City Arts

Artists: Alison Denholm, Laura Guthrie, Jane Hart

Dancing Mobiles

Flamingo Puppets for Shopmobility Scooters.


City Arts is a community and participatory arts organisation based in Nottingham. We develop arts opportunities that bring people together, stimulate change and create stronger, healthier communities. We believe participation in the arts can enrich and transform people’s lives and have been pioneering this approach for over 40 years. City Arts believes that creativity is a human right. Breaking down barriers to accessing creativity is what drives us.

Since 1977, we have co-produced high quality, bespoke arts projects with communities and groups that we consider overlooked and undervalued, both in Nottingham and beyond. A registered charity, we work creatively and collaboratively with communities and particularly target resources towards vulnerable groups. Our projects include music, performance, festivals, carnivals, visual and digital arts. These are all facilitated by artists particularly skilled in working creatively with people.

Our Carnival programme has explored how we can create inclusive and accessible carnival opportunities and has devised programmes with older people and people with mobility issues so they can take part fully in carnivals and parades.


Open Road Conference Abstract

Alison has been exploring ways to support disabled people and people with a diversity of mobility impairments to take part in Carnival. Working creatively with participants and other artists, she has developed and adjusted floats and puppets for shopmobility scooters.

Meander Theatre is a disability-led theatre company, working with individuals with learning disabilities and autism. Meander is participant led, with a representative steering group who make decisions around the direction of their projects. They run their weekly sessions at the Nottingham Playhouse.

This paper will discuss the Dancing Mobiles project, and questions that came up during its delivery around authorship, visibility and the scooter adaptation.

Authorship: Dancing Mobiles is an artist-led project, with creative decisions made when the initial proposal was written. This is opposite to how Meander works, which is participant led, with decisions made in partnership between the group and artists. We will explore these two approaches, and how they can complement to develop trust and create meaningful opportunities to support learning overall and develop disabled-led creativity

Visibility: Carnival is about celebration, and being visible on the streets. However, it is a long, physical day. The project explored how to remove these barriers through scooter adaptation, in consultation with disabled participants, including exploring how they might take centre stage if they wish to.

Scooters: Using scooters was a practical decision. However, Meander highlighted that there is often stigma around their use. The project turned this on its head in a positive way.

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Art Shape

Artists: Suzie Birchwood, Prof. Jürg Koch, Manuela Benini, Harriet West

Accessible dance and choreography

Does application of the principles of Universal Design to carnival parade piece production positively impact on access to (and quality of participant experience in) rehearsals, Mas Camps and/ or processions for disabled performers?


Art Shape is an access arts charity established in 1993 we run a countywide programme of arts courses and projects with a specific focus on disability issues and social inclusion mainly in the region of Gloucestershire.

We are passionate about supporting and enabling people facing barriers to realise their creative and learning potential. We do this in many and various ways, working closely with communities and their leaders and responding to needs.

We target our activities at providing opportunities for adults and children facing disabling barriers, particularly learning disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health service users and survivors, victims of domestic abuse and older people.

We strive to aid community cohesion, bringing diverse groups together to work on projects and get involved in community events.

We have a long Carnival tradition but have been working alongside other arts and cultural organisations in Gloucester as part of the Carnival Arts Partnership to engage diverse participants, artists, and trainees in Gloucester Carnival. We share a vision of an artistically exciting, accessible, and environmentally friendly event that celebrates the diversity and talents of Gloucester’s communities. We have been working with Nationally established Carnival Arts Organisations and dance professionals to further enrich our Carnival Arts practice and their inclusive practice.






Open Road Conference Abstract

Suzie, Jürg and the artistic team working with Gloucester Carnival will share learning from production of Carnival parade performance, costume and structure with disabled and non-disabled performers and volunteer makers.

Our research question is: “Does application of the principles of Universal Design to carnival parade piece production positively impact on access to (and quality of participant experience in) rehearsals, Mas Camps and/or processions for disabled performers?”

