Artists remember inspiring mentor as awards launched in her memory

Artists who were supported by the late chief executive of a disabled-led charity have described how influential she was in shaping them and their work. Chris Ledger championed disabled arts and culture, bringing it into the mainstream like never before and is fondly remembered by those who worked with her.

Artist Brian Kielt said: “Getting these awards for me was a real confidence boost and has helped me apply for things that I normally wouldn’t have previously so it’s been confidence boost for my practice, and I would never have done that it if wasn’t for Chris.” The Lancashire native joined the Arts and Disability Forum in 2009 which evolved into the University of Atypical in 2019 under her leadership.

Chris Ledger pictured.

The organisation decided to launch The Chris Ledger Legacy Awards in her memory to recognise the major contribution she made to the sector in Northern Ireland. The grant scheme offers four awards of £5,000 each to support artists to continue with their practice and create new work. Damien Coyle, CEO, University of Atypical said: “Chris’s loss is felt across the sector as she was a real force in the arts and cultural sector here and she was a true friend and inspiration to many people. “The awards are a fitting tribute to her achievements and is welcomed by all those she supported. This support underpins the developmental role University of Atypical plays in promoting the work created by d/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists and in facilitating career enhancement opportunities.” The awards are open to creative practitioners from all artforms. Performance artist Sinéad O’Donnell said Chris helped her to flourish in her medium. “She was the type of woman that had very big wings and everybody could fit under those wings,” she said. “She was very supportive of listening to the artist in the way they think, in the way that they want to make work, and creating stepping stones to be able to articulate your work, but also make your work. That’s why these legacy awards for Chris are so special, because she set up a system that every step of the way we would be supported.” The Chris Ledger Legacy Awards close on 12 October and advice clinics to assist applicants with the application process are available. More information here.