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Penny Pepper's Blog - disability arts online
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Penny Pepper talks about Liberty, Edinburgh and those many manic moments / 3 September 2009

Penny on the stage doing Open Mic at Edinburgh Fringe

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I know I said there'd be more Edinburgh and there will be before this blog is done and dusted but you see Liberty rushes closer and I still haven't 100% decided on my set. But I am very excited, like a kitten who keeps running up the curtains, sort of, and falls off but doesn't care and does it again. And again. Honestly it's best I stay in and don't scare the Norms when I'm like this but not this weekend!  I'm doing 25 minutes with my lovely cello player Jo Cox and I do hope the crowd will like it. Lots of poems, a song and some audience participation. I can say fuck apparently, but not c_nt. I only have c_nt in one piece so I'll try and clean it up.

I have a sense that people want to know what I'm up to with my words these days so I hope they enjoy it. I'll be selling copies of 'Desires' too at a special Liberty price! 

Before I return to Edinburgh, I have to mention my Pulse application. This has kept me up will 2am. And 3am. These processes are so intense. It's a try for funding to make a short film using digital technology. I want the effing money to do what I can do! I'm fast becoming an old bag, maybe that will make it easier, maybe not. I can carry on with the development of my disgraceful naughty old woman act I suppose and cheek can get you a long way. Keep all things crossed for me. I'll put you all in my films, promise, when it happens.

Edinburgh, yes. I saw many lovely things and also many rubbish things. One fabulous show was a piece featuring disabled dancer Julie Cleves and her non-disabled dance partner Robbie Synge. Called 'Ups and Downs and Whoopsie Daisies'. this was an exhilarating crafted double act of dance-theatre which truly did turn expectations upside down. Cleves, a wheelchair user, worked entirely on the floor in pieces that were touching, intimate, at times angry and even nerve-wracking. Julie creates a sense of excitement, strength and power with her body and her movement, underlining the absolute beauty of diversity in form. Synge's grace and athleticism matches her perfectly in an exchange of trust both literal and metaphorical. Constantly pushing boundaries and definitions of dance, the piece (and the dancers) deserve more exposure and much respect. http://www.juliecleves.com/index.php

At the other extreme, was Unthinkable, a baffling play written (I believe) by a non-disabled playwright in which there is a future government of 'elite' - the physically impaired who have created a world of happy perfect political correctness in which we are all tolerant and er, happy, and um, equal. Yeah. There are 'amputation clinics' for those aspiring to join the 'elite', while a baby exchange programme means more fairness and cultural, diversity mixing. Of course all is not well in this dystopia of nasty cripples forcing their pc views on the norms, who yearn to keep their perfect babies (etc). A character called Florence Margaret Thatcher is an activist campaigning to stop the baby exchanges, and when she falls pregnant, a plan is hatched with minor government goody-goody Mrs Fin to enable her to keep her baby. Oh god, I can't tell you more. Apart from the muddled plot, and the half baked 'correct' language, the whole premise is simply too perplexing and dull to detail. I am not sure the writer intended to offend disabled people - the piece is too unfocused even for that, tho if the 'elite' were not the disabled community, but another minority community.... there would quite rightly be an outcry.  Oh access to this play, in a space at the Royal College of Surgeons (II Conspiracy!) was not obvious and poorly thought out

And this brings me to what I am most aggrieved about at Fringe. Access at  was shitty as an audience member, but shows BY disabled artists were very absent. I sat there glowering at this play knowing I should be there with a full production of my own.

On this note, please keep up with Ju Gosling's fight for access http://www.ju90.co.uk/LWP/index.htm - to The Letter Writing Project. I believe I was in watching the confusion that was Unthinkable when Ju made her first action there. It really is not good enough, simple as that. Please follow and support.

I had a weird 'ramp' moment on my second Open Mic - which was at Zoo Southside. A few mates in the audience and a nice range of ages encouraged me. But.... the MC announced no access to the small stage. He would bring down the mic to me, he said. Ho fucking hum..... But as we grumbled and said well, not equality is it, a few minutes later a chap appeared with a ramp clearly designed for the access to the stage. What can one say? Anyhow, the slot went well, one old man nearly weed himself at my 'tits' poem (not as bad as it sounds, honest) and I had good feedback afterwards. People often say I am quirky. Ju was sweet enough to say I was ahead of the pack and by far the most professional.

Onwards and Upwards - but not without that bloody access. At least Liberty promises that. We hope.

Keywords: access issues,disability art,poetry,politics