International Artistic Exchange in the Covid Era

three dancers from Nalitari, Indonesia connecting together draped with scarves

In 2019, Nalitari in Indonesia and We Are Epic in the UK were very excited to receive funding for an international exchange through the Connections Through Culture Fund from the British Council.

Inclusive dance leaders from Indonesia would travel to the UK to observe inclusive dance leaders and disabled artists and work alongside Dance students and teachers from UK Universities.

The aim was to explore inclusive arts practice and develop new inclusive dance workshops and choreography skills to be taken back to Indonesia. Lots of emails, video calls and WhatsApp messages later and the flights, hotel, trainings and class observations were booked and leaders from the Nalitari were excited to be traveling to the UK in March 2020………

Unfortunately, they never made it!

A week before the Nalitari leaders were due to board the plane, the UK went into lockdown due to COVID-19. Thinking that the pandemic would be over in a few months, activities were put on hold until September 2020 and we waited. Many months of waiting passed and it became clear that this physical international exchange would not be impossible.

Leaders from Nalitari and We Are Epic kept in regular contact, sharing inclusive ideas and work and developing new ideas to develop our partnership in the future.

The pandemic brought about new virtual opportunities between us and Nalitari were able to take part in workshops and film projects in the UK. Suddenly, virtual working was giving us all more opportunities to share and engage:

Nalitari took part in a virtual workshop with disabled artist, Lisa Simpson (UK) – Unlimited Micro Commission:

Nalitari featured in a dance film produced by Serendipity (UK)
’30 Seconds of Freedom’ –


In July 2021, we developed the original exchange aims into a virtual project.

Inclusive dance leader, Charlotte Tomlison (UK) delivered an inclusive dance workshop for Nalitari supported by two dancers from We Are Epic.

A workshop and inclusive training took place online with film crews in the UK and Indonesia to capture the activities. Ideas were shared and new ways of working developed.

Nalitari then worked virtually with their artists to use the new choreographic ideas with their dancers and make a performance.

Four new films were generated from the project that show and share learning from both Indonesia and the UK.

The potential of the virtual inclusive working became very obvious as the workshop was delivered live in the studio from the UK to the studio in Indonesia.

A workshop in two countries with three translators and two film crews was an exciting and insightful experience for us all. We realised that we could do more of this in the future and creative ideas could be shared without physical travel.

For both Nalitari and We Are Epic, the possibility of using this process to enable disabled artists, who may not be able to travel internationally, to work together could open many new doors in the future. The nature of the workshops meant we could capture activities and thoughts to share easily through film and the films that resulted from the workshop would help to share the learning widely, give more insight into inclusive arts work and raise the profile of both partners.

Although the opportunities provided by virtual delivery are endless, we all thought that the additional element of physical cultural exchange was missing and we felt that the impact on artists and leaders of actually experiencing and absorbing the culture of each country would have further impacted on creative learning and understanding.

Nalitari and We Are Epic’s relationship is stronger and we are talking about how we can instigate more exchanges and collaborations between disabled artists in the UK and Indonesia.

Nothing will ever replace face-to-face creative delivery time, but we can now see how initial ideas can be shared virtually and how the testing of creative concepts between Indonesian and UK based artists can happen virtually. This would establish a strong understanding between artists and initial research and development of ideas, before even stepping on a plane.

The environmental and accessible benefits of this way of working are wide and will enable our organisations to develop more sustainably in the future. From our original partnership developed through the DICE programme, we have established a long-term working relationship and are excited to see how this will grow in the future.

Opportunity: Dancers Wanted

emerging dancers wanted

We Are Epic Inclusive Arts are looking for two aspiring dancers to join their professional development dance company for their ID training sessions…

We’re looking to audition both disabled or non-disabled dancers who are looking to develop their skills in inclusive dance to working at a professional level. Dancers must have dance experience, be willing to progress further in contemporary dance, and be able to work within a company environment who support one another within the work.

