Racheal Missingham  |www.arts.qld.gov.au  | 2nd May 2014

Circus artist Racheal Missingham discusses the value of inclusivity in arts and cultural practice…..

From an early age, instructors’ perceptions that people like myself cannot succeed in the arts industry meant that my dreams were stolen. Fast forward to 2011 when I participated in the Deaf Women’s Group run by Vulcana Women’s Circus. I came home as an artist once again, with new creative skills.

I am involved in Vulcana Women’s Circus in various roles, including as a Board member, trainee trainer, participating in aerial class and representing the Deaf women in circus arts. You see, Vulcana is a very inclusive community organisation with an interest in providing opportunities for cultural expression and community development through circus arts.

Through Vulcana, I have been able to develop skills and knowledge about circus arts by being actively involved in aerial class. The trainers themselves are aware of the needs of Deaf participants and classmates learn sign language at check in, before the warm-up starts. It also allows me to share my experiences and knowledge with other participants in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. At Board meetings, Auslan interpreters are booked to allow me to participate fully. Auslan interpreters are also booked for Vulcana’s Cabaret to ensure the show is fully accessible for hearing and Deaf audiences.

Being involved in Vulcana has opened many doors for me as a circus artist and last year, I was involved in the Rising Star Master Class, a partnership between Access Arts and Arts Queensland. Through this Master Class, I successfully obtained the Rising Star bursary to allow me to collaborate and network with other artists and organisations by sharing and exchanging ideas, skills and knowledge to strengthen the social inclusion of artists with disability into performing arts in Queensland.

The bursary took me to Canada and the United Kingdom to gain experience working with internationally acclaimed companies including:

  • Candoco Dance Company, which is a well-known disabled dance company in London;
  • Solar Bear Theatre, a Deaf theatre company in Glasgow, Scotland, where I witnessed a milestone as they developed a partnership with the Royal Scotland Conservatoire to deliver a 3 year Bachelor Degree in Deaf Acting in 2015; and
  • Graeae Theatre, which is the company that co-directed the Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies in London 2012 and an internationally acclaimed cross-arts theatre for Deaf and disabled artists.

Visiting these organisations has enriched my motivation to advocate and ensure the arts becomes inclusive for Deaf and disabled artists in Queensland and Australia. Through these opportunities, I now have the desire to become a professional circus artist specializing in contemporary dance and aerial dance.

Disabled artists are quite skilled and talented due to their ability to be creative and adaptive during choreographed physical theatre, including circus arts, theatre and dance. Creating and strengthening the inclusivity in the community will allow knowledge and skills to be shared amongst artists with similar interests. I hope to establish a Deaf arts network for the Deaf communities in Queensland that would engage, encourage and support Deaf artists and arts workers in the arts and cultural sector through networking and project opportunities.

Racheal Missingham

Racheal Missingham is a Deaf female circus artist who has been training in circus arts skills, including aerial and acrobatic skills, with Vulcana Women’s Circus since 2011. Racheal was involved in a Deaf Women’s Circus project to develop the Wizard of Auslan in 2012. This was a unique performance examining the physical languages of circus and the transition of Auslan (Australian Sign Language) from the past to today using the Wizard of Oz concept. This achievement became the crucial stepping-stone into a performing arts career. Since joining the Vulcana Women’s Circus, Racheal has discovered a love for exploring and expression through acrobatics, aerial dancing and performing. Being in a supportive and encouraging environment, a world of opportunities opened up. “I just have to believe I can do it.”

IMAGE: Racheal Missingham at Solar Bear Theatre, which was formed in 2002 and has worked to extend the opportunities and participation of deaf people in theatre. Photo by Solar Bear Theatre Company.