Call for papers: Mental Health and Disability Equality in the Creative Industries (AMH23) Hybrid Symposium, 19 July 2023 at De Montfort University

AMH23 is a media, film, and creative arts symposium organised by MeCCSA’s Disability Network, MeCCSA’s Practice Network, and Evolution Film (which is funded by the British Academy). Our purpose is to examine the current and future role of mental health and disability equality across the global creative sector. This event will analyse the stresses and the challenges faced by those with mental health or physical disabilities within these jobs, and for anyone managing the circumstances that would help such colleagues’ reach their full potential.

The inequality faced by creative practitioners with disabilities (either for gaining access to creative jobs, or for being adequately supported in their roles) paints an unfavourable set of circumstances for both equality and access as it currently stands, and this must change. In the UK, the film industry is booming, with Sky Studios in Elstree creating 3,000 jobs, the Pinewood Group expanding their Shepperton studios by one million square feet, plus inward investment of £3 billion (with the domestic industry matching this figure). But the industry claims it is struggling to find employees who have the necessary skills despite an abundance of talent being available. 

One argument is there is a problem not with lack of talent but with commissioning styles and recruitment processes/talent acquisition. Yet, another set of figures suggests the deficit is being caused on several levels by discrimination which needs urgently addressing. The Creative Diversity Network for example, recently reported that “Just 5.8% of off-screen workers are disabled, compared to 17% of the working population beyond the television industry” (2021: p4). It has been widely recognised that those with disabilities represent the most discriminated against group in the industry, and with a further 95% of disabled characters being represented on-screen by able-bodies actors (the Rudderman Foundation, 2016), opportunities are further reduced. Furthermore, almost nine out of 10 employees in the film industry have poor mental health yet have limited access to specific support in their roles (BFI, ScreenSkills, 2022). Changes are alleged to be taking place, but it can be argued these are minimal and have not yet made an impact on equality, diversity, and inclusion. Despite positive steps being made, there is still a stigma attached to this area and it is a similar story throughout the creative sector.

While being conscious of an over romanticisation of the impact of mental health problems and disabilities, there is evidence that neurodiversity advances creativity, though such factors are not yet awarded the credibility they deserve. AMH23 will analyse what opportunities and challenges that commercial growth offers, through expanding the knowledge of mental health and disability in relation to film and television production but also by recognising this challenge across the wider creative sector. We welcome expressions of interest from academics, professionals within industry, recruiters, steering groups, charities, and professional statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs).

With the above in mind, we welcome submissions that address this burgeoning field of interest from local, national, international, and transnational perspectives and from a variety of industry-focused paradigms. The symposium welcomes submissions that break new boundaries in terms of format and presentation styles, and those which promote accessibility and inclusion for our audience. Submissions are welcome from colleagues within both industry and academia, and from those who focus on this topic in practice and through practice. Submissions are especially welcome from delegates and practitioners with disabilities themselves. Topics can include policy and legislation, creative practices and practice-based research, continual professional development (CPD), and pedagogy – in addition to the work of content producers, filmmakers and artists working across the creative sector. 

Abstracts and expressions of interest may include topics such as:
•       Industry history and futures
•       Teaching, CPD and pedagogy
•       PTSD and film/media production
•       Disability and film/media practice
•       Mental health and film/media production
•       Media production and practice-based research
•       The wider creative arts and areas of practice such as games and VR 
•       Coping strategies and managing stress and challenges (both physical and mental) associated with these kinds of jobs
•       Mental health issues or physical disabilities in the context of creative industries
•       [Mis]representation of disabilities (stereotyping, stigmatisation, spectacle etc.)
•       Discrimination
•       Policy and legislation
•       Trade Unions
•       Ethics
•       Positive approaches
•       Relationships with creativity
•       Current/emerging practices and areas of interest

300-word abstract biography due: 31 January 2023 via EasyChair [link pending]

Full day, Hybrid Symposium 19 July 2023 at De Montfort University providing disability access, signers and support.

Following the event, there will be opportunities to publish via a prominent academic journal and other recognisable outputs for the REF.

Please use the following link to access the EasyChair portal for abstracts.

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