Dancers are expected to attend weekly class on Monday evenings in Leicester from 5-6:45pm and to attend weekend intensives with a professional choreographer at various dates within the year. So far our choreographers have included James Cousins, Tim Casson and Rosie Kay. Dancers may also be expected to perform at various events as part of the company.

If you’d like to be considered for audition please email
with a short ‘Expression of Interest’ (maximum 300 words) stating why you would like to join We Are Epic and what experience you have.

Please let us know if you have any disabilities, learning difficulties or access needs. It would also be preferable if you can send a video clip of yourself dancing. If you prefer you can send your Expression of Interest by speaking on your video clip.

Selected dancers will be invited to join in with one of our company classes as the next stage of the selection process.

Minimum age 19.

Deadline for Expression of Interest is Friday 8th Nov 2019

Type, Colour Palettes & Dance – A Week in Yogyakarta

Inspiring Street Art in Jogja

We touched down smoothly in Yogyakarta, Indonesia with the sound of the call to prayer humming around in the humid city air.

Ready for a week of design, communications and branding with Nalitari but not knowing what to expect from Jogja, I spent my first day wandering and exploring and taking in the sights. The city oozes creativity, incredible street art is dotted around every corner and every alley, and if you look hard enough you’ll stumble across hidden Batik workshops set in tropical gardens. This was the opening for an inspiring and creative week in Jogja.

I met four of the Nalitari Team on Sunday and we got straight into reflecting on their digital presence and creating a way forward with a digital strategy and plan with clear aims and objectives to help them on their road to sustainability.

The team are a passionate, dedicated bunch and you can tell that they are in love with the community they’ve help to build around Nalitari.

Going into the project I knew that the Nalitari team knew what good design was, but it was clear that they were lacking in consistency which would really pull their brand together, increase brand recognition and professionalism.

We had a full agenda of design, digital strategy and communications planning. The week allowed me to analyze their communications, design and online presence with the team, support them with technical aspects and give the team time and space to ponder things like typeface and colour palettes, I’m not sure many organisations are able to dedicate time to do this!

During the experience, it was important for me as a facilitator to make sure what I was doing was sustainable, that the decisions were coming from the team and that they were understanding the key concepts. I worked closely with PR Marketing, Yoana, to show her not only how to achieve something but most importantly why we were doing it.

Nalitari is a wonderful organisation with their heart in the right place making interesting work, I’m proud to have helped them on their journey to sustainability and if you’re ever in Java make sure that you check them out!


Hayley Holden WAE

Meet the Team: Hayley Holden

Calling Cambodia her home since 2015, Hayley is a Communications Specialist and Arts Manager based in south-east Asia. Hayley consults on We Are Epic Communications and Branding and is also the Projects Manager at Epic Arts.

Interested in working with We Are Epic?

We offer a range of consultancy services.​

Buffalo Boy Travels to the UK

Cambodian dancers go to the UK

Do you remember the first time you flew?! Cambodian Dancer, Thouen is embarking on his first flight. Actually, it’s the first time he’s left Cambodia.

“ I’m very excited for the project, but I’m a little scared of flying! ” 

-Thouen, Dancer

We hope that the fright has worn off by the time he touches down for the second phase of production on ‘Buffalo Boy’ in the UK.

Dancers Thouen and Noth will be in the UK to continue developing their new piece ‘Buffalo Boy’ for two weeks with a creative team. There’s a team creatives working on the production, including dramaturge Lou Cope.

The Buffalo Boy project began in late 2017 with a creative team visiting Cambodia producing a 45 minute performance piece based on Thouen’s experience of isolation and communication. 

Read more about the piece and process so far

The next few weeks are going to be exciting for everyone involved. You can follow along over the next few weeks on Twitter for updates from creative team to get a peek inside the studio.

Film Maker Needed

Call Out for emerging filmmaker to work on an exciting new project with We Are Epic.

Michael, our Arts Administrator Trainee, will be leading on his own creative project; working with artists that identify as LGBTQ+ and D/deaf or D/disabled. The artists will be sharing their stories of identity, belonging and visibility, through interviews and their creative practices, which will be documented through film.