Jürg Koch, through a Gloucester-based Dance Unstuck project, has developed (since 2015) a toolkit based on principles of Universal Design of Instruction (UD). It supports dancers with a diversity of movement possibilities to access the same exercises / choreography to a high standard through their individualised movement vocabulary.

In 2018, we explored application of this toolkit to parade choreography with disabled and non-disabled carnival performers. In 2020, we applied UD principles to online character and choreography development with professional disabled dancers, and to workshops with disabled community participants. We also explored the application of UD in costume and structure design.

We will outline key UD principles and present (and use footage to demonstrate) what UD tools we applied to the various stages of our exploration. We will share how that impacted on what went out on the road in 2018 and how it’s shaped planned Gloucester ‘doorstep performances’ for July 2021. This will include the voices of professional and community disabled performers.

Event managers will learn how strong access considerations in the lead-up/ creation process needs to be supported by equally careful design of the wider event/carnival.

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Artists: Marina Poppa, Jackie Hagan, Glen Greaves, Phedra Broche, Mira bell

How can access be embedded into Carnival Masquerades?

Using access riders as a tool to improve outcomes for professional and community Carnival Artists.


Callaloo Carnival Arts is disabled led Carnival Arts organisation based in Mirfield, West Yorkshire. We use a range of Carnival Artforms to transform people and places. Our work features traditional & contemporary mas characters, costume, mask, music, dance, and performance in a range of settings, often working with people from marginalised communities. We design, produce, and promote inclusive Masquerade presentations and Parades of all sizes at Carnivals, Festivals and Outdoor Events, working across the UK and occasionally further afield. Our signature events are Mirfield Carnival Parade (an accessible Carnival Parade, proudly produced by disabled people) and Callaloo PopUp Carnival, which we developed to bring Carnival to communities who typically face barriers in attending large Carnival events.





Open Road Conference Abstract

Callaloo Carnival Arts Team will share learning from the production of a Pop-up Carnival Parade; including designing and making new Masquerade work.

Our research question: How can access be embedded into Carnival Masquerades? – using access riders as a tool to improve outcomes for professional and community Carnival Artists. Artists already use riders to give prior notice to venues and event organisers of what they need to do their job effectively. This is standard practice in the Entertainment Industry: an efficient way of communicating Artists’ needs ahead of their arrival.

Disabled artists have recently begun to extend and develop this concept to create ‘Access Riders’. Our lived experience of disability is useful, but it isn’t enough to ensure good outcomes for ALL disabled people using our services or attending our events.

To embed accessibility into our work and events, access must be embedded into our organisational practices as well as our creative activities.

We explored the use of Access Riders as a tool for improving outcomes for disabled people who use our services, attend our events or work in our organisation.

Since disabled people are not a homogenous group, we looked at how the barriers we face as disabled people intersect with our identities around race, gender, sexuality, nationality, age, caring responsibilities and class.

Event managers will learn how to use Access Riders as a tool to improve outcomes for disabled people at Carnivals, Festivals and Outdoor Arts events.

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EMCCAN (East Midlands Caribbean Carnival Arts Network)

Artists: Donna Fox

Should Caribbean Carnival be on the National Curriculum?


EMCCAN is a partnership of four Caribbean Carnivals in Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Northampton. Constituted as a CIC in 2011, following many years of working together, EMCCAN values support from Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation. Derby Quad is the office base, but EMCCAN CEO, Donna Fox, works across the region to support sharing of good practice and encourages collaborative projects.

Emccan hosts an annual regional costume competition (aka Queen Show) which each carnival hosts in rotation. 2022 will see Leicester Caribbean Carnival host the 10th anniversary live competition, where Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses will compete for their local and regional crown. Other joint initiatives include a regional magazine and a UK Tour, taking Caribbean Carnival to seaside towns, rural areas and large-scale sporting events.

In recent years Emccan has embarked on a carnival in education programme with funding from Paul Hamlyn Foundation, enhancing the national curriculum and bringing SEND children into mainstream education through carnival arts projects with a child-led approach using “Loose Parts Theory”. Donna Fox shared the team’s findings of this project at the Open Road conference.


