2017 - our Big Review of the Year

2017 has been an exciting year for Accessible Arts & Media (AAM). We’ve been celebrating our 35th anniversary and our Hands & Voices choir have been celebrating 20 fabulous years together.

At the start of the year, we asked our project participants, artists, volunteers, staff and supporters to tell us what three words they’d use to describe Accessible Arts & Media. And this is what they told us:


AAM word cloud image 

2017 saw some exciting programme developments:

February saw the launch of our IMPs Holiday clubs. These fun workshops take place during the school holidays. They offer disabled and non-disabled children and young people the chance to try out lots of fun music-related activities. Sessions this year have included African music, junk percussion, accessible music technology (where we made an orchestra out of bananas!) and musical storytelling.

Our IMPs members have also been busy this year, working towards their first Arts Awards. The Arts Awards are accredited qualifications that support young people to develop their arts and leadership talents. Fifteen IMPs members were awarded their Discover Arts Award this year and are looking forward to starting their Explore and Bronze Awards next year.

A Windsor House resident enjoying an iMUSE session

Our iMUSE programme has expanded into new areas, including work with older people and those with early onset dementia and work in mental wellbeing. Jo, who came along to our recent iMUSE taster evening, wrote a fantastic blog post about how iMUSE can support mindfulness.

Local community links:  We’ve continued to build links in our local community in Clifton this year. Our AbleWeb, IMPs and iMUSE programmes are working with partners including Vale of York Academy, Burton Green Primary School, St Luke’s Church, and Morrell House, a local residential care home. As part of the Colourful Clifton project, our talented AbleWeb group made a fantastic film, documenting how local schools and volunteers got together to create a beautiful space along Kingsway in Clifton.

On the Media side of things, we’ve launched our new website, including all of our free online singing and signing resources.

And, as part of our 35th birthday celebrations, the AbleWeb group have had fun looking back at favourite films of the past 35 years. You can see their fantastic short featurettes on our YouTube channel


2017’s been an epic year for Performances:

In March, Hands & Voices and IMPs shared the stage with friends from Oaklands Special School in Cheshire for An Afternoon with Hands & Voices and Friends.

In April, Hands & Voices performed in their biggest venue to date, York Barbican. As part of A Night to Remember, they had the 1400-strong crowd up on their feet, singing and signing along with them and got a well-deserved standing ovation.

IMG 6872

We had two performances in July. Hands & Voices joined forces with our friends from Copmanthorpe Community Choir for Show Time, an evening of favourite songs from the shows. And our IMPs choir performed at Fossgate Festival in York city centre.

IMPs had a busy month in November. They performed at York Barbican as part of a showcase gig staged by our friends at Tang Hall SMART. And at the end of November, IMPs opened the show at York Culture Awards, in the stunning setting of York Minster.  

IMPs members performing as part of the Culture Awards ceremony.

And we wrapped up the year with our most ambitious production to date. At the start of December, Hands & Voices celebrated their 20th Anniversary with Cabaret of Dreams. The show explored the choir members’ memories, dreams and hopes for the future and was written entirely by the cast. Our AbleWeb group provided film sequences and our Creative Sensory group created the props, so it was a fantastic showcase of the diverse skills and talents of lots of our project participants. And it was magical.

Big thanks to Arts Council England, BGL Group and Kitlocker for supporting the production. And thanks to the team at the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at the University of York for making us all so welcome. We’ll all remember the show for a long time to come.


Fundraising: Following investment from the Office for Civil Society’s Local Sustainability Fund, we’ve developed our fundraising materials and grown our fundraising capacity this year. As a result, we’ve developed relationships with several new funders, which means that we can further develop our key programmes. And, for the first time in our 35-year history, we’ve secured core funding for two key posts over the next three years: the Rank Foundation are funding our Development Manager post and the Henry Smith Charity are funding our Creative Director post.

Community support: We launched our new community fundraising pack this year and we’ve seen some fantastic fundraising in aid of Accessible Arts & Media, from 10K runners to Three Peaks trekkers to some great fundraising gigs.

 york 10k

We’ve also had a lot of support from local and national businesses this year, including: IT support from Carillion; a donation from BGL Group to support our Cabaret of Dreams production; incredible t-shirts for projects and events donated by Kitlocker; and business development support from Make it York.

Our volunteering programme has expanded this year too. As well as offering student placements, we’re now working in partnership with the Discovery Hub. They provide information and access support for people who have experienced mental health illness and wish to use learning opportunities as part of their recovery journey. We’re working with them to offer work-based volunteering placements and, as a result, our team of fantastic volunteers continues to grow.

As we wrap up what’s been an incredible year, we’d like to thank all of our funders, supporters, project participants and volunteers. Thank you so much for your support - we couldn’t do what we do without you.

Thanks also to our Trustees, for keeping us on track through what’s been an incredible year for Accessible Arts & Media. Special thanks to our Acting Chair, Siobhan, who’s been a strong guiding force and a great critical friend. We’ll all miss her when she moves up to Scotland in the New Year.

As we look to 2018 and beyond, we’re all really excited about developing all of our core programmes and helping more people to get creative, grow in confidence and connect with their local community.