mac birmingham
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Cannon Hill Park, Queen's Ride, Birmingham B12 9QH
West Midlands

The past and future of diversity will be debated this month as Awkward Bastards returns to mac Birmingham, exploring the themes of under-representation, exclusion and invisibility. Presented by disability arts development organisation DASH, in partnership with host venue mac Birmingham and the Live Art Development Agency (LADA), this year’s symposium takes place across two days, 22-23 March, building on the success and conversations of the inaugural 2015 symposium.

The programme beginning on March 22, 2017 with artists Rachel Gadsden, Sue Austin, Mohammed Ali and Rachel Savage leading a series of day-long creative workshops exploring their own artistic practices and how they promote visibility. On March 23, conversations will continue with an extensive programme of keynote speeches, panel debates and an open mic session, with internationally renowned artists and academics. Following the theme of ABsence, the symposium will encourage attendees to consider the ways diverse artists and practices have been, are or could be framed, and our collective responsibilities to our pasts and futures.

Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern, will present a film to lead the first panel of the day on Framing Diversity, discussing whether institutional frameworks for diverse practices perpetuate marginalisation and what these frameworks should look like going forward. David Bailey, director of International Curators Forum, will follow with a panel looking at the past and future of underrepresented artists, how we can reclaim histories and more importantly, how we can support future generations of artists and cultural leaders.

In the afternoon, Radical Practices presents a session where fourteen artists, activists and academics will address a range of issues across diversity through a series of short 5 minute provocations. Artists include Vera Boysova, Alex Leggett, Catherine Hoffmann, Jane Thakoordin, Riffat Bashir, Rosamaria Kostic Cisneros, Lewis Devey, Sexcentenary, Nicholas Tee, Faye Claridge, Rinkoo Barpaga, Priya Mistry, Ben Spatz and Olivia Sparrow.

Visual artist Tanya Raabe-Webber will also undertake a live portrait sitting of Abid Hussain, Director of Diversity at ACE throughout the course of the symposium.


Mike Layward, artistic director at DASH, said: “It’s been two years since our inaugural Awkward Bastards symposium and a lot has happened since then. This is a key moment, a key time in our lives where we need to come together to debate the issues we are all facing across the World, where our rights we have fought over for years are being pushed back.”

Deborah Kermode, CEO and artistic director at mac birmingham said: “It’s vital we continue the debate around diversity in the arts. This year’s event offers delegates the opportunity to discuss the issues – no holds barred, while celebrating the achievements gained. We look forward to engaging with artists, academics and the sector at large, in what promises to be two days of radical, thought-provoking dialogue.”

Abid Hussain, director of diversity at Arts Council England, said: “Through Awkward Bastards DASH is encouraging people to have open, challenging and honest conversations about diversity, asking those big, awkward questions and tackling them head on.”

Awkward Bastards has been funded by Arts Council England.

Awkward Bastards takes place at mac birmingham on March 22 and 23, 2017. For more information visit

Tickets for the Awkward Bastards workshops and symposium are now on sale. Workshops tickets are £30 (£20 non-salaried and concessions) and symposium tickets are £60 (£30 non-salaried and concessions). A dual ticket is also available for £80 (£40 non-salaried and concessions).

To purchase tickets please visit or call 0121 446 3232.