Chris Ledger, Champion of Disability Arts in Northern Ireland

Community Arts Partnership has been saddened to hear of the passing of the Chief Executive Officer of the University of Atypical, Chris Ledger. CAP sends condolences to Chris’ family and to the staff at the University of Atypical. We recognise that her contribution to the arts in general and Disability Arts in particular will be sadly missed.

From the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Website

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with great sadness of the death on Saturday 1st August of Chris Ledger, CEO of the University of Atypical and former Disability Arts Development Officer at the Arts Council, who has died following a long illness.

One of Chris’s major achievements during her period in charge of the Arts and Disability Forum was to oversee the transition and modernisation of the organisation into the University of Atypical, the new name in 2018 reflecting a new sense of empowerment amongst the disabled and D/deaf arts community. The charity, which is led by disabled and D/deaf people, supports and enables disabled and D/deaf people’s involvement in the arts and is an integral part of the Arts Council’s portfolio. The many key services it offers – the gallery space, the support for artists through the annual Individual Disabled Artists (iDA) artists awards managed on behalf of the Arts Council, the Arts & Disability Equality Charter designed to incentivise venues to become more accessible to disabled and D/deaf audiences and artists, the advocacy and developmental work, the internationally-renowned annual Bounce! Festival which gives a platform to disabled and deaf artists – all contributed significantly to a much stronger representation, profile and visibility of disabled and deaf arts in Northern Ireland. Under Chris’s stewardship, the University of Atypical heralded a dynamic future for all of the artists, members, visitors and participants who benefit directly from its many valuable services.

Immediately prior to taking up the post of CEO of the Arts and Disability Forum, Chris worked as Disability Arts Development Officer at the Arts Council (2004-2009). Here, she was instrumental in raising the profile of the sector, highlighting its specific needs and developmental opportunities, and defining the Arts Council’s existing policies on Arts and Disability and Arts and Health.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute:
“Chris was a warm, compassionate, intelligent person with a vivacious sense of humour and a determination to make a difference, and she brought all these fine qualities to her work. She was a passionate advocate of the rights of disabled and D/deaf people to be fully represented in arts and culture, and through her commitment and her brand of leadership, which was infectious, she did make a very significant difference. With her passing, the Disability Arts sector has lost a true progressive, the arts community has lost one of its key players, and we have lost a very dear friend and colleague. Chris will be missed tremendously. Our thoughts are with Louise, her family and her many close friends.”

Sean Fitzsimons, Chair of the University of Atypical, paid tribute:
“Chris’s contributions to the Arts & Disability Forum/University of Atypical resonate far beyond the confines of the physical walls of the organisation. They are visible in the innumerable smiles on the faces of artists, their families and the public. During Chris’s stewardship as CEO, D/deaf and disabled arts and culture was mainstreamed to a degree never seen before on these shores or elsewhere. The general public and government here in NI are now aware of the contributions of so many disabled people, thanks to Chris’s tireless championing. Her underlining emphasis on Disability Culture and Rights was and continues to be revolutionary. I am privileged to call her a friend, colleague and mentor. Her passing is a sad loss for us all.”

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.