Arts Council of Northern Ireland joins the world-leading Harkin Summit to lead discussion on the Arts and Disability.

Photo caption: Pictured at the Harkin Summit 2022 (L-R) is William Leatham Vice-Chair, Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI), Moira Doherty, Deputy Secretary for Engaged Communities Group at the Department for Communities, Karly Greene, Director of Strategic Development & Partnerships (ACNI), Gilly Campbell, Head of Participatory Arts (ACNI), Graeme Stevenson, Research and Policy Officer (ACNI), Alice McCullough, poet, and Damien Coyle MBE and Chief Executive of the University of Atypical.

On Wednesday 8 June, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland chaired a panel on Arts and Disability at The Harkin Summit in Belfast, only the second time ever that this leading conference has been delivered outside the USA. The discussion on ‘Arts, Disability and the Pandemic – a creative response’ addressed the barriers facing disabled people and disabled artists in accessing and participating in the arts post- pandemic.

Among the attendees at the Harkin Summit 2022 were global leaders in the fields of Government, disability, research, philanthropy and business. Chairing the Arts Council panel was Arts Council’s Head of Participatory Arts, Gilly Campbell, who was joined by a panel of experts from the disability arts sector, policy and research, creative industries and Government sectors including Fionn Angus and Jonathan Angus of Fionnathan Productions. Gilly commented,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland was proud to take part in the Harkin Summit. Our aim is to help advance and create equality of opportunity to the arts for disabled people and today’s Summit offered a vital platform to bring together those with the power to create change and impact positively on the lives of disabled people; the experts, the researchers, the policy makers and representatives from Government. We are very grateful to Senator Tom Harkin for bringing this influential and important Summit to Northern Ireland and for inviting us to be a part of the challenge for change along with the Department for Communities.”

Northern Ireland benefits from some of the most innovative disabled artists whose work has been honoured by the Arts Council and celebrated locally, nationally and internationally, yet we know that disabled people are facing increased barriers to the arts due to the pandemic – we want this to change.”

Conceived in 2016 by retired US Senator, Tom Harkin, the Harkin Summit is internationally recognised as a platform that brings together leaders and activists across Business, Government, Philanthropy, the Third and Voluntary Sector, and Academia to highlight and address disability employment issues, showcase best practice and success, build relationships and challenge for change.

Senator Harkin also co-authored and sponsored the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) (ADA), and acts as a key advisor to the Biden-Harris Administration on these issues. The Harkin Summit took place over two days, 7-8 June, in Belfast and its overarching 2022 theme was ‘Disability: Shaping, Growing and Driving Economic Change’. It offered a clear focal point for leading transformational change, before, during and post event to advance the equality of opportunity for disabled people.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland works from the perspective of the Social Model of Disability, understanding disability as a problem of exclusion from ordinary life and requiring a change in society’s values and practices in order to remove the barriers to participation. The Arts Council works in partnership with, and takes advice from, disabled people and relevant sector organisations to create our policies and programmes. The Arts Council sees disability as an equality and inclusion issue and aims to encourage universal accessibility to the arts for disabled people in Northern Ireland.

For more information on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s policies on arts and disability visit

The website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience.

Skip to content