I have an excellent week ahead, gorging on art, including theatre, music and painting. It surely doesn't get better than this. I just hope I find time for meals.
South Street holds a few memories for me; this one’s the best:
In 1996, as a keen and fearless community development worker, I organised a strangely controversial disability arts cabaret here.
The line-up was impressive for our little show. The late, great and supremely wonderful Ian Stanton headlined, superbly supported by Genie Cosmos with Fish Out of Water, and the gently challenging and truthful poet Peter Street.
100 people, nearly all disabled, crammed into the main hall. We had two BSL interpreters, and free food was provided.
Free transport brought people from all four corners of Berkshire, not without a few hiccups, including mislaid passengers and a few disgruntled late arrivals.
Incredibly, the cabaret almost didn’t happen.
My steering group, a majority of disabled people, was very nervous. It was art, see. And fun.
A strong case against the event was mounted. Questions were raised.
Was it a good use of public money?
How would it impact on the design, planning and delivery of health and social care services?
Was this an appropriate or effective deployment of a user development worker? I certainly thought so!
I argued at the time that this was a good way to bring disabled people together, to empower them, to raise consciousness and expectations, and to help build a movement.
Fortunately, I had an enlightened CEO and the cabaret went ahead. Thanks Madeleine, wherever you are.
So the event wasn’t just accessible, it was subversive. It was social model without theory. It was empowerment without flipchart.
Don’t get me wrong. Although I love Disability Equality Training, both delivering and participating, nothing hits the spot, or does the job, like having a good time together.
Of all the events I've organised since, I never quite managed to top this one.
No more prevarication! I'm definitely going for it.
Shape is currently inviting applications for the Shape Open Exhibition to be held at the Portobello Gallery, Notting Hill, London, 23rd April to 5th May 2012.
The Shape Open Prize of £500 will be given to the artist with the best works in show as selected by the selection committee. The People’s Choice Award of £250 will go to the artist whose work has been most voted for by visitors to the exhibition.
The theme is disability, but this is it not about showcasing the work of disabled artists. All works will be considered, from both disabled and non-disabled artists.
Tony Heaton, Shape CEO explained:
This call for submissions is open in every sense. The word, disability, is open to interpretation.
Ben Fredericks, curator at Shape added:
Disabled people have reclaimed the word disability; we don’t need to hang on to it. The focus is on the art, not the artist, disabled or otherwise.
It will be interesting to see what happens.
Might this be an open invitation for non disabled artists to express what we already know: that disability remains, to a large extent, something to be feared or dreaded, ignored or deplored?
And yet, to the extent that artists represent the masses, what a brilliant opportunity to test the mood of the nation.
In these days of cuts to services, the persistence of the right-to-die brigade, and the real threat of disabled people disappearing back behind the gates of institutions, I often wonder quite what people actually think; if they think at all, that is.
This will be only the second time I've submitted to an exhibition in over thirty years.
Moreover, I have never made a picture about disability. I've been doodling but as yet, no big ideas have emerged, although I'm working on it. Really I am.
This is a version of an article I wrote for Disability Horizons.