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Space Chronic-ills investigates “Am I a failure or am I being failed?”

An exploration of failure, resistance, disclosure and joy as I attempt to reframe my lived experience of chronic illness, internalised ableism, imposter syndrome and societal barriers through sci-fi performance with creative integrated access. 


After being knocked off course, a seemingly resolute commander and their overbearing virtual assistant work together to refocus their mission.


“Commander Ash Tronomy is a five-star, frakking fabulous, astro-inspirational, earthling…” Well, that’s how they want you to think of them.


Commander Ash Tronomy hides behind a facade of “everything is fine”, as many of us do. People who live with chronic illness, neurodiversity, mental health conditions and dynamic disabilities are often misunderstood by others - and sometimes by ourselves. 


We continuously grapple with societal barriers - medical vs. social models, identity politics, censorship of joy, fear of disclosure, internalised ableism, imposter syndrome, autonomy, illness narratives and the pressure to ‘get well’.


Sci-fi places humans under imaginary pressures using speculative fiction. Those with a non-visible illness or disability are often disbelieved or considered to be imagining things - “you don’t look sick” - so the Commander's interplanetary struggles are a way of making the invisible, visible. Sci-fi becomes sci-fact.


Space Chronic-ills (WIP) in its Phase 1 work-in-progress form is a 14-minute contemporary theatre piece, focusing on text, sound design, integrated audio description and movement.

My practice centres access, from the creative process to audience experience. During Phase 1 the team and I worked shorter hours, had regular breaks and protected rest days. We built a culture of care for one another, and used access riders to ensure everyone's needs were met.


At performances, there were quiet spaces, soft seating and relaxed presentation, as well as live captioning and BSL interpretation at some sharings. I created an accessible costume (with help from my mum). 


The main focus of Phase 2 is to further examine how I might use accessible approaches to create a choice of routes through the work, by

  • Developing creative captioning and projection design

  • Further developing integrated audio description

  • By exploring environmentally sustainable and accessible scenery

  • Creating an offer that is both live and streamed in an interesting way

  • Investigating what audiences participation looks like when access is considered

  • Expanding my research across science fiction, space science, queer theory, health and wellbeing.

  • Collaborating with artists with lived experience of the themes to enrich the narrative.

  • Reflecting on how meeting my own and others' access needs can enhance and inform the work.

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Jenny Gaskell

“FUNNY and charming"

Beth Westbrook

“It’s such a clear perfect analogy. Pretty much everything resonated with me as a chronic girlie who is frustrated my capacity is smaller than “the normal” capacity. I did have a little cry.”


“So resonated with me!”


March 2021

The idea was conceived. 

February 2023

 I found out that my application had been successful. Delayed by societal and personal barriers, I was over the moon to finally be launching myself as a commissioned artist.

January 2023

I applied for a micro-commission from the Collaborative Touring Network, Unlimited and The Old Courts, in association with Touretteshero.

May 2023

I built my Phase 1 team and began devising the work.

July 2023

I shared the piece across two nights at Wigan Pier, as an opener for Touretteshero’s Burnt Out in Biscuitland. I was also invited to do an ‘In Conversation at Wigan Pier: Ash Cox and The Old Courts on DIY Access and Autobiographical Theatre Making’

November 2023

 I shared the piece at the Pyramid Studio Theatre as part of the Culture Warrington Scratch Night.

October 2023

 I was invited to be a part of an 18-month Graeae Beyond: Artist Development Programme in collaboration with the Octagon Theatre, to further develop my work.

November 2023

 I presented about my practice at the Collective Encounters, Arts for Social Change Showcase.

February 2024

I pitched my work at the Queer Hope and Joy: Greater Manchester LGBTQ+ Arts and Culture Network Conference.

May 2024

I began planning Phase 2 R&D at a 3 day residency at the Octagon Theatre.

March 2024

I was awarded DYCP to develop my skills, knowledge and networks within integrated creative access.

Wednesday 22 May

I will be sharing the Phase 1 piece at Contact as part of the Girl Gang Itch That Scratch Night.

Friday 24 May

I will be sharing a new piece of work interrogating themes from Space Chronic-ills at Works Ahead: Radiator, presented by Word of Warning + Manchester School of Theatre.

Summer 2024

I will be launching Phase 2 Research and Development 

Meet the Phase 1 Space Chronic-ill’s Crew

Ash Cox

Deviser, Writer,

Performer, Producer,

Creative Access Director


AVA - Voice Artist and Character Development Consultant

Narrator - Voice Artist

Owain Kelly

Original Music and Sound Design

Lesley Cox


Ginni Manning

Dramaturgy and Story Consultant

Movement Consultant

Rosa Wright

Creative Wellbeing Facilitator

Support Squad

Ben Crennell, Michael Cooper, Lesley Cox, Hunter Millington, Rose Sergent, Amy Whitby-Baker, Maximus Burton, Kate Fox, Quiplash: Amelia and Al Lander-Cavallo, New Adelphi Theatre: Mark Fox, Georgia Lynch, Charlotte Cropper, Red Brick Theatre: Oli Hurst, Tilly Philipson, Sarah Johnson, The Old Courts: Rosie Scudder and Lauren Banks, Collaborative Touring Network, Unlimited: Jo Verrent, Fi McGregor, Touretteshero: Jess Thom, Graeae: Laura Guthrie, Manishta Sunnia, Octagon Theatre: Tabitha-Rose Hughes, Jack Clearwater

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