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Arts Access Accolade honours Philip Patston


Date: news embargo until
6.30pm Tuesday 29 July 2014
Attention: Arts reporters | Chief reporters

Arts Access Accolade honours Philip Patston

Philip Patston, a former comedian committed to social change, was recognised tonight when he was presented the inaugural Arts Access Accolade by award patron Dame Rosie Horton at the Arts Access Awards 2014 in Parliament.

“Philip is an inspiration to people who work with him,” Dame Rosie said. “Rather than retreat from challenges, he has faced them. Rather than ignore bigotry, he has educated. And rather than increase tension, he has used humour and generosity to change attitudes.”

Seven awards were presented at the Arts Access Awards 2014, hosted by the Hon. Christopher Finlayson, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, in the Banquet Hall of Parliament.

The Arts Access Accolade recognises the life-time achievements of an individual who has played a significant role in working with Arts Access Aotearoa to achieve its vision of a society where all people in New Zealand can participate in the arts.

Richard Benge, Executive Director, says Philip was the unanimous choice for the inaugural Arts Access Accolade. “Philip is an exceptional leader. He has mentored this organisation, sharing his wisdom, generosity, life experiences and good humour. We salute you, Philip Patston.”

Philip was first associated with Arts Access Aotearoa in its early days. In 2011, he facilitated workshops around the country, built around its publication Arts For All. Then last year, he facilitated the organisation’s Making A Difference Arts Advocates Programme in Auckland and continues to guide this group in its advocacy work.

Born with cerebral palsy, Philip has always pushed boundaries in thinking. He talks of his cerebral palsy as a “unique function” – something that’s the most obvious thing about him but not the biggest part of him, he says.

“My uniqueness is part of who I am and I don’t want to minimise it. But there are lots of parts to me.”

What most interests Philip is social change and looking at the world through different lenses. Why talk about disability, he asks, when you can talk about accessibility. “If we’re accessible then disability becomes almost irrelevant.”

Philip describes himself as a “creative” rather than an artist. He’s always “dabbled” in poetry, has set several poems to music and makes music videos, including a video for one of his poems called As Love Draws Near.

For 15 years, comedy took Philip to festivals around New Zealand, and in Australia, Canada, the United States, Britain and Belgium. Recipient of the Billy T Award in 1999, he was also a feature act in the television show Pulp Comedy and had a brief role in the local television soap Shortland Street.

Along with his work as a comedian, Philip set up Diversity New Zealand in 2001 and since then, it has been a platform to promote and progress social change and diversity.

He’s trained as a counsellor and social worker; travelled to the United States on a Winston Churchill Fellowship; worked for the Human Rights Commission; and is an alumnus of a New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship and Leadership New Zealand.

He’s also co-director of the Be. Leadership programme for Be. Accessible and has set up various not-for-profit organisations, including the Diversityworks Trust, Ripple Trust, Manawanui in Charge and Auckland Disability Law.

And now, as part of his rich and varied career, it’s time for another move. Philip has taken up a communications role at the New Zealand Aids Foundation.

The annual Arts Access Awards (formerly known as the Big ‘A’ Awards) are the key national awards in New Zealand celebrating artistic achievement, and the contribution of individuals and organisations providing opportunities for people with limited access to engage with the arts as artists and audience members.

Arts Access Aotearoa advocates for people in New Zealand who experience barriers to participation in the arts, as both creators and audience members. Its key stakeholders are people with physical, sensory or intellectual impairments; individuals and organisations in the community and professional arts sectors; and mental health service users. It is also the key organisation in New Zealand facilitating the arts as a tool to support the rehabilitative process of prisoners.

Arts Access Aotearoa receives core funding from Creative New Zealand and has a contract with the Department of Corrections to support and advise on its arts activities and programmes.


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