Graeae is run by artistic director Jenny Sealey. The company puts on plays with deaf and disabled artists, and integrates sign language, captioning and audio descriptions into productions. In 2012, it won the Promotion of Diversity Award at the UK Theatre Awards and Sealey was co-artistic director of the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.
The collaboration with CIA aims to showcase Graeae’s work over the past three decades: over 40 illustrators signed to the agency were paired with someone from Graeae and created a print based on their conversations with them.
Sean Burn, by Mick Marston, based on Burn’s poem, Cello Rain Number 12. Burn writes plays as well as prose and poetry addressing disability. He lives with long-term mental health issues, and became involved with Graeae through its Write to Play scheme, which offers support and development opportunities for deaf and disabled writers.
Ted Evans, by Richard Wilkinson. “Working with Ted was fascinating; he is a great filmmaker,” says Wilkinson. “His film The End … is a personal view of deaf culture and a deaf community, and society’s treatment of it. Ted explained his struggle was more as an artist than a deaf person; no more than anyone else. I wanted to represent the idea that we all use our struggles, burdens and obstacles as artists, we try to use this to our advantage.”
Some prints are inspired by particular performances or pieces of work – Mick Marston has illustrated a poem by writer Sean Burns, titled Cello Rain Number 12 (above) – while others draw on actors and writers’ accounts of being in Graeae and the difference it has made to their lives.
Benjamin Cox, MD of CIA, says he became familiar with Graeae’s work after moving in to a nearby office in Shoreditch and wanted to collaborate with the company. (Illustrator Peter Blake is also a patron of the company).
Robin Bray Hurren by Dust. “I’m trans, queer and disabled and though those things have very much shaped my life, they aren’t necessary things I explore explicitly in my work,” says Hurren. “I’m a printmaker and calligrapher, and general craft magpie. I worked with Graeae for nearly six years as their access assistant helping make sure everything was as accessible as possible, but recently left to develop my artistic practice.” Dust’s print is based on Hurren’s work with letters and words and aim to reflect “an organic process”
“In the beginning, we didn’t know whether we might work with them doing set design or costume design but the more we talked about it, we thought this kind of blind date partnership would be really fun, marrying our people with some of their people. I rather liked the idea of getting our illustrators away from the strict confines and parameters of commercial work where there’s a structured brief, and something to sell, and letting them have more of an open and free discussion with an equally creative person from a different discipline.
“We were conscious of the fact that members of the disabled community were facing a punch because the Independent Living Fund was about to be scrapped – something a lot of Graeae’s members had been very reliant on – so initially, we saw it as an opportunity to shine a light on that issue. But when we started talking to the artists, everyone was very optimistic and upbeat …. they didn’t want to be attached to political angst. But we are highlighting the fact that these people are here producing great work despite facing a lot of challenges.”
Tilu Mortley by Kerry Hyndman. Mortley is a freelance artist working in theatre, dance and aerial performance, and performed with Graeae at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony. “I tried to capture her