Open Road Conference Abstract

Should Caribbean Carnival be on the National Curriculum? This is a question Donna Fox will explore in her presentation. She will look into two different approaches for delivering Caribbean Carnival in schools, with some broad research about the impact it makes on children’s lives and their understanding of themselves and their identity.

Emccan received support from Paul Hamlyn Foundation to “Explore and Test” the Loose Parts Theory (a child-led approach) with SEND children and a Whole School Approach by using Caribbean Carnival Arts to enhance learning of various subjects on the National Curriculum. Two artists in residence were employed to deliver in two separate schools and a researcher was engaged from De Montfort University Leicester.

Donna will present the findings of the project and finish with a short film.

Background: Emccan (East Midlands Caribbean Carnival Arts Network) is a regional development organisation. Four Caribbean Carnivals in Nottingham, Derby, Northampton and Leicester come together as a partnership to deliver Caribbean Carnivals, virtual carnival arts experiences, a regional costume competition, artist commissions, education programme and a UK tour. Carnival in Education is a growing passion for the organisation and artists in the region.

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New Carnival Company

Artists: Gina Dyer, Katy Edmunds, Sarah-Louise McEvoy, Ciara Russell, Ryan Small

The Journey to the Road

What are the barriers for disabled people that get in the way of accessing what we have to offer?


The New Carnival Company (NCC) is a professional arts organisation based on the Isle of Wight, specialising in carnival and outdoor celebratory arts. We run two major outdoor events each year – the IW Mardi Gras (July) and Merry & Bright (December) – and are passionate about inclusion and creating events that everyone can be part of.

We began to develop work with disabled artists, practitioners, and performers in 2010 as part of an Accentuate London 2012 (Blue Touch Paper Carnival) programme and have continued to co-create new opportunities and touring for D/deaf and disabled carnival people as part of our core activities. In 2017-18 we created and toured Alegria Samba School (below) both nationally and internationally.

The New Carnival Company initiated the Open Road programme in 2019, to promote greater awareness of the Social Model and its implications and ramifications for our carnival practice and events.


Open Road Conference Abstract

Are we genuinely providing equal opportunities for participation in carnival? What are the barriers for disabled people* that gets in the way of accessing what we have to offer? The event itself may have accessibility built in with practical arrangements in place for access and inclusion, but is this meaningful to those who want to take part, and does it reflect their lived experiences?

We aim to ensure disabled people can take part in our carnival activities and events, working with them to remove as many known and potential barriers as possible from the moment we publicise to negotiating how they will get there, and how we might facilitate their participation in different ways on their journey to the road.

Our methodology for this research will involve a series of workshops working alongside a group of disabled adults, in costume making, drumming, movement, and dance. We will extend our delivery beyond the classroom to include live online workshops streamed between class bubbles and to individual’s homes. We will support live delivery with prerecorded tutorials, resources and material packs for participants who may wish to access these sessions in a way that works best for them and their preferred learning styles.

As a conclusion to the workshop activity, we will organise a localised carnival parade which will allow us to work alongside disabled people to test and measure accessibility, inclusion and belonging on the road.

It is the New Carnival Company’s priority throughout this process to work with disabled people to ensure a respectful, safe, and inclusive way of working which can be evaluated and shared with event organisers.

*By disabled people we mean D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people

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Alegria Samba School


Alegria Samba School was created by The New Carnival Company and Viva Carnival Club together. Alegria (meaning ‘joy or happiness” in Portuguese) is all about inclusion. We want everyone to be able to take part in carnival arts and we know that this is not easy for some people, especially for disabled people.

We strive to work together to overcome barriers, to make world class carnivals happen on the streets that everyone can be part of.

With the backing of UNLIMITED, an arts commissioning programme for disabled artists, we created a fantastic piece of carnival together to share at events during 2018. We worked with our friends, Embaixadores da Alegria from Rio Carnival, to make our piece, Mata Atlantica (the Atlantic Forest) especially spectacular and authentic.



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