableist beliefs (that they are unable to help themselves), and a key takeaway for NPOs. From the interview findings, desire to collaborate with disabled people and experts is an invitation to the sector to work together, sharing best practice for developing ways of experiencing programmes. With this finding new questions arise around consultation with people with disabilities and how to do so ethically. As Interviewee E stated: “development of a clearer plan of how you bring consultation into a process of developing something that is really key still to develop” (2022).

The research findings are not only relevant to NPOs but also funding bodies like ACE who, as suggested by this research, drive attitudes. It became evident that prioritising inclusivity and diversity in strategies does not lead to an inclusive sector and that priorities without guidance and support leads to assumptions that current attempts are sufficient. Collecting superficial reports of demographic data implies definitions of inclusivity that do not serve everyone equitably. It therefore should be seen as a joint responsibility and funding hierarchies must not be ignored in the context of this study.


This study also presents additional research areas; the most obvious being the needs of those with differing abilities. What do they want from visual arts NPOs? How can differently abled people have a voice in movements towards inclusivity in sensitive and ethical ways? Who is responsible to lead on accessible provisions and who drives that shift? Throughout this research there was demonstrable need for guidelines on what accessibility means, generally and sector specific that needs further definition, publishing, and integration into organisations’ responsibilities, especially those receiving public funding. Most striking is the question ‘what next?’. Despite this research highlighting two case studies demonstrating progress within artistic practice, one question warranting further research remains: what are these creative methodologies and how can they be employed?


To me, this research evokes attitudes advocated by the experts interviewed; a sense of endless possibility and hope for a sector that has such potential to redefine experiences for people with different needs and abilities. It provides challenges to cultural workers, myself included, to question commonly accepted ways of working and experiencing, defining ability, and demonstrating a need to be creative. This research is a call to action for arts organisations to dissolve fears by leading with the intent of doing right by those differently abled and where traditional means of providing access present insurmountable hurdles, to get creative because that is what the sector does best.


It is with huge gratitude and appreciation that I would like to thank all the people that stood by my side and cheered me on through this process; my parents, whose belief in me replaced my own at countless times throughout; my partner, whose patience and support over the past two years was more than I could have hoped or thanked him for; and the countless people who give me confidence, inspired my passions for learning, the arts and the subject matter of this paper; Matthew McGrath, and  the entire MA Arts and Cultural Enterprise Team, with special thanks to Charlotte Bonham-Carter, my supervisor, from whom I have learnt so much and Andy Marsh, without whom I would have never started this journey of completing an MA. I hope to build someone up the same way Andy Marsh and the Cultural and Enterprise Team did for me over the seven years I have known them. Thank you for making Central Saint Martins a safe space to learn, explore and fail.


I would also like to thank all my interviewees including Amanda Lynch, Mike Layward and Sheryll Catto and everyone that wished to remain anonymous, you have inspired me to write a paper very close to my heart and understand the importance of my own identity in the context of my work.


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