Firstly I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all Dao’s readers and contributors. Last year we got out and about a fair bit, spreading the word about the disabled artists who engage with the disability arts sector through being a part of events, over and above the usual work we do of reporting on events and supporting artists through networking.
Firstly last June there was DaisyFest in Guildford, which featured two of Dao’s writers Penny Pepper and Allan Sutherland. Both Penny’s intimate Lost in Spaces - a poetic, musical journey through a personal history of the Disability Arts Movement and Allan’s extract from Neglected Voices: Proud were examples of the importance of persisting to assert the human rights element of our art form.
Later that month I gave a presentation of Dao's work at the Senseability conference organised by Tanvir Bush at Bath Spa University. It was a great pleasure to talk about some of the work we’ve featured over the last 10 years and explain something of Dao’s role to assist in facilitating networks and to support emerging disabled writers and artists through our blogs and our programme of commissioning writing on the arts and disability.
Last August Dao was invited to host another poetry event at Together! in Newham, where Wendy Tongue and Bonk Bipolar took to the stage with elements of the craft they’ve been developing through their respective blogs on Dao. There was further endorsement of their talent with invitations for further performances and workshops with the grassroots disability arts organisation.
On 3 September we ran Perceptions of Difference - a poetry event at the Saison Poetry Library in programmed to coincide with the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre. Having had a longstanding connection with Survivors’ Poetry, it was a fantastic achievement for me personally to introduce four poets who’ve been cornerstones of the movement: Hilary Porter, John O’Donoghue, Debjani Chatterjee and Frank Bangay.
Head Librarian Chris McCabe said of the event: “It's very unusual to have an event of so few poets which can suggest so much about the possibilities of poetry.”
It has been an ongoing pleasure to be a named media partner for Unlimited. Dao was the seventh top referral to the Southbank Centre’s website during the festival from 2-7 September, not accounting for the drive we did through our social media and weekly bulletin.
As the Unlimited programme develops through 2015/ 16 we will see new and further embedded partnerships beginning to ensure the programmes’ influence grow beyond London showcasing disabled artists creating extraordinary work.
It was great to see many of the artists given a platform at DaDaFest who are also an Unlimited partner. Last December the festival featured one of the main commissions Owen Lowery with Otherwise Unchanged, plus several of the research and development projects: notably Jess Thoms aka Touretteshero with Backstage in Biscuit Land, Ailís Ní Ríain with her extraordinary cross art form Hieronymous Bosch-influenced The Drawing Rooms, and Kazzum Theatre’s promenade performance piece Where’s My Nana
DaDaFest was particularly memorable for the International Congress that was a major part of the programme, bringing disabled artists from across the globe, to coincide with the International Day of Disabled People.
A quote from mainstream freelance writer Bella Todd who we engaged last year to help us spread the word about Unlimited to the wider press sums up something of our aspiration to keep going in 2015:
“Many national, international and mainstream publications would envy the scale, quality and consistency of community engagement Disability Arts Online fosters on both its main website and through its social media channels.
Its writers, bloggers and readers (among whom there's an important degree of crossover) engage in an ongoing discourse that's at once supportive, argumentative, personal, politicised and teeming with individuality. That's no mean editorial feat. The quality and breadth of the debate will always make Dao pertinent and provocative reading for the wider world.
As a platform for giving a community a powerful, purposeful yet individuated voice, it's also a site to which more media outlets and organisations could do with paying attention.
We know we’ve got a fight to survive in the year ahead. We are under threat from measures designed by people in power who really basically don’t have a clue. Let’s come together and use Dao as platform to get our voices heard and to challenge top-down ignorance
Colin Hambrook introduces the new look DAO and invites you to attend a symposium on disability art and activism at Salisbury Arts Centre
We've been working hard during the last six months on the new design of DAO, which we launched earlier this week. Big thanks to everyone who has sent us feedback in the last few days.
Responding to our last readers survey in March 2012 we decided to move away from the handmade feel and produce a bolder design which highlighted art form to make it easier to find features on specific topics within the navigation.
We're working hard on identifying bugs in the older pages and tweaking anomalies that have appeared as a result of the changeover. Please continue to highlight anything you think looks amiss and let us know what you think of the new look by emailing me via firstname.lastname@example.org
DAO is currently working in partnership with LinkUpArts and Salisbury Arts Centre on an exhibition called People Like You. We are very excited about the symposium 'From the Personal to the Universal' which focuses on the role of disability arts and activism. This takes place on 10 April, towards the end of the exhibition. There are limited places so if you plan to attend make sure you book well in advance. The same goes for Liz Crow's Bedside Conversations which were a highlight at SPILL Festival, Ipswich last year.
For those writers amongst you there is an opportunity to come on a brilliant half day course with Marian Cleary in Writing Interviews on 9th April. This will be a great opportunity to brush up on technique and attend the symposium the following day for free!
