There were a range of responses to the festival from the Dada-South bursary winners as well as NWDAF Off the Page writer Susan Bennett. Below are some edited highlights.
Overall, as a first-timer at DaDafest, it was a positive experience and a real show case for what Liverpool can offer.
I visited the exhibitions at DaDaFest and have lasting impressions of a number of pieces including Tanya Raabe's portraits. On the train journey back I was mulling over the whole experience and the best way I can express this is through the visual arts. I was able to draw my reflection in the train window, with the view whizzing by beyond. In my mind I was thinking about the choir from Belfast on the previous night singing 'Bridge over troubled water'. This is a Simon and Garfunkel classic and although not a great fan, the song meant something in the way it was rendered by the Inclusive Choir. I have since manipulated this image further as both greyscale and colour. These are shown below, together with the original portrait.
(Please click on the drawings and it will open as a much bigger version along with a description of the drawing.)
I was innocently drawing some of the people returning to the Isle of Wight when it became apparent that other things were happening in the picture, namely the Mermaid Dog. At the festival I was struck by the number of guide dogs and hearing dogs and also visited the Mermaid who was appearing for lunchtime viewings. The sketch is a fusion of some of these experiences.
Friday 5th September
It's cold wet and hideous. And that's just the weather! Yes, I am in Liverpool, the best place to be in 2008 (despite the fact that's it's been raining since I got here on Wednesday). It's now Friday and well into the second day of the festival. Last nights Sideshow, featuring Mat Fraser & Liz Carr amongst others, was a great official start to the festival. First off though, the art visual art exhibitions were open and were all interesting, and some great work, especially Kevin Connolly, a young photographer with no legs who gets around on his skateboard. His set of 20 photographs from all corners of the globe, all of people staring at him.
The talk from Tanya Raabe, Mat Fraser and Julie McNamara was interesting, and one thing (there was more than one but I forget what the others were!) that I absolutely I agree with is that artists often have trouble promoting themselves in a business like way. As I am a complete networking whore I don't seem to suffer this problem. I also learned that internationally, other countries are far more interested in disabled artist work. So I am going to send my work out to some Spanish and Finnish Galleries forthwith. Another point that has come to me from the voice of Julie, was that we as artists tend to rely on only one source of income (the arts council) and we should be more open to exploring other ways of funding, including selling catalogues, postcards etc.. But (I would add) why should it stop there?)
The Last American Freak Show, a feature documentary about self defined Freaks touring the USA, was great to see (finally), having missed it at the London Disability film festival (or X08 as it's now known) and was good to hear the director, Richard Butchins, talk about his experience with the Freaks. Also interesting to hear that the board of Bafta was actually very supportive of him, and apologised for the upset that one person (ahem) caused.
Finally, after the screening I was going to see a load of short films, and instead I followed the crowd to the 'Sideshow', and I'm glad I did. Along with the above mentioned, Blind Gurl and the Cripps also performed (that is the bands full name!) and I don't feel guilty one bit about saying I quite liked the Hitler song. And the one about killing pigeons (all good humoured of course!) HEAVY LOAD, a 'learning disabled rock band' was a great way to finish the night. As it's (still!) raining, I think I shall stay here for most of the day. There maybe video to follow...
I arrived in Liverpool looking forward to making small videos for the first time on a small camera swapped for prints the day before on Gumtree and tuning into all that Liverpudlian wit and warmth. I had worked as a student in the city and partied as a teenager there and could not wait . The architecture and skyline and docks are changing but I just knew that unique friendly vibe and ready joke and sense of community would be just the same.I filmed all the way to the Adelphi and discovered a new passion for filming ! Its taken me over. I passed the spider clinging to the building, next to the Adelphi and was thrilled to be in the epicenter of the spiders web to be unraveled over the weekend .
At the majestic Adelphi with its cavernous faded glory elegance, I was immediately upgraded me to a double free on enquiry. I think I played the artist card but they would have anyway being Liverpool.
