Cherylee Houston launches disabled artist initiative
8 June 2018 - 11:00 AM

Cherylee Houston launches disabled artist initiative

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"Coronation Street" stars Cherylee Houston and Melissa Johns have launched a new networking initiative for disabled performers.

The 43-year-old actress - who plays Izzy Armstrong in the ITV soap - has joined forces with her former co-star, who played Imogen Pascoe, to set up networking event Disabled Artist Network Community (DANC) to help change the way the industry "embraces" disabled artists and performers.

Cherylee said: "This industry can change the way we're treated in society.

"So if we can change the way this industry embraces us ... then people won't have to face the blocks we faced."

Melissa added: "We can't have a "them and us" situation anymore. Because it's not working.

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"That's why we created DANC, because we want this to be an integration of everyone knowing that it's everyone's responsibility.

"It can't keep falling on us as artists with disabilities."

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The pair are hoping to bring about change by opening up conversations with the likes of TV companies, filmmakers, arts venues and music producers.

Speaking to the BBC in a joint interview, Cherylee said: "The more of us stand together, the more of a difference we can make.

"It's about that responsibility of putting back into your career for the people of the future for their careers, so people don't have to keep facing the blocks we faced."

Melissa added: "You grow up not seeing people with disabilities on screen or on stages, and when you do say to somebody, "I want to be an actor" or "I want to be a dancer" or "I want to be something in this industry" you do get funny looks.

"You do get funny looks anyway when you say you want to be in this industry, which is fair enough.

"When you have a disability, suddenly it's like "Ooh," and you get this sympathetic look."

In March, Cherylee and Melissa teamed up to launch The Manchester Mental Health Choir to help people with mental health problems.

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