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Deborah Caulfield's blog - disability arts online
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Disability Arts Online

DaDaFest 2014: Another world! / 4 December 2014

After a lifetime of political and organisational activity and activism, I'm reconnecting, touching base with the basics, giving proper attention to art at last, becoming an artist.

Being an artist.

By the way, why do I need to keep announcing this? I first did it 15 years ago. This has to stop. Just do it!

So I'm here at DaDaFest 2014 and I've been listening and watching; enjoying a kind of immersion in other people's experiences and ideas, exposure to different ways and other worlds. There's so much art being created. Finding out about it is an emotional experience, as well as educational.

Becoming aware of the diversity and quality of arts practice and activism happening around the world, as well as here in the UK, has amazed and affected me. 

And shocked me.

Disabled artists from Uganda were here. Astonishing, given that most Ugandan disabled children are rejected and neglected. Access to education, aids and equipment is extremely rare. Hostility towards disabled people is overt; exclusion is endemic and entrenched and no one apologises.

In Cambodia the situation for disabled people is appalling, we heard. It's a place where the choice between rights or charity doesn't apply. It's charity or nothing.

Meanwhile, back in the UK ...

At yesterday's Disability Culture and Human Rights Congress there was a motion proposing that only disabled people should be leaders in disability arts. The motion was carried, but more than a third of attendees voted against.

Questions of leadership styles and skills weren't raised in the debate, only afterwards, privately. In secret, as it were. Leadership in the disability rights movement is an issue that's rarely exposed to the light of honest discussion, in my experience.

During the debate I spoke briefly about power and control in organisations. The key questions are, who makes the big decisions, what is the decision making process, whose voice is being heard and whose views and experiences are being articulated.

I didn't say this: The key question about a decision or action taken by people in power is, in whose interest?

I did say this: Nothing about us without us.

I felt a lot of warmth and friendliness around me at the Congress.