We started life as York Film Workshop back in 1982 and first registered as a charity (Old Dairy Studios) in 1988. Since then we've prided ourselves on running high quality, inclusive arts and media activities for and with our local community. This section of the site lists some of our highlights and milestone events.

1980s - Early Beginnings

  • 1982 - York Film Workshop is set up by a group of local female film-makers.
  • 1983 - Old Dairy Studios was set up as the charitable, outreach arm of York Film Workshop.
  • 1987 - The Old Dairy Art & Disability group started.
  • 1988 - Old Dairy Studios registered as a charity. The Old Dairy was a small recording studio and tape duplicating service in - you've guessed it - an old dairy off Haxby Road in York. The charity began with funds from the Help the Aged ICAN Community Development Programme. Its aim was to deliver an audio newsletter for the housebound and visually impaired.
  • 1989 - Old Dairy Studios secured funding from Yorkshire Arts to buy some microphones and a small mixing desk so they could start recording bands.

1990s - Evolving and Expanding

  • 1990 - a young Rose Kent (our Creative Director) started her career as a community artist in York. She secured funds to run art classes and mural projects with disabled people and young people.
  • 1992 - ArtLink York was set up. It was the York branch of the ArtLink Exchange, a Hull-based Arts Access Agency that was part of the national Shape Network. This was the start of our long history of creating opportunities for disabled people in York to get involved in the arts.
  • 1992 - Internationally renowned clarinettist and conductor Alan Hacker OBE became ArtLink's Patron. Alan played a very important role in shaping and inspiring our inclusive approach. He was a very hands-on patron too, taking part in performances and getting involved in projects.
  • 1992 - Old Dairy Studios started the annual Youth Month programme. The programme offered young people the chance to record TV and radio shows, form bands and record and perform music. Youth Month went on to run every year until 2007.
  • 1993 - ArtLink rented an office at the Old Dairy Studios and the two organisations started working together on participant-led projects.
  • 1994 - Accessible Arts produced its first large-scale production, The Beggar's Opera.
  • 1995 - Accessible Arts staged an ambitious outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. This still holds very fond memories for lots of people, despite the fact that it poured with rain for the final performance!
  • 1996 - ArtLink York became independent of the ArtLink Exchange and changed its name to Accessible Arts.
  • 1996 - Old Dairy Studios secured the first Lottery grant in York, receiving £100,000 to upgrade the studio equipment from analogue to digital.
  • 1997 - The Makaton Gospel Choir began (later to become Hands & Voices). The choir was set up so that learning disabled performers could communicate with audiences through music and signing.
  • 1998 - Old Dairy Studios relocated from Haxby Road to York College. This move was the start of a period of rapid growth in audio and video production. It also saw the Old Dairy Studios deliver new accredited educational programmes, including a BTEC in Music Technology and specialist SEN courses.
  • 1999 - Makaton Gospel Choir changed its name to Hands & Voices and we produced our first pantomime, Sleeping Beauty. Hands & Voices pantomimes went on to become the stuff of local legend over the next few years... We also started using Signalong as our sign supported communication system. They worked alongside us to develop the vocabulary we needed to support the development of the choir’s repertoire and our singing and signing resources.

2000s - Joining Forces

  • 2000 - Old Dairy Studios was a lead partner in two important projects with the Community Media Association and the Yorkshire Media Consortium. Both projects were aimed at documenting life in the region at the turn of the Millennium. Watch a clip from one of the resulting films, Chocolate Families.
  • 2000 - Accessible Arts staged another Hands & Voices production, Noah's Opera.
  • 2001 - Accessible Arts produced Knights and Angels, another epic Hands & Voices pantomime.
  • 2002 - Old Dairy Studios relaunches as Cube Media.
  • 2002 - The Hands & Voices Committee was set up. The Committee began so that learning disabled members of the choir could have a say in the choir's development. This model, of having a user-led committee, went on to be at the heart of several of our core projects.
  • 2003 - we launch our Apprentice Training Programme, after members of the Hands & Voices Committee tell us that they'd like to be able to share their skills and teach other people how to sing and sign.
  • 2003 - Hands & Voices co-devised and performed Ruff Doublet and the Queen, a hysterical look at life in Elizabethan times.
  • 2004 - Accessible Arts and Cube Media joined forces to produce a show called Changes.
  • 2005 - Accessible Arts and Cube Media relocated to the Melbourne Centre, just outside York city centre. The Centre became a thriving community centre over the next five years, under our management. Cube Media also launched Studio Cube, taking over a recording studio just off Heslington Road.
  • 2006 - Accessible Arts staged A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Thing, Hands & Voices' inimitable take on life in Viking times.
  • 2007 - Hands & Voices celebrated their 10th anniversary with a brilliant cabaret production, The Good Old Days.
  • 2008 - Accessible Arts and Cube Media merged and became Accessible Arts & Media.
  • 2008 - We launched AbleWeb Radio.
  • 2008 - we launched our Musical Monuments programme, in partnership with NYMAZ and heritage partners including the National Trust and Bolton Priory. You can listen to some of the musical highlights from the project at Bolton Priory here.
  • 2009 - Accessible Arts & Media relocated to Burton Stone Community Centre.
  • 2009 - Vocalise, a singing and signing project delivered in partnership by Accessible Arts & Media and Live Music Now, was shortlisted for a prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award for Education. The RPS Music Awards are the highest recognition for live classical music-making in the UK.

