Disabled Artists International Residency Project

New project creates international opportunities for disabled artists

Two leading artists from Northern Ireland and Germany are participating in an exciting new exchange project aimed at creating accessible international opportunities for d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists.

The Disabled Artists International Residency Project, co-ordinated by the Belfast-based University of Atypical, is a response to the feeling of exclusion experienced by d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists when applying for or participating in international residencies.

Northern Ireland artist Husk Bennet will begin a residency at the queer art collective Coven in Berlin, while Flax Arts Studios in Belfast will host the German artist Chris Yohei Tokunaga in February 2024.

The project aims to develop a best practice model for international residencies for d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists, which will go on to be shared with other arts organisations.

Damien Coyle from the disabled-led arts charity University of Atypical said: “This is a unique and important project that explores the barriers that d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists encounter when participating in residences, and the model of best practice will provide arts organisations with an easy-to-use template they can follow to make residencies more accessible.”

This initiative is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and research and development involved the Belfast and Berlin partners along with the Video Club and Vital Capacities from Brighton.

Patrica Lavery, Head of Community Arts & Education at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is pleased to support this vital initiative which aims to identify and remove the barriers that exist for d/Deaf, disabled, and Neurodiverse artists when applying for career-enhancing international residencies. Our support for this initiative demonstrates the Arts Council’s continuing commitment to making the arts accessible to all, and we wish both artists taking part in the exchange every success.”

The two artists will exchange cities during February. Chris Yohei Tokunaga is a Berlin based Kyoto born electronic music producer and singer/songwriter. Living with visual hallucinations since the age of 19, music was his constant companion. He considers it important to be open about his own mental health as he hopes to connect with and motivate other people with disabilities.

Husk Bennett is a visual artist from Belfast who studied Fine Art & Art History at Manchester School of Art. Husk has exhibited extensively across the UK and Ireland including ‘The Gallery S1’ with Artichoke Trust, Short Supply’s ‘Queer Contemporaries’ in AIR Gallery, Manchester, ‘URGENCIES (2023)’ in CCA, Derry and Catalyst Arts’ FIX ‘21, Belfast.

Alongside this, he has taken part in The MAC’s Hatch & Scratch scheme from 2021-22, was on the committee for the Flax Arts Project Space and is currently supported by Belfast City Council.

New disability arts CEO

New disability arts CEO driven to help others fulfil potential.

The new head of Northern Ireland’s leading disability arts organisation will use her personal experiences to help hundreds of artists fulfil their potential.

Edel Murphy has been appointed CEO of Belfast-based University of Atypical, a disabled-led charity that develops and promotes the work of d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists and enhances access for audiences.

When she was diagnosed as a young child with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia type 3, an extremely rare condition affecting around four people in Northern Ireland, doctors told her she would not live beyond the age of 12.

Having had 19 major operations and defied all medical expectations, the 45-year-old County Donegal woman is looking forward to her new role in her dream job.

She said: “Today is a humbling day for me. I first came into the University of Atypical as a visitor, a fan, a friend, a volunteer and then an employee. I came because I felt I belonged. I saw then how clearly this organisation empowered people to do great things and make this city and our region a better place for people like and unlike me to be.”

The University of Atypical, funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, supports and campaigns for disabled artists through a number of programmes. With its own Atypical Gallery and the Ledger Studio for Performing Arts, the organisation also runs the annual Bounce Arts Festival and many other programmes.

While attending Queen’s University, Edel worked at QFT and then began a career as a drama teacher before going on to work for the Arts Council. She then went to UofA as a project co-ordinator and has paid tribute to former CEO’s, Damien Coyle and the late Chris Ledger.

“Over the past thirty years many great activists, artists and creators built this organisation. It is an incredible honour for me to find myself now at the helm. Most recently Chris and Damien have taken it to one of the most admired and inspiring organisations in the region, meeting and stretching expectations of d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent creatives.”

Edel also paid tribute to a woman who changed her life by helping her learn to speak again after one of her many operations.

“After surgery on my neck when I was eight, I found it very hard to speak so that people could hear me. My mum took me to meet a drama teacher in Derry called Eithne McCloskey. I’d just won a bursary of 50 punts for a drama sketch that I’d written at the Feis in Donegal and I used the money for drama lessons. But it was so much more than that. Over the years, Mrs McCloskey taught me how to speak again in public with confidence. She gave me a sense of myself beyond my physicality. She literally gave me my voice back.”

That remarkable experience with her mentor inspired her to work with other creative people with disabilities to fulfil their potential: “I want to help change this part of the world for others who are longing to live their dreams while embracing their atypical identity with excitement. It’s already happening, we are doing it today, and together the Atypical team will do it again and again.”

