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Disability Arts Online

Real people... / 11 October 2014

Organising the conversations necessary for creating the Con.Text piece supporting the Arts and Health presentation Sue, Trish and I (with our LinkUpArts (LUA), hats on), made for Wilts. Council, was not the easiest task. Due to the timing, many of the relevant people were away on summer holidays.

My connections to people who had themselves been educated in a special needs program, or to their parents and families was limited and mostly negative. Some of these people were now adults and I knew them through LUA or LUA related projects; most of the disabled people were reluctant to be identified. Some people felt so strongly they didn't care, some hoped that perhaps it might help: 'it couldn't make life any worse'.

Part of the Health in Con.Text piece contains individual voices, and even individual poems, but the majority of verses are amalgamations of similar thoughts expressed by people who have grown up to become wary. People for whom the Chinese curse: 'May you come to the attention of those in authority' feels like a very real threat; people who have come to terms with the poverty of their existence and fear further hardship.

One particular voice echoed through many individual and unrelated people. I'd first heard it many years ago when it was tentative and small. It had grown louder and now, with the shocking behaviour of central government since 2012, it had grown angry. The words reflect several voices, the tone is that of one young man whose voice is still in my head.

I'd asked Philippa and Faith of the Wilts. Special Educational Needs and Disabilities team how they felt about strong language. They'd both nodded. It was part of the job. So I used his words.

At the last minute it was suggested that the audience should be given the opportunity to leave the room before the offensive words were uttered; that the f-word should be bleeped out, but 'arse' and 'bloody' could, with 'appropriate' warning, remain.

Anticipating the possible sensitivity of local government employees, I had taken the precaution of converting the f-word to 'effing' when reading for the film.

It is this voice that brought into sharp focus my thoughts on the need to educate children, all children, on how to create and be active participants in the kinds of integrated, resilient, healthy communities we would almost all like to be part of.

I had come to the conclusion that teaching everyone comprehensively integrated community building skills would be beneficial - that the onus of integrating into a community should not be on the shoulders of the people who might struggle the most. That teaching all children about equality and diversity, raising their awareness of diverse role-models, inspiring them with community building skills from an early age ( fx. through integrated theatre and dance performances and workshops) would, in the long run, be money well spent.

I just want to be normal.
Not your normal, my normal
Not some social worker idea
of normal. My normal.
If the new deal sees that, well
good on it. It wasn't there
for me. Ok if they've got their heads
halfway out of their arses,
but we will never be normal
until everyone and I mean
everyone gets an education
in disability and diversity
equality and awareness.
People need to know,
to see other real people.
Start with the teachers; the whole country
needs to fucking know, so that
central government has to stop
spreading lies. People could be decent
given half a bloody chance.