Article content

Disability Programming Initiative: Two people are wearing masks and have their hands joined. A woman is standing between them and has her hands placed on their joined hands.

Disability Programming Initiative is launched!

Sydney Festival, in collaboration with Accessible Arts, has launched Australia’s first Disability Programming Initiative. The initiative invites artists with disability or who are Deaf to pitch projects and make submissions for the opportunity of being included in the 2020 Festival. The goal of the initiative is for a minimum of three projects to be included.

What’s the motivation for the Disability Programming Initiative?

Sydney Festival is committed to increasing the representation of artists with disability in their annual program.

The Festival has a long history of promoting access and inclusion for audiences with disability by providing an ongoing program that aims to remove barriers for audiences. In the past few years, the Festival has included a number of projects created and/or performed by artists with disability – Beast (Dan Daw), Imagined Touch, Kaleidoscope – but there is more that can be done. The Festival wants more artists with disability from Sydney, Australia and the world included in the 2020 program and beyond.

Sydney Festival takes seriously their role to unite our city and create memorable moments we are all excited by. The Festival believes that we build stronger communities when a diverse range of artists tell their stories to a diverse range of audiences. Having more work by artists with disability in the program is important to the Festival. In addition, the Festival believes it should be a goal all arts festivals, venues and companies aspire to.

Key points about Sydney Festival programming

  • Sydney Festival programs free events, visual arts, music, theatre, dance, large public installations, online events and everything in between.
  • The Festival looks for exemplary artistic and cultural endeavours that are adventurous, international best practice and have something new to say to the world.
  • Sydney Festival looks for a strong aesthetic language, demonstrable artistic/cultural skills and a well articulated story to tell.
  • Successful projects often have multiple partners to help fund and present the work, and a clearly articulated target audience.

I would like to submit a pitch! Who do I contact if I need guidance or have questions?

We encourage you to contact Accessible Arts for support or guidance with any part of your pitch or submission: Liz Martin, Arts Development and Training Manager / / 02 8379 3102 (Tue/Wed/Thurs).

Who is eligible to submit a pitch?

Anyone with disability is eligible to submit a pitch through the Disability Programming Initiative.

The Disability Inclusion Act 2014 (DIA) defines disability as: “The long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which in interaction with various barriers may hinder the full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

The term ‘disability’ can also include people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. The Deaf community may not always identify as having disability or impairment and may define themselves as a culturally and linguistically diverse group due to their use of Auslan (Australian Sign Language).

  • Sydney Festival works with artists who have a track record of creating/performing works.
  • Artists with disability and/or organisations working with/for people with disability are encouraged to submit a pitch. Groups submitting need to be disability-led. This means you must demonstrate that the artistic process within the group is led by artists with disability.
  • Festival Director Wesley Enoch (aided by the Sydney Festival programming team) will make the final decisions based on the balance of projects, budgets and distribution.

What should the pitch include?

Each pitch to the Disability Programming Initiative should be 2-3 pages long (or the equivalent) and include:

  • a 2-3 paragraph detailed description of the project
  • 1-2 paragraphs on each of the key artists involved
  • the venue or type of venue you require
  • a list of presenting or funding partners and whether these are confirmed
  • a demonstrated sense of the target audience
  • a budget which includes pre-production costs, funding sources, possible box office/income sources, in-kind support, weekly running costs
  • images / video / media / article links of previous works, or of developments of the work being pitched

When can I submit my pitch?

Submissions will be accepted up to 31 March 2019. Things to keep in mind:

  • We encourage all possible pitches to be submitted no later than 31 March at 5 pm AEST for inclusion in the following Festival. However, pitches can be submitted at any time up to then.
  • The more assistance you need to realise your project, the better it is to get in early.
  • Sydney Festival locks off its program by May/June each year.

How do I submit my pitch?

You are welcome to pitch in any format accessible to you: for example by email, audio file, video (including in Auslan), handwritten or printed document using one of the following methods to submit:

By email:

By post: Tom Riordan, Associate Producer, Sydney Festival, Level 5, 10 Hickson Road, The Rocks, NSW  2000

If you choose to pitch using a video, it can be as simple as one shot on an iPhone.

All applicants must provide the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Contact phone number
  • Email address
  • Preferred method of contact

Please do not send email attachments over 2MB. For large files, your options are to use an online transfer service like WeTransfer, or provide links to download from Dropbox or Google Drive, or post us a USB flash drive.


Submissions to the Disability Programming Initiative will be acknowledged as they are received. The selection process will begin after the end of the submission period (submissions close 5 pm AEST 31 March 2019).

Best wishes with your pitch and submission!

Image credit: Jamie Williams

For a mini guide to what’s accessible at Sydney Festival 2019, visit here.

This page was first published on 3 December 2018.