Next year she will marry her long-term partner Claire and believes it is important to live authentically, embracing diversity and being atypical.
She added: “I’m very proud of who I am and intersectionality is an important part of what we do at University of Atypical.”

Sean Fitzsimons, Chair of University of Atypical, welcomed Edel to her new position on behalf of the board of trustees.

“Edel brings a wealth of knowledge in respect of the Arts, a talented professional who has honed her craft across these islands and beyond. Alongside this Edel brings formidable business acumen and lived experience of disability. We look forward to her contributions to this very special organisation and I know our community and sector colleagues are all looking forward to working alongside her and the team going forward,” he said.

Like her predecessors, Chris and Damien, Edel worked for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, which is the University of Atypical’s primary funder, supporting the organisations many programmes and the annual Bounce Festival which has become one of the primary festivals for d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists in Europe.

To find out more about the University of Atypical go to universityofatypical.org.


Notes to eds: For further information please contact Teri Kelly on 07957142915 teri@kellypr.co.uk or Gary Kelly on 07581282723 gary@kellypr.co.uk

Northern Ireland Now: Contemporary Collecting

Northern Ireland Now: Contemporary Collecting

A contemporary collecting project in partnership with Northern Ireland Screen which addresses underrepresentation in the Digital Film Archive and champions equality, diversity and inclusion.

Northern Ireland Now: Contemporary Collecting, is an innovative outreach and digitisation project from Northern Ireland Screen and Nerve Centre that will increase representation in the Digital Film Archive — a database that contains hundreds of hours of moving image footage from 1887 to the present day.

The project will give voice to and prioritise material relating to underrepresented communities including ethnic minorities, diversity of religious belief, disabled people, neurodivergent people, LGBTQIA+ individuals and working-class communities (especially young men), to address imbalances in our collections.

With this in mind we thought it would be great to have our D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse community involved – our artists, our audiences, our signers and interpreters, our staff, our friends and in general whoever is interested and in touch with University of Atypical for Arts and Disability.

We’re looking for a group of 10-15 contributors. There will be around 4 workshops to attend from February, of approx. 2-3 hours each, but we’re happy to be flexible and listen to your needs. The workshops for our group will take place in the Ledger Studio, at our premises.

If you’re interested in taking part, please add your details to the form linked below.

Please let us know by Friday 19th January 2024

Use this link to sign up

Introduction to British Sign Language


Introduction to British Sign Language (BSL) Course (6 weeks).

This course is designed for learners who have very limited or no previous knowledge of British Sign Language.

The course aims to enable individuals to understand and use BSL effectively for practical communication with d/Deaf people, and to learn more about Deaf Culture.


Thursdays 6:00pm to 7:00pm

January 18th
January 25th
February 1th
February 8th
February 22th
February 29th


The Ledger Studio
109-113 Royal Avenue

(Note: the session on 18th January will be located in the Board Room on 1st floor of the same building)

Who is this for?

This course is suitable for anyone with an interest in the Deaf Community or British Sign Language.

Who is leading this course?

Paula Clarke is a Deaf artist, performer, tutor and broadcaster.

Paula has worked as a Deaf actor with Amanda Coogan, delivered Deaf information cultural broadcasts through SIGNify Media, provides tutoring in BSL and Deaf Awareness and on top of all that, she works as a BSL broadcaster on the BBC.


This course is generously funded by the Department for Communities- Sign Language Partnership Group

Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director

Closing: Friday 17th November 2023 at 4:00pm

Job Role: Senior Management

Salary: £34,194 annually, for 32 hours per week (£42,743 for full-time equivalent)

Hours per week: 32

University of Atypical for Arts and Disability (UofA ) is seeking a Chief Executive Officer and Artistic (CEO/AD) to lead our mission to support the development of d/Deaf, disabled and Neurodiverse artists and audiences. UofA is a disabled led charity, based in Belfast, and with a Northern Ireland wide remit.

Our new CEO/AD will act as the public and private face of the organisation, effectively promoting the aims of UofA to ensure that our mission and goals are widely shared.

The CEO/AD will play a crucial role in creating awareness of arts and disability, and disability arts, and in influencing the public’s attitudes and behaviours in relation to d/Deaf, disabled, and neurodiverse artists and meeting the access requirements of d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse audience members.

The new CEO/AD will have lived experience of disability, have experience in the arts sector, and will strive to gain support for our work. Becoming the CEO/AD of UofA is an opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of d/Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people.

If you are passionate about equality, access and inclusion and possess the leadership skills necessary to drive UofA forward to the next stage of our development, then this CEO/AD position UofA may be the perfect fit for you.