After following long corridors of red carpet the trolley making a rolling noise straight out of The Shining filming all the way, ( corridor perspective ,photo, redrum and smiley texted to the teenager )I was now in half a suite with an adjoining door badly fitting bolt. It was a theatre set with bathroom refurbished for Titanic passengers (literally) and a palatial bedroom with a cabin bed with plaster cast cunard bows around it, heaven! .This was going to be creative overload in the hotel alone and would make a great studio base. I put the camera on the side to film what I do and was too tired to move! After room service which took an hour and a half and getting lost and ending up in the kitche ,Filming where I wasent supposed to be, I exited the Adelphi.They are so cool there and the satff never batted an eyelid at me with my little video device.
Mat Fraser MC
His Largesse and maestro persona drew us into the room for a side show view of the dry Mermaid. We queued and peeped through the grimy windows for a peek at the dry mermaid, whilst Mat who has extraordinary delivery and timing and Theatricality ,made dry comments to people about lack of special awareness and was completely in the character of the curator showman of a nineteenth century mien host spiced with ironic gothic laughter.
Blind Gurl and the Crips
Well ,what a fabulous ensemble of Talent. It was like being at the best opening night at the West End.Their voices, pitch perfect , the bass player superb who together and individually, effortlessly delivered wonderfulness and pure Cabaret of the highest order. Garry Robson out shone his glittery gloves (I want some) and the songs and his tenor voice and clarity of tone and delivery shocked me into awe. He came he sang and he conquered. As an ensemble, they were in a category of their own delivering performances that defy description. I have never seen a performance like that. They are so magnificent.
A (Gay Disabled Transexual) Love Story as told to the ticket collector at Alton Towers
The love story enacted by those two adorable characters , is truly uplifting . I want to live next door, look after the cat when they are on their hols, and see the holiday snaps, such a beautiful love story. Truly heart warming more than performance performances. The ticket collector is a really believable ,Alton Towers employee! A feel good, uplifting beautifully acted piece of theatre that makes you smile .Cinematic quality ending.
Well when I heard the first bars of the slide guitar and the blues being played in the A foundation yard I was off like a shot for the front row seat and that was just the soundcheck! He was fantastic. Tom sat on the cold and windy stage with the stage tarps flapping violently and even his guitars were cold he said, but he warmed us all with his songs. There were two families with little children who danced to all his songs next to me (even in the squally windy weather) .My camera danced for me!
NWDAF 'Off the Wall' writer Horizontal Heroines â€“ 5 September 2008
Well, for those of you who stayed at home you missed an incredible concert. We might all have arrived drenched – Liverpool rain is nothing if not dead persistent – but wow, was it worth it! The combination of Denise Leigh’s voice, Stefan Andrusyschyn’s accordion and piano, the mesmerising interpretation by Kinny Garner and the charming presence of Chris Channing was intriguing. It should not have worked but it did.
But the star of the show for me had to be the interpreter Kinny. She not only signed but did it in a way which painted such an emotional picture across a vast canvas in space with her at the centre. In complete synchrony with the music, her arms swept and dipped like waves, her hands sketched both the tiniest of gestures and the most eloquent of shapes. And her face projected incredible emotion. It was like watching a maestro conductor, a weeping mime artist and a consummate actor, all at the same time – a true bodily expression which came from not just the heart but the soul of the music. I was left wishing Kinny could sing like Denise, or Denise could interpret like Kinny. But what a combination it already is! And this is without the exquisite work of Stefan whose understated presence belied his tremendous musical prowess. He coaxed and squeezed harmonics, breathed and weaved life and such musicality from his black and white accordion with the huge diamond pattern in the middle that you really reached out to him and hung there on his long drawn out notes. If you did not know he was playing a single instrument you would have thought there was an whole orchestra, such was the depth and range the sound.
And Denise herself showed what a versatile performer she is, competently producing opera, poetry readings, classical songs, the painfully poignant ‘To My Daughter’ by Charles Aznavour and a bewitchingly playful ‘Angie’s Baby’. The effortless way which she reach those notes, the trembling of her diaphragm as she trilled arias would have made her Mum, Dad, son Sam and the dog, who were all there last night, rightfully very proud of her. So, shame on you those who didn’t make it. Your loss!