Elevate: Slow Conference - Blog post by iCCi Fellow Mo Pietroni-Spenst

Mo Pietroni Spenst is a freelance performance maker, producer, facilitator and researcher

Mo is leading the delivery of Elevate: slow conference in accessible, inclusive and disabled-led arts.

The slow conference includes a blend of physical and virtual skills workshops, presentations, roundtable discussions and networking opportunities, demonstrating successful models of professional practice where disabled artists’ and participants’ wellbeing is intrinsic to high quality arts production. 

We asked Mo to explain a bit more about the concept.

What’s a slow conference then? Have you created this – or does it exist already?

I heard the phrase ‘slow conference’ from another event, and it was the first time I’d heard it, and I thought eureka! That’s just what people like me with energy limitations need! So, thanks to that person for sparking the idea.

Tell us about your slow conference  – what is happening?

The slow conference will be a three-week programme of events in accessible, disabled-led and inclusive arts practice. It will have all the oomph you’d expect from a standard two day conference, but spread out so there’s time to dip into events you want, without feeling overwhelmed by back-to-back presentations. We’ll have seminars, artist platforms, workshops and networking events and lots of events are online. Access is embedded through things like access facilitators, rest breaks and quiet spaces, and we can also arrange for any additional support you might need.

Who is it for and how do they get involved/tickets to attend?

Elevate is for anyone working in inclusive or accessible arts, whether they’re an artist or an organisation wanting to learn new skills. We’ve been supported by public funding from the national lottery through Arts Council England, so all the events are free to attend. We also have a travel fund for anyone wanting to come in person but who might find the cost of the journey a barrier – they can just email us and we’ll be ready to help. You can book tickets on the Gulbenkian website and let us know any particular access needs you have when you book as well.

Who do you have speaking/leading sessions at the conference?

We have some great organisations on board! There will be seminars led by industry experts like Battersea Arts Centre and Arts Council England, as well as local companies and artists in different areas of accessible practice.

How has your iCCi Fellowship supported the slow conference?

The fellowship has meant that I can work in partnership with the Gulbenkian, who have been really supportive of Elevate and are hosting all the live events. They’ve been working on the accessibility of their offering across their programme too so we’re all on the journey together to deliver Elevate.

Lastly – Should all conferences be slow conferences?

I think we all need to be more conscious of what access means, to each of us. Whether you have additional needs because of a disability, or need to take a more flexible approach to work because of childcare, slower processes make sense for a lot of us. The changes in working patterns during lockdown made a lot of people reconsider how they work best and the different ways we can be productive, and going slow is part of that. So yes, I’d like to see more slow conferences!

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