If you are interested in working on this project, or would like a chat to find out more then please get in touch!

Call Michael on 07400 352 651 or email

We understand access requirements and can make arrangements as appropriate.

Developing Partnerships and Collaborations.

As the summer is approaching there are various future projects with We Are Epic that are coming together, and this has meant a lot of meetings with potential partner organisations and artists.

Buffalo Boy, our international collaboration with Epic Arts, will hopefully be in the UK this summer for R&D, and this looks to be a very exciting project with potential collaborators such as Dan Daw, Attenborough Arts Centre, Dance4 and City Arts.

Trip to Nottingham!

Most recently myself, Ant and Lou took a trip to Nottingham and met with Tim Chesney, a digital artist working with City Arts and Paul Russ, Chief Executive/artistic Director of Dance4.

Having the experience of attending these meetings and being part of the discussions, has been really interesting and invaluable. One of the things that stood out to me the most, which I didn’t feel as much when working as a performer, is just how small the arts sector is and how many connections there are between different organisations.

The Meetings…

The meeting with Tim Chesney went very well, I’ve known Tim for a couple of years and introduced him to the We Are Epic team when we were looking at developing the visuals and projections for Buffalo Boy. Tim understands the importance of working inclusively and embedding access into everything that he produces and works on, this along with his talent for digital arts makes for an exciting collaboration. City Arts have also expressed an interest in hosting workshops and scratch performances for Buffalo Boy, working with some of the participants in their community projects. So watch this space!

Following this meeting we took a speedy walk around the corner to Dance4 to meet with Paul. Ant knows Paul well, and it also became clear that Lou and Paul knew a lot of the same artists and organisations. Paul was very interested in the international element of our work, and had some great contacts and suggestions, as well as offering support from Dance4, the details of which will be confirmed shortly! Paul suggested that we make contact with Serendipity, a dance company also based in Leicester, which we are following up on.

Final Few Thoughts

Something I have taken from these recent meetings is that making partnerships and alliances with the right people, is probably one of the most important parts of working in this sector. It opens up doors, connects you to other artists and helps strengthen the work that you produce. These partnerships also allow us to bring our expertise and values to other organisations, to help develop a more diverse, accessible and robust arts sector.

International Collaboration Review – A Cambodian-UK Exchange of Experience

Kiki Lovechild international collaboration Epic Arts Cambodia

Establishing an arts organisation in the UK that has previously been so embedded in the culture and context of Cambodia would always present new challenges. One of these is considering the new relationship between the UK-based We Are Epic and the Cambodia-based Epic Arts.

Ant often describes the relationship between the two as a bungee cord – each are connected to the other and able to stretch out to do their own activity, but also bounce back to help the other out. This seems like a great approach to maintaining the connection with Cambodia, but also being able to firmly establish We Are Epic, in its own right. Therefore, it seems entirely appropriate that one of the key strands of activity for We Are Epic focuses on International Collaboration.

It was identified through the Pinpoint Meetings that there is an interest in Epic Arts as an alternative culture, with having an opportunity to now access this within the UK being very significant. While links between the UK and Epic Arts have been established for many years, there have been a number of international collaborations already, with artists visiting Epic Arts and working with dancers to gain experience of working inclusively. What has been noteworthy for We Are Epic is that they can now work in the UK with artists who have benefitted from a cultural exchange with Epic Arts.

Kiki Lovechild, who visited Epic Arts in late 2016, is now exploring collaborating with We Are Epic as part of a PhD programme, thus expanding upon the connection originally made through the connection with Cambodia. Therefore, there is clear evidence to suggest that the UK inclusive dance landscape could benefit from more of these international collaboration opportunities for artists.

