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Spotlight on Freelancers: Charlene Salter

Spotlight on Freelancers is our interview series dedicated to highlighting the incredible range of jobs that exist in the arts. Performer and writer Charlene Salter tells us about her work with Access All Areas,  her journey into the arts and some of her favourite LGBTQ+ icons. You can read more freelancer interviews here or listen to the Stratford East Podcast.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
I’m Charlene Salter (she/her), and I’m an actor with Access All Areas. I’m a writer as well. This year, I’m a Co-Chair of Board of Access All Areas, as part of Transforming Leadership programme. I like to write things where there are characters who overcome barriers and try to solve them, making sure that people acknowledge and understand them. But also with a bit of cheekiness in there too. I’m working on an exciting new project too about language.

Could you tell us a bit about your work with Access All Areas?
Access All Areas is a theatre company that works exclusively with learning disabled and autistic artists. Basically, we break the boundaries that other companies are too scared to break. We tell stories that are really meaningful to us and we also make the audience learn from it as well. We work with companies like Graeae (where the AAA office is based).

What was your route into the arts/theatre making?
It started at my secondary school - I went to a special needs school. To be honest, I didn’t know that I’d like doing drama. My first drama role was doing a Christmas show, I was playing Truly Scrumptious. I really enjoyed it, so I definitely wanted to do it as a career. Then, at college I did a performance course. I did that for 3 years. Then after that I had to find work in the arts. I found this company called Toucan, and that’s how I found Access All Areas. At first, I was having second thoughts about it, but I’m glad I’m didn’t.

I did a course with Access All Areas called Performance Making Diploma at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. It was the very first course that they did at that uni, specifically for people with diverse learning disabilities I was the first one that did it, which I think is a good achievement.

What skills do you think a theatre maker needs?
I think it’s important that theatre makers know the needs the of the person they’re working with or writing about. So, they make it accessible.

Who or what inspires you?
My inspiration is people that I work with. I’ve worked with so many amazing people that’s made me learn throughout my career and has shaped the person that I’ve become. The people I work with at Access All Areas, they really inspire me a lot. And also, an actor called Mat Fraser who has a disability, but he doesn’t bother what other people think of him and he just carries on and does the best show and makes people aware of it. He’s my big inspiration.

It’s also LGBTQ+ History Month – what does this mean for you?
It’s an absolute joy to me. I’m honoured to be part of the LGBT community, because I feel that love is love. People should love who they are and not be afraid of who they are. We are all together, so why the judgement? My partner is trans and I support the trans community. I really love the Vauxhall Tavern – they rock so much.

Who are some of your LGBTQ+ icons?
P!nk! She supports the LGBT+ community and I love her so much. It’s got to be P!nk.

Which Queer emerging artists should we check out?
You should obviously check out me, of course! But also, some of our Access All Areas members like Emma Selwyn. They’re non-binary and did a performance called #BinariesBeGone – so definitely check that out.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to emerging Queer artists?
I would say just go for it. Don’t be afraid of other people. If you want to show who you are and you want to embrace it, go for it. The LGBT community can help you. There are other people out there and we’re all reaching for the same thing. Don’t be afraid. If you want to show it, flaunt it, go for it. You’re fabulous – go for it! If you feel that you want to come to the arts and you’ve got lots of ideas then share them with other communities. Share it out. There are people out there in the same boat. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be yourself. You’ll get there. Slow steps.

Charlene recommends:
TV Show: The L Word
Film: Harley Quinn Birds of Prey
Play: Anything by Shakespeare
Album: Fun House, P!nk
Book: Snatches: Moments from 100 Years of Women's Lives

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