On Thursday 14 July, we partnered with BBC for the first TV focused Disability Confident event, hosted by Coronation Street in Manchester. The aim of the day was to build confidence and provide support to production companies, with the goal of breaking down barriers to better representing disability both on-screen and within the industry’s wider workforce.
We’re proud to be a Disability Confident employer and the event was a direct result of a pledge made; to host an event to engage key stakeholders, namely the independent production community and support them in meeting ITV’s Social Partnership expectations – the third element of the commissioning process, designed to encourage conversations at the very start of the programme-making process, around inclusive programming, inclusive workforce, environmental impact and social responsibility.
Hosts, guest speakers and panelists included Cherylee Houston (Actress), Robbie Sandison (Head of Production, Coronation Street), Kieran Roberts (Creative Director ‐ Drama North, ITV), Helen Bullough (Head of CBBC Production), Paul Carter (Little Man Media), Tony Prescott (Director), Kate Green MP, Victoria Fea (Controller of Drama, ITV), Oliver Kent (Executive Producer, Holby City & Casualty), Liz Stoll (Casting Director, Holby City), Melissa Johns (Actress), Miranda Wayland (Social Partnership Executive, ITV) and Joe Sheridan (On-screen Manager, ITV SignPost).
Helping to ensure the day had a real and tangible impact, attendees were encouraged to commit to long-term progress by making their own Disability Confident pledges. Kieran Roberts, ITV’s Creative Director ‐ Drama North, pledged to build on the success of previous Disability focused casting events that resulted in breakthrough talent such as actor Liam Bairstow, the first actor with Down’s Syndrome to join the Coronation Street cast. Coronation Street pledged to hold further casting events, with Emmerdale committing to do the same.
Robbie Sanderson, Head of Production at Coronation Street pledged to personally host a shadowing placement, highlighting how individual contributions can also make a difference, and the importance of breaking down barriers not just on-screen but behind the scenes.
The BBC pledged to take the baton, and committed to host a future event for the television industry in the North West to continue the conversation and build upon the momentum of the day and also to ring fencing 10% of new entry-level trainee and apprentice opportunities for people with disabilities. Pledges were made by a number of the invited companies, which will now be tracked and supported through the Department for Work and Pensions’ Disability Confident scheme.
It’s really great to be here today and to host the first Media Focused Disability Confident conference and it’s particularly special to be here at Coronation Street, a show that has been a trailblazer and champion for diversity on and off-screen for many years now. Across our industry we know that we’re in a really privileged position, reaching millions of viewers each week with an unrivalled ability to raise awareness and change public perceptions through our shows. And that bestows a very special responsibility and a very real opportunity for us to encourage, inspire and effect change.Julian Bellamy, MD ITV Studios
ITV is proud to have been the facilitator of this event but that doesn’t mean we claim to have all the answers – we’ve made progress in the past few years but we know we still have a long way to go.Kieran Roberts, ITV Creative Director ‐ Drama North