The process of working with dancers with a range of disabilities, plus a difference in languages, can present a challenging but greatly rewarding learning opportunity for artists, exploring ways to communicate beyond words and new movement opportunities. Therefore, We Are Epic has engaged with UK-based artists who have an eagerness to explore inclusive working practices with dance, with an application for James Cousins to visit Kampot and work with dancers at Epic Arts. These opportunities are certainly beneficial for a number of stakeholders and will be explored by We Are Epic in the future.

One of the main focuses for this strand of activity this year has been developing the work ‘Buffalo Boy’ with two dancers from Epic Arts, Thouen & Noth, performing and creating the piece, along with producer Lou Coleman and director Richard Poynton. The opportunities provided by We Are Epic being UK based means that there are people ‘on the ground’ able to find performance opportunities, venues, potential workshop activities and marketing channels.

You can read more about Buffalo Boy here:

The International Collaboration strand for We Are Epic has huge potential for making significant contributions to the UK inclusive dance sector

whilst also engaging with professional choreographers and developing their on-going relationship with Epic Arts in Cambodia. As with many projects that are internationally focused, there will be challenges and obstacles along the way, including funding application bids, visa applications, travel arrangements etc. However, the experience We Are Epic have of organising these opportunities and the case studies from previous cultural exchanges should contribute greatly to the success of the programme.

Celebrating Diversity in Indonesia with the British Council

Antony Evans Director In Jakarta for Inclusive Arts
In March as part of our work to share, collaborate and raise awareness of inclusive practise throughout the world, Epic Arts and We Are Epic Director, Anthony spent four days in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Working with the British Council in Jakarta and over 30 Inclusive Arts organisations, Anthony delivered facilitated a series of workshops and discussions to engage and inspire collaborations between the sector leads. Here is a short blog about his adventure.

 Making Some Noise in Indonesia!

Arriving in Indonesia, I was quite prepared for the sights, smells and crazy driving. After spending 3 years living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia I’m used to the usual things associated with big Asian cities. However, I did find Jakarta took the traffic jams to a whole new level!

After weeks of planning with the team at the British Council I was clear about the aim of the next four days. I was very excited to hear from Indonesias next generation of artists and organisations about their feelings and attitudes towards inclusive arts. I was particularly interested in hearing the differences and similarities between the sector in Indonesia and what I was used to experiencing in Cambodia. From reading the recent research it seemed that there was lots of cross over, especially with regards to some of the political and religious barriers.

Day 1 – Meet the Inclusive Artists of Indonesia

What struck me more than anything during my whole trip to Jakarta was the realisation of how big Indonesia as a country actually is. I knew Indonesia was made up of different islands, but wow! Over 16000!

Bringing together the artists, leaders and arts organisations from all over the archipelago is kind of a big deal, and I felt very honoured to have been able to participate in an event that brought together this group of people for the first time.

As I listened to each of the participants introduce themselves I knew that the trip had already been worth it. It was evident that this meeting of great minds was going to have a legacy far longer than the next four days.

I was invited to the lead the workshop to talk about and celebrate diversity to a group who I could see already had a richness and understanding of diversity! Admittedly, perhaps not with regards to disability but the room was full of different faiths, cultures and languages all discussing their successes and challenges.

Our local facilitator, Masslamet explained to me about one delegate This man speaks my local language, I mean, we all mostly speak Bahanese but this guy, he speaks my local tongue.I have to admit I thought to myself, “what can I teach to these people? they already have fantastic inclusive attitudes.”

The participants did go onto explain to me that they needed to see more role models, examples of best practise and as I was able to refer them to many, I did end the day feeling pretty useful!.

Day 2 – I love it when a plan comes together!

By Day 2 we hit the tough stuff! Jakarta has a huge event approaching in October in the form of the Asian Para games. Ruth Gould from Dadafast and I were trying to act as Catalysts, encouraging and nurturing the raw enthusiasm of the participants and trying to channel their ideas into the barebones of a cultural offer that could stand alongside this huge sporting event. With many references to the UK cultural Olympiad and the impact that offer had as part of the London 2012 Olympics. What do you need in order to develop this?was the main question of the day and we were urging some of the talented leaders step forward and take on the responsibility of working with the British Council to sharpen this offer.