Further details are here: www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/Opportunities?item=3870
DAO sub-editor Marian Cleary asks how we can become more accessible when it comes to content on the site
As Colin Hambrook reported recently, DAO is soon to have a facelift. As well as responding to your comments made via our recent reader survey, we are also keen to build on our previous successes regarding accessibility to the site.
After the site was last overhauled in 2008, DAO received a Commendation for digital access in the prestigious 2009 Jodi Awards. It’s no surprise really since the web company DAO works with - Surface Impression – have long and established relationships with many organisations who prize accessibility to their web content as much as valuing what they are putting out there.
You though, the readers of and audience for our content, are the ones who can really give us an extra layer of insight into the process of making our journal more accessible. And for that reason, we are asking you for comments about how you think we can make things even better.
Bear in mind, we aren’t so much talking about the current site, but we need to know about the niggly things that bug you about accessing things on the web generally, perhaps with a screen reader, or when engaging with images or navigating external links. It might be that you would like some extra ways of opening content or you have a bit of computer kit that doesn’t work with the way DAO currently does things. Or perhaps you simply want more video and audio.
From my point of view, as sub-editor at DAO, speaking as someone who didn’t cry when she saw her babies for the first time after giving birth, but did boo tears of joy when I scored over 80% in my National Council for the Training of Journalists subbing exam, I’d like to know a bit about what works for you specifically when it comes to how text is presented.
It might be that you want more things in bold, such as titles and names, or you think that single quote marks for speech and quotes works better than double quote marks. Should we cap up acronyms like ATOS or should we follow Guardian Style and present them like this: Atos? Are our paragraphs too short? Too long? Do we present the inevitable mix of styles and tones of our writers effectively so you know what to expect? Do you want more text on a page or less?
We aren’t doing a formal survey on this but I would really appreciate your thoughts. You can either comment below this item or send me an email to email@example.com. If you are emailing, can you put DAO SUGGESTION in capitals (just like that) so I can keep your ideas together and so I don’t miss anything?
Once I’ve had a good look at what you have to say, I will be feeding this back to Surface Impression where appropriate.
Then I will be completing my own current work in progress: The DAO Style Guide! This will outline where we are currently in terms of making DAO as accessible as possible and will also be a good reference point, I hope, for all the writers and contributors to the site and all those who are engaged in publishing content. This guide will be another way in which we move towards our goal of becoming as accessible as possible.
So whether you are a regular reader of the content on the site or an occasional visitor to DAO, if you have an opinion on all of this, let me know.
We've had an exciting time recently finishing off DAO’s New Voices project. Our 2012 group of New Voices writers have been fully engage with DAO. During the project, their blog entries, reviews and interviews have delivered lots of interaction from our readership.
Firstly, we are commissioning eight disabled artists to work with arts venues nationally to produce new works over the period of a year for online presentation on DAO, and we hope beyond. These commissions will offer a wide range of artistic engagements with key arts and cultural organisations across the country.
Secondly, DAO's writers, will be out in full force during the Cultural Olympiad to capture the debate and critique the events involving disabled artists and audiences. This includes the 29 Unlimited commissions which will be toured around the country from now until the end of August and will then be part of Southbank’s Unlimited Festival, part of the Festival of the World from 31 August to 9 September 2012.
Thirdly, to help everyone keep track of what is going on, DAO will also be launching a special DAO Guide to 2012 app which will provide a comprehensive listings service with links to artists, venues, events and festivals.
We will also be continuing to work with the Creative Case for Diversity so keep up with this website for dialogue, comment and debate.
DAO will also be getting a facelift! Through our recent reader survey, as well as through general communication with our readership over the past few years, it has been clear that using a side-menu navigation bar hasn't been as successful as we'd have liked in signposting our readers to the massive range, breadth and depth of copy published within the journal.
So to that effect we will be developing a top menu, with a focus on art form rather than content type. This means you’ll more easily find copy on the particular types of content that you are interested in reading about and discussing on our pages. So thank you to everyone who took part in feeding back comment, the good, the bad and the ugly, and please look out for more reader surveys in the future.
These improvements have been taking up a lot of time! And to help us deliver what we do to a higher standard we have taken on a freelance sub-editor, Marian Cleary, who is a welcome addition to DAOs small but committed part-time staff team.
This is a really exciting time for DAO and everyone involved in Disability Arts. There are so many disabled artists aiming for great things this year and DAO will be providing a platform for celebrating, examining and debating all that emerges from this.
So with that combined with our own new commissions, we are really looking forward to what promises to be fascinating times for everyone involved. And that includes you, the readers, artists, commentators, critics, bloggers, venues, programmers and all the people involved in creating the case for not just diversity but entertainment with attitude, debate and discussion, and taking forward what all that those presenting their ideas on DAO, in so many ways, have to say.