Closing Date – Friday 17th November 2023 at 4:00pm

Interviews: Thursday 23rd November 2023

Please contact us for an application pack

Contact Details:

The Administrator
University of Atypical
109 – 113 Royal Avenue
T: 07912210803
E: administration@universityofatypical.org

Bounce 2023 press release


Bounce Arts Festival returns with extraordinary celebration of diversity

Northern Ireland’s leading celebration of artistic diversity and inclusion – the Bounce Arts Festival – returns from October 6 to 8 with a packed programme of more than 30 events.

Run by the University of Atypical, the festival showcases the extraordinary talent and creativity of d/Deaf, Disabled and neurodiverse artists in the UK, Ireland and beyond with a focus on accessibility for all audiences.

Many of the performances and workshops are free or pay what you can, and encompass all aspects of the arts including theatre, dance, comedy, puppetry, visual arts and talks.

Damien Coyle, Chief Executive of University of Atypical, said:
“The Bounce Festival has now evolved into one of the largest celebrations of artistic diversity and inclusivity in these islands. We are proud to be bringing it to new venues across Northern Ireland so that more people can enjoy the performances and ideas that these incredible artists have to offer.”

Events will be held not only in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry but also in Omagh, Strabane, Downpatrick, Enniskillen and Cookstown.

The University of Atypical, a disabled-led arts charity, is celebrating its 30th year of supporting and developing the talent of d/Deaf, disabled, and neurodiverse artists and reaching wider audiences through access and inclusion.

The organisation started the Bounce Arts Festival in 2012 as part of the Cultural Olympiad and this year it is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Department for Communities, Belfast City Council, The Ireland Funds, The National Lottery Communities Fund and The Santander Foundation.

Patricia Lavery, Head of Community Arts & Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support University of Atypical and the Bounce Festival, supported by National Lottery Funding thanks to The National Lottery players.

We are committed to supporting the work of D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled artists, and the Bounce Arts Festival offers an important platform to shine a light on work from these amazing artists. Congratulations to University of Atypical who have curated a terrific programme for Bounce this year which features some of the most talented artists from Northern Ireland and beyond. I would encourage everyone to go along and enjoy this exciting and inspirational festival which is simply unmissable!”

Among those performing will be internationally renowned performance poet Alice McCullough, who has had an amazing year as poet in residence at Disability Rights California, studying at the Gaulier school in Paris, and being named by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland as a Major Individual Artist Awardee. She will be hosting, Experi-Mental, a night of exciting new work-in-progress by neurodivergent and disabled artists including New York-based Mari Crawford, who is the first recipient of the University of Atypical’s Art and Disabilty Award at the Edinburgh Fringe for her one woman show. She will be joined by writer and comedian Simon Jay and poet Nathan-Elout Armstrong.

The University of Atypical gallery will host the latest work of visual artist and academic Una Walker, famed for her site-specific installations, which have been exhibited in the UK, Ireland, Europe and internationally for more than 30 years. Her latest work, ‘Dreaming of a Village’ will reimagine the historic landscape outside her rural Co Down home, using video, drawing and local stones.

The festival will also feature father and son County Clare team Fionnathan with their show We All Have Down Syndrome. The duo made up of Fionn Crombie Angus and Jonathan Angus bring comedy, stories and music about navigating the world through a disability lens. They will be supported by husband and wife team Will and Tracy McLean showcasing music crafted during their family journey after Will’s recovery from stroke.

Other highlights this year include:

A takeover of the Crescent Arts Centre by Open Arts featuring the community choir, visual arts groups, creative writers and dance group Luminous Soul.

Comedy at the front of the Guildhall in Derry/Londonderry with Derry Ones – What’s the Craic?! Stage Beyond, the award-winning theatre company for adults with learning disabilities, brings their famous puppet show to town for a stellar line-up of fun sketches with a Derry theme

Dramability, an inclusive workshop, will be held at Down Arts Centre in Downpatrick

A panel discussion on building a culture of creativity at the Ardhowen Theatre will be Chaired by artist Noelle McAlinden who is the High Sheriff of Fermanagh.

Inclusive pop-up magical mystery arts workshop at Strule Arts Centre in Omagh

For the Love of Mary at the Alley Theatre in Strabane is a bilingual autobiographical journey to find the Virgin Mary performed by spoken word artist Mel Bradley.

Brain Injury Matters and Kids in Control/Blue Chevy Adult Physical Theatre Project presents a physical theatre performance that captures the lived experience of nine people who have survived a catastrophic brain injury,

Cutting edge audio visual artist Paul Moore will provide an immersive VR experience, where body, nature and technology collide to provide a glimpse into an alternative reality that is not to be missed.

The festival will end with a big wrap party at the Black Box in Belfast featuring a five-piece alt rock band, The High End Dead and the Black Moon Disco.

For more information on all shows and to book tickets, go to www.universityofatypical.org/bounce

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