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Julie McCarthy

Arts and Social Change

Julie McCarthy - She/Her

Arts and Social Change


I have been working in arts and social change for 25 years. After my first degree, I moved to Spain and then Brazil where I taught English. In Brazil, I got involved in an arts programme at a local prison and I soon realised that this was my vocation. So I returned to the UK to take a specialist MA and as part of my course came up with the vision for ARTPAD; a theatre and participatory development programme which I was able to deliver for two years in Brazil and Peru. 

It was my ability to see connections, possibilities and opportunities where others don’t, that made all this happen. I really don’t think I would have pulled it off without all the qualities my neurodiversity gives me.


I originally trained as an actor, but by the end of my university course, I had little self-belief and couldn’t see myself as a performer. I thought that as a working-class, gay woman, my class and sexuality was what made me feel like an outlier, even though I had plenty of friends from similar backgrounds. Now, post-diagnosis, I know it was my neurodiversity that set me apart. If I had known what I know now, that difference could have given me confidence and a feeling of uniqueness; my USP. I hope that’s increasingly true for young, neurodiverse women, today.


After ARTPAD, I worked for Arts Council England, then a freelance producer and finally as the Creative Producer at Young Person’s Mental Health Charity 42nd Street. There, I imagined, developed and launched the UK’s first young person’s arts and mental health centre with its own dedicated programme and worked with hundreds of young people, artists and mental health professionals. 


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