20 May 2022 / Access
After some early success as a sketch writer, I had a sort of burn-out, and dropped out of the industry. If I’m honest, I thought I was done with writing – I was a busy working mum and didn’t have time for it -but writing wasn’t done with me…
I found myself compelled to write, but was unhappy with everything I produced. This state of writing but not writing went on for years – until I entered the Wild Lunch competition with Paines Plough and Graeae, and got through to the final. This felt significant, and was the push I needed to start taking my writing seriously.
I subsequently signed up for an MA in Writing and applied for every opportunity that came my way.
In 2008, I was offered a place on a week long residential radio writing course, designed for disabled writers and run at Arvon’s Shropshire house The Hurst. The initiative had been set up by Graeae, BBC Radio Drama and the Writersroom. Needless to say it was a brilliant course, one of the tutors was Alex Bulmer, an experienced disabled writer, who was so supportive and inspirational. I learnt so much, just being able to immerse myself in audio drama, in writing and having conversations with other writers.
Ten years later in 2018 I was invited back to The Hurst, but this time as a guest tutor. It was to work on a course run in partnership with the Conan Doyle Collection and was specifically aimed at visually impaired writers. The lead tutors were the wonderful Jake Arnott and Kerry Young. It was a truly lovely experience, being able to support other VI writers. The evenings carried on for hours, we had some amazing conversations and as I recall, plenty of cheesecake and wine. Perfect!
By then, my own writing career was finally taking off. I’d had my first BBC Radio Four play broadcast Blind School co–written with Sarah McDonald-Hughes, and had developed and performed my solo show Measuring Up in partnership with The Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, supported by the Arts Council. My first TV drama had been commissioned, Second Sight for Jimmy McGovern’s Moving On and I was still working on this when in 2019, Arvon asked me to tutor on a week long course with the successful playwright and screen writer Tim Crouch. I have to admit, I felt a little overwhelmed. Tim and I developed a course called Writing For Performance, designed for Writers who performed their own work, and who were interested in using their lived experience as base material. Our guest tutor was the wonderful Bridget Minamore.
In 2020 Arvon was halfway through it’s Business Action Plan which had identified areas of development, including increasing access for disabled writers. They commissioned my great friend and colleague Zoe Partington (we had both occasionally worked for Disordinary Architecture) to produce a report looking at website accessibility. They then approached me to work on a part-time basis to support the organisation to implement access more broadly across the programmes.
What I love about working for Arvon is that everyone in the team is passionate about increasing access. Our aim is to work towards achieving long term solutions, and to avoid quick fixes. So we’re re-visiting policies, slowly introducing changes, and hope to develop a strong relationship with the disabled community.
*Mandy Redvers-Rower is a disabled writer living in Liverpool. She currently serves as Arvon’s access consultant
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