Story


“My vision is for people with disability to have the opportunity to have the best possible arts experiences, to learn, make friends and contribute to our community in meaningful, exciting and creative ways”

Emily Ardley, (it’s no) drama Founder

(it’s no) drama is an arts initiative founded in 2017 by Emily Ardley, an artist with a disability living in Leongatha. She invited Rawcus to lead workshops and conversations with the local community in Leongatha and Wonthaggi who wish to start their very own inclusive theatre group.

Emily is well-connected in the local community and has started becoming a voice for local inclusive arts. In December 2015, Emily approached Alisha Gilliland, Rural Access worker at South Gippsland Shire Council, with the idea of creating an inclusive theatre company in the small regional town of Leongatha. This was the beginning of (it’s no) drama.

Alisha Gilliland, Access & Inclusion officer at South Gippsland Shire Council and project manager of (it’s no) drama, recounts:

The story begins in December 2015 when Emily came to me and said “we need a drama group here!” and we set about how we could make that happen. 

We talked to Emily’s friends at Rawcus and they mentored us in the process of delivering experiential workshops in Leongatha and Wonthaggi in April 2016 so that people with disability could get a taste for contemporary movement theatre. Alongside those workshops we held community conversations, so that the wider community could flag their interest and potential supports in relation to the idea of developing an inclusive drama ensemble in Leongatha.

On the strength of the commitment to the idea, we sought support from Regional Arts Victoria and South Gippsland Shire Council and received a “Toe in the Water” grant, which allowed us to employ a locally based Artistic Director, Samara Cunningham, and Artistic Associate, Jenneke Kijlstra-Shone. The professional mentorship by Nilgun Guven, Rachel Edward, Hannah Bradsworth and Michael Buxton built the capacity and confidence of the (it’s no) drama creative team, as well as that of the ensemble, to develop and deliver the outstanding original work, Unreserved in October 2017.

The showing of this work to our supporters and community was the beginning of the journey to becoming an ensemble. The momentum to continue was supported once again by Regional Arts Victoria through a Cultural and Skills Development Grant and South Gippsland Shire Council, which enabled the ensemble and creative team to build and diversify their skills in the development and showing of Real. Not Real. in March 2019. This process and outcome was a pivotal achievement in the journey of the ensemble and creative team and, in achieving this success, we set our sights on the longer term goal of evolving into a company. 

Rawcus have been our friends and mentors on this journey. Their support, leadership and insights have been invaluable and we are grateful to have them alongside us. We envisage that we will continue to work in this way in the short-medium term, and that after this time the (it’s no) drama ensemble will have evolved into a company and, with the support of our community, make their own way in this space. for more info visit: https://rawcus.org.au/


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(it’s no) drama is proudly supported by Building Inclusive Communities- Disability Services, South Gippsland Shire Council, Bass Coast Shire Council, Freeza (South Gippsland), South Coast Access Alliance and Regional Arts Victoria.