2010s - Building for the Future

      • 2010 - We launched our specialist Sensory Programme for adults and young people with profound and multiple disabilities.
      • 2011 - AbleWeb started.  It provided weekly training sessions, community media projects and outreach workshops co-led by AbleWeb York apprentices, giving participants real-life training and work-related learning opportunities. 
      • 2012 - We celebrated our 30th birthday with a special anniversary production in York Guildhall. We also secured funding from Youth Music to launch our IMPs (Inclusive Music Projects) programme for disabled and non-disabled children and young people. Sadly, in the same year, our amazing patron, Alan Hacker, died after dedicating 20 years to championing our work.
      • 2013 - we started our iMUSE programme, further developing the vibro-acoustic programme we'd been running since the early 2000s.
      • 2013 - We launched our IMPs Apprentice Training Programme for disabled and non-disabled young people
      • 2014 - We delivered I'm Inclusive, a one-day inclusive music education conference and showcase, in partnership with NYMAZ
      • 2015 - Accessible Arts & Media was awarded a High Sheriff's Award from the High Sheriff of North Yorkshire, in recognition of great and valuable services to the community.
      • 2016 - We delivered I'm Inclusive Too, a one-day conference and showcase focusing on music and social justice. It was delivered in partnership with NYMAZ
      • 2016 - at the inaugural York Culture Awards, our IMPs programme won the Cultural Equality & Diversity Award. Our Creative Director Rose was named York's first Cultural Champion, in recognition of a lifetime contribution to the cultural life of the city.
      • 2017 - Hands & Voices performed at their biggest gig to date, as part of A Night to Remember. They were incredible as always and received a standing ovation from the 1400-strong audience at York Barbican.
      • 2017 - Hands & Voices wrote and performed in their most ambitious show to date. Cabaret of Dreams featured original songs and drama, written by members of the choir. It also featured short films made by the AbleWeb team, and props made by members of our Sensory Programme. Watch some of the video highlights.
      • 2018 - We relocated across the city to Sanderson House in Acomb spending the first few months getting to know our new neighbourhood and all the amazing people living and working here.
      • 2018 - Our Cabaret of Dreams production, written and performed by Hands & Voices in 2017, was shortlisted as Best Cultural Experience at York Culture Awards.
      • 2018 - We developed our Life Stories project which saw us working on a 1-to-1 basis with people across York, helping them to tell their story.
      • 2019 - Due to popular demand, we relaunched our Movers & Shakers and Creative Interactions groups, specialist sensory activities for adults with complex needs.
      • 2019 - We brought together music-makers from across the North of England to celebrate inclusive music-making  at our Sing Out! showcase.
      • 2019 - Was an especially big year for AAM when we found out we’d been nominated and shortlisted for a National Diversity Award in the Community Organisation category.

2020s - Adapting to Change

      • 2020 - In response to the national lockdown, we took all our sessions online. We started Facebook live sessions within two weeks of the first lockdown being announced, before moving over to Zoom in the Autumn.
      • 2020 - We worked with adaptive technology expert Mark Hildred from Apollo Ensemble to create our iMUSE at Home kit. This meant we could deliver remote sessions to support our iMUSE participants while they were stuck at home.
      • 2021 - BounceBack Food CIC invited us to create artwork for their Secret Dishes from Around the World 3 cookery book. Our participants worked with artist Adam Higton to create the artwork for the Libya section of the book.
      • 2021 - The Igen Trust invited us to take part in their Choir Project, where they brought their funded organisations together to sing over Zoom. Our trainees led singing and signing workshops and here’s the result.
      • 2021 - The 'Row’ling Gnomes hit the water in September for the York Rotary Dragon Boat Challenge. It was our first time in the races but wouldn’t be the last. 
      • 2021 - When it was safe to do so, all our projects apart from Hands & Voices returned to face-to-face sessions.
      • 2022 - We launched a hybrid model for Hands & Voices. People on Zoom (Zoomies) could now hang out with their friends in the room (Roomies).
      • 2022 - Hands & Voices and IMPs performed with our friends from Copmanthorpe Community Choir at our Celebrate gig at York St John University. This was our first indoor performance since 2019. 
      • 2022 - We were invited back for the York Rotary Dragon Boat Challenge as one of the two main beneficiary charities.
      • 2022 - A big birthday year deserves a Big Birthday Bash which is exactly what we did to celebrate 40 years of Accessible Arts & Media. This milestone wasn't the only thing worth shouting about this year. Our IMPs programme turned 10, Hands & Voice turned 25, and our partnership with York St John University celebrated 30 years! Movers & Shakers also took to the stage and performed in front of an audience for the first time!