in the background a woman sits behind a table animatedly presenting a crafty DIY during an audition to a cameraman in the foreground.

Talent development is the top of our agenda here at We Are Epic. We’ve been making waves in the creative industries with our latest inclusive talent project, Count Me In. 

Earlier this year CBBC came to us and asked if we could help them find new disabled talent to be on their kid’s shows. 

We were thrilled that execs at the BBC had heard about us and trusted our expertise in inclusion.

Of course, we said yes!

We had a mission, to find the next face of CBBC in the most inclusive and accessible way possible. The search was on.

The count me in project is a unique talent search where we’ve gone out into the community to try to find some fresh new talent for BBC and beyond. I think it’s really important that we take the time to go out and connect with the audience and find the next stars of tomorrow who knows!

What Did The Project Look Like?

Executive Director, Anthony Evans leant on his 20 years of inclusive arts management to bring about, Count Me In. A pioneering project which took our knowledge of inclusion and accessibility in the creative arts and brought it to TV.

In the first six months of our talent development search we met and auditioned 70 disabled people across traditionally overlooked areas of the UK including Bradford, Mansfield and Leicester.

We continued with 3 rounds of auditions and callbacks.

Some of our auditioners were unclear about what working for the BBC might entail. Taking on this feedback we organised a meet & greet between one of CBBCs current presenters, Joe Tasker, and the people who’d made it through the process.

In the final stages we presented 10 audition tapes of the  final ‘Count Me In’ wannabe presenters to execs at BBC Media City.

Fingers crossed we’ll be seeing at least one of them on our screens soon!

After the project’s success we wanted to share how we did it and what we learnt along the way!


Talent Is Out There – Use Existing Networks To Your Advantage.

We were on the hunt for disabled people with an interest to be on TV, to act, to sing and to be in the limelight.

We had a feeling that these people would probably already be involved in similar activities or professions.

Naturally arts organisations running inclusive creative programmes where our first point of call to find disabled talent. We began by reaching out to our existing network from across the UK. With their support they helped widen our search by recommending other orgs that work in theses spaces.

Once we’d gathered enough interest we started planning our tour!

Projects like this [Count Me In] where you’re out on the ground finding the talent, talking to companies that know, I think its important to talk to the companies around the country that work with our artists because, everybody’s here so if you just put a call-out on social media, that’s not going to work.

You Need to Get Out There to Find Disabled Talent

Yeah, that’s right.

Our project team traveled across the UK meeting as many people as we could and sparking the imaginations of the people along the way. This was a key factor to our search, but why was that?

Because we wanted people to feel at ease with the process and reduce any uncertainty.

We knew that we wanted to go to the talent rather than them coming to us or to London. Meeting disabled people at venues that they know is a great way to build an inclusive project because it helps create a sense of ease and can lessen the anxiety of doing something new in a new place.

Environment is everything, so environment particularly for our autistic actors the environment creates the place where everything is known. There’s already quite a lot of nerves coming in and doing an audition but to be in your home venue and to have your team around you, makes a big difference because then we feel that we’re welcoming you and it’s not waiting in a corridor going in for an audition which is really nerve-wracking for anybody. So just come in at this stage to meet everybody at home is really helpful.

Holding auditions in local venues where disabled people have visited before was a key component that helped us to make people feel at ease. Using a known venue reduced some uncertainty around the audition, which can be an access requirement for some neurodiverse people.

Working in a known local venue also reduces some of the admin that disabled people need to do when visiting a new place. They already knew or had been to the venue so they could focus on the audition rather than organising logistics and research accessibility.

Having auditions like today are really important, rather than having to go to London, having it here in my home city makes access a little easier. As a disabled person the amount of additional planning that has to go into visiting unknown venues is an added stress. I know the Curve building really well, I know that there’s accessible toilets, I know that there’s step-free entry, where if I was going somewhere else I would have all those worries on top of the audition worries

To make people feel more at ease we provided informative pre-event PDFs which had all the information that people needed so that they could prepare. The PDFs included photos of the space that we would be working in in, what the entrance looked like so they could easily locate the entrance, and information about who would be there and why they were there. We also provided contact details so that anyone could easily get in touch if they had questions. We tried to remove as much of the anxiety around the sessions as possible.

At the end of the project we organised an evaluation, the evaluator reported that,

“ The pre-event PDFs were greatly appreciated by participants, as it allowed them to focus their mental energy on preparing for the day rather than dealing with uncertainty”

Bring Inclusion to the Forefront by Trusting in Experience

When planning our auditions our biggest goal was to make sure that the talent felt comfortable and at ease. To do that we knew that we needed to prioritise having an amazing, thoughtful and experienced team to deliver the disabled talent search as well as strong connections with our partners.

This was a requirement at the forefront for every part of our project team,

  • Media Partner – we needed a media partner that understood our project. And they needed to have experience of getting the best out of amateurs and inspiring confidence on camera.
  • Arts Practitioners – We needed arts practitioner’s who knew their communities inside out. The arts facilitators, arts managers and arts practitioners on the ground were the people best placed to bring this call to their communities. They helped us gauge interest and also supported us with individuals’ access needs.
  • Project Team – We needed a project team with experience of inclusive talent developments.
  • Venues – We needed venues that had incredible accessibility and staff with experience of supporting disabled people in their space.

This didn’t go unnoticed and it was brought up in the end-of- project evaluation by the project participants. With the evaluator reporting that,

“The friendliness and human connection from everyone involved was highlighted as a factor that greatly built trust in the process. Familiar faces throughout the project helped.”

Our Key Take Aways

We’re proud to have created a truly inclusive audition process that the project team, participants, and the BBC believe in. Hopefully, through reading about our process we’ve inspired you to think more about inclusion within your own talent development projects. 

To sum it up here are a few pointers on how to make your project more inclusive:

  • Find the people you want to work with through existing networks & organizations.
  • Ease Uncertainty by holding your event or project in well-known local places.
  • Build trust with disabled people by working with a team, staff or volunteers who have experience of disability.

Ask Yourself:

  • How can I communicate my event / project in a way that reduces uncertainty?
  • What information do people need to feel safe, assured and confident?
  • What services or organisations are my target group already using?
  • Who do you need on your team? Do they have experience of working with disabled people? Do they have knowledge and understanding of inclusion & accessibility?