Deborah Williams

Panel Member or Speaker


With a varied background in politically motivated theatre which started in the mid-1980s, Deborah’s early experience saw her working as the manager at Pleasance Islington, teaching stage management at Webber Douglas drama School and acting with Graeae Theatre Company.

By the late 1990s she moved on to working in outreach with London Disability Arts Forum (LDAF) across several London boroughs setting up workshops for young disabled people. During this time Lifting the Lid, the first disability arts festival in the world was started. This went on to spark others in Canada, Burkina Faso, Australia and The USA.   

In 1999 she started her own production company, Reality Productions, where she was the lead artist as well as producer. This involved presenting shows at The Young Vic, Theatre Workshop @ Degenerate as part of the Edinburgh Fringe, New York, Belfast Maine and Melbourne. In 2008/9 Deborah went into Rich Mix as the arts and cultural programmer where she wrote the business plan she was also responsible for the one day arts and activism event 6 Billon ways.  

Over the past decade she has worked inside arts council England, starting in the London theatre team as a relationship manager focusing on digital, diversity and skills. In 2014 Deborah moved into the policy and research team leading on equality analysis for the organisation and extending the creative case for diversity across NPOs and MPMs.

In 2015 Deborah began working at the British Film Institute, once again leading on diversity. There, she was responsible for the creation of the BFI Diversity Standards, which were intended to bring equality to the investment of lottery funds across the film investment process. These standards have since been adopted by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences - The Oscars and BAFTA Film and Television awards, as well as BBC film, Film4 and British Independent Film Awards (BIFA). She has advised the academy of motion pictures and sciences, the Danish film institute, Cannes film festival, MIPCOM, Berlinale, National Theatre, Screen Australia and many many others.

The recipient of the lifetime achievement award in 2019 from Inclusive Companies for her body of work, Deborah was also in the Shaw Trust Disabled Powerlist 2018 and 2019.

Deborah is the Chief Executive of the Creative Diversity Network, the membership body funded by the UK’s major broadcasters, and production community. Its aims are to support the UK television industry to promote, celebrate and share good practice around the diversity agenda.

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