Meet the Makers: Through the Roof
Published: Wednesday 29 November, 2023
In our latest edition of Meet the Makers we talk to Charlotte Nightingale from Glass Ceiling Arts Collective about the upcoming Through the Roof – a radically inclusive youth arts festival that centres rangatahi with disabilities. Charlotte opened up about the importance of the arts to empower young people, about Glass Ceiling’s dreams for “a festival where young people take the reins and where accessibility is just a given”, and lets us in on what to expect at the festival this Saturday.
Charlotte Nightingale, Artistic Director of Glass Ceiling Arts Collective
Introduce yourself and what you do at Glass Ceiling Arts Collective.
Kia ora my name is Charlotte Nightingale and I'm the Artistic Director for Glass Ceiling Arts Collective. I am responsible for the artistic output of the organisation which includes helping to mould and facilitate our youth programmes and events including Through the Roof our annual Youth Arts Festival.
For our creatives to stroll down the red carpet with pride is so empowering. They get to see themselves as creative people first and foremost, they realise that there is value in their mahi and that builds self-esteem
What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
The thing I enjoy the most is that I get to see and experience first-hand the change that can happen in society when you include everyone. Whether it's by sharing disabled stories in theatre and film, and audiences feeling connected and empowered by those stories, or by helping create youth programmes that are tailored to diverse needs and then seeing young people or adults on stage or in film owning their performance, smashing the barriers that society so often puts on them.
What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
Like many arts organisations, I think the hardest thing is that so often funders don't realise the transformative power of the arts. It's ability to build belonging, it's power to help people to navigate society, to improve mental health and wellbeing, to build confidence. And it's ability to help with someone's health outcomes, through movement and dance. I often get frustrated by the fact that funders realise the value in sport (which of course is great) but then don't realise that not everyone is into sport, so arts programmes often struggle with funding. When we struggle to get funding for incredible arts projects that we know are meeting health and wellbeing needs of the people we work with but sports projects are funded, well that really gets my goat!
...so often funders don't realise the transformative power of the arts. It's ability to build belonging, it's power to help people to navigate society, to improve mental health and wellbeing, to build confidence. And it's ability to help with someone's health outcomes, through movement and dance
How did the youth arts festival Through the Roof come to be?
It's something that's been on the wishlist from when we started Glass Ceiling. Our groups across the motu have created amazing pieces of art this year from musical theatre productions to films, music, dance. To be able to celebrate that together and to be able to show the general public the value in that mahi is so important. For our creatives to stroll down the red carpet with pride is so empowering. They get to see themselves as creative people first and foremost, they realise that there is value in their mahi and that builds self-esteem. So often disabled people are siloed into programmes just for disabled people run by non-disabled people which of course have their place and are often really wonderful but to see themselves stroll down a red carpet as equals to people who might not identify as disabled well there is the power for change. When you see your face in art, then you belong and this is what Through the Roof does; it builds belonging and community.
Tell us about your partnership with Auckland Live.
Partnering with Auckland Live is always an incredible experience. And we are so thankful that they acknowledge and value this work and have again partnered with us to bring the Festival to life. It is so great that as part of their accessibility focus that they are fully on board and go above and beyond to ensure access for our patrons and performers. What Auckland Live bring is really wraparound support. When you are working in a small team so often we have to be everything from a theatre maker, to a marketer to a graphic designer, but with Auckland Live they are so good at supporting all areas of a production that you know the word is going to get out there and you also know that the production will be of extremely high quality.
Everything we do in our youth programmes is driven by the rangatahi we work with. We get them to choose the shows, devise and create the films, we really do give them opportunities to explore their own creativity in a safe and supported way
Can you tell us about the Rangatahi involved with this festival and what it means to them?
Through the Roof means the world to them as it's a chance for them to celebrate all their incredible mahi. This festival is all about youth empowerment. Everything we do in our youth programmes is driven by the rangatahi we work with. We get them to choose the shows, devise and create the films, we really do give them opportunities to explore their own creativity in a safe and supported way. We have a large group travelling in two coaches from Northland to be part of the festival in Tāmaki Makaurau. I'm a bit gutted I don't get to be on that bus because I know it'll be a blast!!
What are your hopes for the future of both Through the Roof and the Glass Ceiling Arts Collective?
We would love to have Through the Roof as a two-day youth-led festival with workshops and performances and films and a real opportunity for young disabled people to be seen as the incredibly talented young people they are. It would be awesome to have people come from across the motu and maybe even across the globe to come and join us. Imagine a festival where young people take the reins and where accessibility is just a given. Let's make it happen!