DAO Editor Colin Hambrook has been getting about a bit lately. And care of a train journey sponsored by Virgin, he managed to make it to the launch of DaDaFest at The Bluecoat in Liverpool yesterday afternoon.
There was hilarity in the air. A team of volunteers dressed in white coats and armed with clipboards mingled to ask whether or not we considered ourselves to be normal. Apparently they had been at it all day, outside Lime Street station, questioning Scousers about their view of how normal they think they are? Those conversations were filmed and will be edited and uploaded on to the DaDaFest website at a later date. So that’s one to watch out for!
This years DaDaFest, which is happening between now and 2 September promises some great visual arts, performance, dance theatre etc. on the theme of how identity is bound up with our changing, ageing bodies, ever prone to impairment, as the clock ticks away.
There has been a shifting emphasis as DaDaFest has developed over the past eleven years. It has retained elements of the traditional Disability Arts Festival by and for disabled people, offering a space for discussion about choices and rights.
But its ambitions have become much bigger and its focus wider as it has expanded from a community festival to a national and internationally recognised Arts Festival (DaDaFest Patron Sir Bert Massie reckoned the organization will soon be reaching out to Mars looking for artistic disabled aliens to take part! And what’s more, compere for the evening Mik Scarlett volunteered to be part of the scouting party. Now there’s an adventure!)
DaDaFest brought 60,000 visitors to Liverpool last year, as part of an ongoing legacy that has developed since the city was the European Capital of Culture in 2008. To build on that success DaDaFest aims to use the arts to spark a conversation with a wider audience; one that might well be alienated by ‘disability’ from the perspective of the Disability Arts movement.
To do that, it has changed the focus away from ‘being about disability’ to a subtler frame of reference, asking people how they relate to the idea of ‘normality’ in a life where our bodies change and our sense of identity shifts as a natural part of the process.
The main exhibition at this years’ festival – ‘Niet Normaal: Difference on Display’ (which also forms part of the London 2012 Festival programme) is an extraordinary attempt to move on the debate about how impairment and disability affects the lives of everyone.
As one of the Niet Normaal commissions Live Artist Aaron Williamson will be in residency at the Walker Art Gallery, ‘eavesdropping’ on the collection of paintings in the gallery: exploring a secretive dialogue, which plays on the assumption of his supposed ability as a deaf person to overhear and mishear the unvoiced.
DAO is proud to have been able to offer Aaron Williamson (who blogged on DAO about his residency at Spike Island in Bristol in 2009) a Diverse Perspectives commission to blog about the reality behind the façade, as the residency unfolds.