We decided together that it was important to Make some noise! and so a working group was formed to take ideas forward. I got a real buzz from thinking Id played a small part in putting together this crack team of doerstogether. I cannot wait to see what they put forward for October.

Day 3 – Changing Perceptions in the Mainstream 

The British Council team provided an open forum for the 

working group assembled the day previously to lobby to the media, ministers and officials of the Para Games.

Together we pitched that, the upcoming games was an opportunity to come together, to celebrate the diversity of the country. That with their help a platform could be created to demonstrate the richness and diversity of Indonesias arts sector in a way that is not tragic, patronising or second rate but that is thriving, alive, interesting, innovative and distinctly Indonesian.

Day 4 – Out and About

On my final day in Indonesia we went to visit two participants who were busy putting up artwork for their weekend exhibition. One artist, Hanna Madness was exhibiting as part of a fundraiser for a charity supporting people with learning disabilities. Hanna, who describes herself as an Arts and Disability Activist with random personality – Manic Depressive – Schizophrenic, explained to me how she was looking forward to her upcoming residency with UK Artist Vacuum Cleaner as she would use it to diversify the style of her work. A perfect example of how some of the partnerships created as part of the UK/IN season were really paying off!

My Thoughts

After spending four days in the company of some very talented and driven people, I have no doubt that the future of Inclusive/Disability Arts in Indonesia is an exciting one. I left feeling proud to have been apart of the first baby steps of a movement that I think with more exposure to international artists, increased access to role models and high quality practitioners will snowball an Inclusive Arts sector to be very proud. I do hope I can continue to support the working group and I will follow their journey to the Para Games with great interest. The natural diverse make up of island cultures could see Indonesia leading the way and teaching the other members of ASEAN a thing or two.

Space Between the Boxes: Identity & Belonging: D/disabled or D/deaf and LGBTQ+

Intersectional Inclusive Arts - Identity & Belonging LGBTQ+ & D/disabled

In my last blog post I mentioned that I’ve been given opportunity to lead on my own creative project whilst here at We Are Epic, so I will give you a bit of a more detailed overview of this and an update on where it currently is!

The Spark

When Ant spoke to me about running my own project one of the first things that came to mind was an article I had read the day before, written by a young man who identified as disabled and bisexual. In this article he discussed dating/relationships and the discrimination he has faced because of his disability and sexual orientation.

He discussed the kind of everyday discrimination he faced, and how being a part of two diverse groups meant that he was forced to identify as one or the other on many occasions, rather than being seen as a complete person.

‘The Space Between The Boxes’

This led to discussions around identifying in more than one diverse group, and the ‘space between the boxes’ that people want to tick when discussing identity, and questions such as what happens when you don’t fit into one ‘box’?

Why is this such a problem? Why can’t we see the whole person, why is there such a need to allocate people into boxes?

I realized that issues around identifying as D/disabled and LGBTQ+ had been something I had heard a lot about in the media, in discussion with people I know, and whilst working as a support worker at Outburst, an LGBTQ+ youth service in Nottingham. However, when researching this didn’t seem to be something that was being discussed at a level to affect change, and I wondered what was being done to tackle this sort of discrimination.

The Project Begins To Take Shape

Ant and Lou thought this was an interesting subject to focus on, and we had in depth discussions around what this might look like, they also gave me a lot of guidance on engaging participants in initial discussions and the best way to move forward with the project.

Having established artists to mentor the participants throughout the project is something that I also want to organize.

At the minute the focus of the project is meeting and having conversations around identity, belonging and the lived experiences of people that identify as D/disabled and LGBTQ+.

These conversations will inform where the project goes and the kind of output that will be produced, this will also be directly influenced by the creative practices of the participants.

The call out for people to engage in these initial conversations has now gone out and I am excited to start meeting and chatting about the project!

If this has answered a few more questions you had and you are interested then please get in touch, take a look at the callout below.