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Uk Tv Networks Launch New Initiative For Disabled Actors

Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from Disability World, Issue No. 26, December 2004-February 2005.

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), Channel 4 and the actors centres are launching a new talent training fund for existing and aspiring disabled actors who want to work in television.

Why are we launching this initiative?

16% of the adult population in the UK (United Kingdom) are disabled people, but they make up less than 1% of representation on television. Research shows audiences are overwhelmingly in favour of seeing more disabled people on television.


Ewan Marshall, BBC producer of Pear Shaped and Every Time You Look At Me, which had disabled actors in lead roles, knows "there is a whole untapped pool of talent and new stories out there. I think the talent fund is a great opportunity to find and develop that talent".

Paul Henshall is facing the campaign. Paul, who has cerebral palsy, appeared in A Thing Called Love and will be appearing in Holby City as a regular later this year. Emma Turner, BBC Series Producer, Holby City, says, "Paul Henshall is a wonderful actor who will bring a new young, ambitious character into Holby City. The BBC aims to make Holby City truly representative of its audience and Paul is an essential ingredient of that."

Channel 4

Following the success of the Channel 4/Actors Centre Bursary Scheme for Disabled Actors in 2003/04, Channel 4 is delighted to be partnering with the BBC and the actors centres in this new Talent Fund. It will enable many more disabled actors to develop skills and strategies that will improve their chances in the highly competitive world of TV drama casting.

Channel 4's Editorial Manager for Disability, Alison Walsh, says: "In 2005, I am overseeing a number of new initiatives to increase the number of disabled people on and off screen. Channel 4 is determined to reflect disabled people's participation in society more fully. Disabled actors continue to find it difficult to break into the industry, and the Talent Fund will allow some of this untapped talent to develop."

About the Actors Centres

The actors centres in London, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne exist to provide professional actors with further training of the highest quality and the opportunity to develop every aspect of their craft. They promote high artistic standards across the profession and initiate innovative work and projects. They also provide opportunities for actors to share information, exchange ideas and develop their careers in a supportive environment.

In 2003-4, the Actors Centre ran a very successful Channel 4 Bursary Scheme for disabled actors, one of whose recipients was Paul Henshall. The actors centres are delighted that this new partnership with the BBC will extend the scheme to the Northern Actors Centre and Actors Centre North East, and help more disabled actors to gain access to the finest professional training.