10 micro-commissions for d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists awarded


Ten artists from Coventry and Warwickshire have been selected to receive grant-funding to take their ideas or skills to the next level.

The Coventry City of Culture Trust, working with Unlimited, a national arts commissioning programme that enables new work by disabled artists to reach UK and international audiences, put out a call for d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people who live or regularly work within a CV postcode to apply for ten micro commissions of up to £1,000 each.

After an impressive amount of applications, the final ten have been chosen and cover a range of work that have themes of activism, community collaboration, environment and public and digital spaces.

Al Davison, Edi Jo Murray, Emily Woodruff, Hayley Hindle, Iain Ridley, Katie Walters, Lou Sarabadzic, Richard & Rishard, Sebastien H-W and Chrysalis Craft Coventry (Seyedeh Naseriniaki), will now all work with producers within the Coventry City of Culture Trust team to develop their ideas.

The diverse range of artistic work that will be developed by the artists include an autobiographical comic book sequence looking at experiences of hate crime; a reimagined painting of Lady Godiva; an exploration of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum’s natural history collection; a slapstick theatre piece on the subject of isolation; and an audio artwork piece documenting the soundscapes of different parts of Coventry.

Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “I am thrilled that we have selected and awarded small grants to these ten extraordinary local artists and practitioners.

“We want Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 to be truly inclusive and representative of the all of the people of the city, which includes commissioning artistic creations from d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists. 

“These artists are all making art, of one kind or another, their profession and their future. I can’t wait to see how they respond to our City of Culture themes and the great art that they create for our 2021 programme.”

Jo Verrent, Senior Producer at Unlimited, said: “It was incredible to see the talent and creativity within the applications for these micro commissions!

“This partnership has already opened up our networks to a new, fresh diverse pool of disabled talent with some exceptionally creative ideas that can be realised on a small budget.

“We really hope that this helps spread the news about Unlimited and our current main commissions, research and development awards and awards for emerging artists that have a deadline in October - it would be great to see even more Coventry and Warwickshire based disabled artists represented!”

You can find out more about the selected artists below.

Al Davison
Al is a comic artist, author, painter and printmaker. A lot of his work is based around his experiences as a person living with a disability and as a survivor of physical ritual child abuse. Al is keen to raise awareness around hate crime towards people with disabilities, while also making his work accessible to more people by exploring different formats. The work, by its very nature, will likely shock people but it aims to in such a way that leads to discussion and increased empathy.

Chrysalis Craft Coventry CIC

Chrysalis Craft Coventry CIC works with several charities around Coventry, West Midlands and the UK, using art to work against loneliness as a result of language, cultural and ability barriers. The organisation seeks to help and support people from a variety of different backgrounds such as disadvantaged backgrounds with unique and special abilities. The aim is to build self-esteem and friendship through artistic techniques. Dr Seyedeh Naseriniaki is the executive director of the Chrysalis Craft Coventry, who has worked with BAME, asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants for the last seven years. She creates sessions and activities to help with healing using art and different artistic methods for wellbeing, and to battle against depression caused by physical, mental and emotional health.

Iain Ridley

Iain is an autistic neurodivergent artist who specialises in photography and video work. Mental health issues have spiked during the Coronavirus pandemic and as such, he wants to connect with people to show that we are not alone during this period. Even though the pandemic has caused us to become a little distant from each other physically, we still need to connect emotionally and let people know we are there for them. Through this commission he wants to show the everyday of people of Coventry connecting together to show the city through their eyes, and give them an outlet to express what they are going through. He would like to pursue developing an online platform to exhibit both their work and his own to allow for communication with the wider public, making visible these issues and giving space for dialogue.

Edie Jo Murray
Edie is a Coventry-based artist whose work focuses on perceptions of space, reality, and the world(s) we live in. Edie looks for ways to enhance or distort perception and propose alternate worlds to those one finds familiar. Edie works predominantly with digital tools, including augmented and virtual reality.

This micro commission will provide a valuable opportunity to develop the work with audio. Edie is interested in sensory definitions of place, and the way sound impacts how we feel in a space. Edie will be creating a series of new sound works that respond directly to the sonic landscape of Coventry.

Emily Woodruff
Emily’s work plays with our fear of ourselves. She draws on her perspective as a neurodivergent woman to rediscover and unpick patterns. For the micro commission, Emily will paint a reimagined modern Lady Godiva, that also celebrates the city’s bicycle manufacturing history. 'Ms Godiva' will cycle vibrant and unfettered through Coventry and reform the norm within our depictions of femininity. 'Ms Godiva' will champion body positivity, body hair freedom and destigmatising menstruation!

Hayley Williams
Hayley is a researcher, writer, artist and coach. She is also a Brain and Behaviour change practitioner, and a ‘TRE’ provider for trauma and stress relief. These disciplines inform her artistic expression. Hayley is interested in the neuroscience of human behaviour and relating, with a particular focus on supporting the wellbeing of autistic and other neurodiverse adults in the cultural workplace. Hayley’s hopes for this commission is to produce work that challenges the conventions we hold about what it means to ‘pay attention’ to each other, reforming the norm that we need to make eye contact and sit still in order to signal our focus. Hayley is creating a celebration of fidgeting!

Katie Walters
Katie is an autistic and physically disabled performance poet, with a soul full of stories that can't be contained. They make complicated metaphors about serious things, like sickness, loss, and love. They will be using their micro-commission to spend some time exploring the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum’s natural history collection and create an artistic response to what they find there. They hope that their work will help members of the public to understand the role of artistic expression in museum displays and give them the confidence to enter into a critical dialogue with curators.

Lou Sarabadzic
Lou Sarabadzic is a French bilingual artist based in Warwickshire, where she works as a freelance writer, translator and performer. She is the co-founder of the poetic theatre company Gertrude, one of Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre’s Springboard Companies.
Lou lives with OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – which means that the public realm and simply leaving her home have always been challenging. Through this commission, she wants to create a collaborative piece mixing audio, film, and spoken word, in order to explore hope and celebrate daily joys at a time when anxieties about going out and about have, for many people, reached their peak. 

Richard & Rishard
Richard & Rishard is a collaboration between playwright Richard Walls and actor Rishard Beckett, which seeks to explore new artistic territory through the sheer joy / terror of structured improvisation and playfulness. They have previously worked together on Instrumental (Shoot Festival, 2017); The Yellow Post-It Notes (Godiva Festival, 2016); and are currently on the Belgrade Theatre’s Springboard talent development programme. Whilst this is their first film project together, Beckett is no stranger to the screen, having played Lawrence in BBC Doctors and Mikey Wade in Channel 4’s No Offence. They hope to create something that will raise a few smiles…and maybe even some laughs.

Sebastian H-W

Sebastian H-W is a Live Artist (MX:UK) based in the West Midlands whose work explores identity, memory, technology, participation, and bodies, through cutting-edge approaches to creating live performances, tours, games, workshops, and installations. He has made work across a range of sites, spaces, and places including grand theatres, queer clubs, white cubes, black-boxes, historic watchtowers, city streets, quiet canals, the palm of your hand, and the voices inside your head. His Micro-Commission project "Re:Mapping The Norm" is an intersectional mapping project to create accessible digital maps of Coventrians navigating a changing world.