The Chronically ill Artists Network was formed in 2021 out of a frustration for the lack of support , awareness and opportunities for artists and arts professionals working, or unable to work in the arts with a chronic illness.
The network was founded by Louise Wildish and Tilly Branson who have between them over three decades of experience working in the arts. They both have chronic illnesses and define as disabled, and created the network to better support artists and advocate for a change in perceptions and awareness of chronic illness in the arts sector.
The network works nationally on a strategic level with organisations and individuals to advocate change through the provision of national campaigns, training, events and resources that create better understanding and ultimately opportunities for artists, producers, and arts professionals with chronic illness.
The network supports the social model of disability which denotes that it is society that creates barriers for disabled people, not the individuals' impairment (as in the medical model) The social model denotes that organisations, individuals, businesses and society should be responsible in making change to ensure that disabled people have access.
What is a chronic illness?
A chronic illness, chronic condition or chronic disease is a long term medical condition. The NHS data model and dictionary describe it as a long term physical health condition and as a health problem that requires ongoing management over a period of years or decades, and that cannot be cured but can potentially be controlled with medication. The definition is complex in itself with many differing descriptions.
The network supports the term 'chronic illness' as a long term health condition that lasts for 3 months or more and that moderately or severely impacts on a persons quality of life. We believe that it is up to the individual to define as having a chronic illness or illnesses, and we welcome anyone who self defines as chronically ill. Examples of chronic illnesses are (but not limited to) HIV, Lupus, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, MS, Endometriosis, Cancer, Parkinson's, Fibromyalgia, Crohns, Arthritis, COPD, Heart disease, Epilepsy.
Tilly Branson is a director, dramaturg, theatre-maker and creative producer with a particular interest in new writing and women's voices. In 2016 she completed a practice-based AHRC funded PhD researching the UK rural touring sector.
Directing includes GAZE by S. L. Page (Northern Stage); Pepper and Honey by Kristina Gavran (Notnow Collective, national tours/Voila Festival); Think of England and It Is Now by Madeline Gould (Anonymous is a Woman national tours/Vault Festival); Getting Better Slowly by Nick Wood (Lincoln Drill Hall/national tours); Acting Alone by Ava Hunt (international tour); Man to Man by Manfred Karge (Mercury Theatre Colchester/Park Theatre London); Entertaining Angels by Brendan Murray (New Perspectives / national tours); End to End (The Gramophones, Edinburgh Fringe/national tours). Producing includes Mashi Theatre’s Tales of Birbal, I Dare You by Tom Powell, and shows and festivals for all female collectives Major Labia and The Party Somewhere Else.
Tilly regularly works with writers on scripts in development and has also worked as a teacher, lecturer and workshop facilitator for schools, universities and arts organisations. Tilly has chronic illnesses and is particularly interested in making the arts and working practices accessible for people who are vulnerable and/or face barriers to taking part
Having worked in the arts for over 25 years in roles from actor, director, executive producer, filmmaker, art director, mentor and disability awareness consultant, Louise has had extensive experience of working with a large portfolio of organisations and individuals across the arts sector both as an artist in a freelance capacity and at senior management on a strategic level. She has directed and produced many small to large-scale productions both in theatre and dance including for Mansfield Palace Theatre, New Perspectives Theatre Company, Orchestras Live, Mickael Marso Riviere and many more. She regularly produces events - physical and digital programmes on regional, national and international scales.
As well as being an artist, she also works on a strategic level within the dance and theatre sectors working for organisations such as People Dancing as Director of Engagement where she produced the 11 Million Reasons to Dance photography exhibition and film programme which toured across the UK and Internationally 2014 – 2019 working with organisations like The BBCs The Space and film maker Ben Williams. She is a mentee on the Media Trust and Screenskills Reframing Disability mentoring programme. She supports a number of artists disabled and non disabled in developing funding applications and business development plans. Louise is passionate about diversity, equity, access and inclusion and social justice.