Pathways Evaluation Report: Blog Post, 6th July 2023
By Caroline Jeyaratnam-Joyner, Pathways Programme Manager and Showcase Director, January 2020-March 2023
Pathways (2019-23) is Extant’s flagship professional development programme for visually impaired artists in the theatre industry. The programme – extended by one year due to the Pandemic – included: masterclasses, shadowing, mentoring, Round Tables and a showcase for each of the four strands Actors, Directors, Writers and Crew and Design.
Taking over the role of Pathways programme manager from Hannah Quigley in January 2020: I enjoyed getting to know this creative bunch of Pathways creatives both through the Pandemic, and out the other side. I was consistently inspired by both the ingenuity and passion of each Pathways artist, many of whom wore more than one hat, and completed more than one Pathways artform.
From my side, this was a role that I could make my own, and working with a small but perfectly formed team. This meant that the building of strong and collaborative relationships – something that I enjoy – was paramount to the success of the work. Likewise, my commitment to building inclusive practice: is something that Extant does with bells on, so the role proved to be a great fit. The experience of directing three live showcases in London theatres – and particularly given the Pandemic – was the icing on the cake. The cherry was the creative process: that was complex, multi-disciplinary and meaningful all at once.
I brought in freelance creatives to run masterclasses, direct, act, mentor and run shadowing placements – a key criteria being their ethos and approach on inclusive practice – to ensure that every layer of Pathways mirrored what Extant is trying to achieve. That is: a level playing field in the industry for visually impaired artists, and an inclusive methodology as a whole.
As showcase director on Pathways Showcases at Cockpit Theatre (Directors, January 2022), Brixton House (Writers, June 2022) and Canada Water Theatre (Crew and Design, February 2023): the joy was drawing together rich mixes of visually impaired and other artists to curate what was the culmination of each year’s hard graft. The result by end of play March 2023: was three dynamic and thought-provoking showcases (which you can watch back on the Extant website under artist development), and 47 fulfilled Pathways graduates ready for more.
Pathways alumni contributed to this in-depth evaluation carried out by external evaluator Dr Rachel Hutchinson, as did freelance collaborators and Extant staff. This evaluation captures the life changing essence of the ever-growing visually impaired Extant community; and how each Pathways artist’s unique skills set was enriched by the programme – whether that be by enhancing confidence, learning a new craft or applying an established one. Hope you enjoy this insightful and reflective look in to Pathways: which also offers a glimpse in to what is yet to come.
Thanks to Arts Council England for funding Pathways, and to funders: Thomas Pocklington Trust, The Spectacle Makers’ Charity, Leathersellers’ Company, Ulverscroft Foundation and Wingate Foundation.
Read the Executive Summary of the Pathways Programmes: Impact Evaluation Report here: Word Version