I understand that reprobate Crippen's missus has become a blog widow! I'm not surprised. Jeni - do you realise I've got a proposal from him here - 500 words a month it says! He sure knows how to make his words count ... or should that be count his words!? Any road-up, I'm delighted to have Crippen on board. (yes I know I'm supposed to say that) His cartoons have been lighting up my life over this past month - which is just as well since I can't afford ligthbulbs at the moment!
Anyway, as DAO editor I thought I'd say a few words about what this site is about and who we are trying to reach. I guess primarily it is for those of us who extol the virtues of Disability Art as a movement of creative disabled people. It's for those of us who believe the world needn't be a flat, prescriptive place in which we take our automatic roles. It's for those of us who believe the world could and should be more inclusive and more embracing of difference - in all its guises.
I've been involved in the disability and survivor movements since the mid-80s. All that time I've found it consistently challenging and rewarding in equal measure. I've never made much of a livelihood from it (in comparative terms) ... but then I've never had much of an alternative (you might say that's not surprising!)
I'm a firm believer in Disability Art (be afraid, be wary, he's started using capitals - Crippen), because I see it as a place that affirms the use of art to highlight the fact that we live in a disabling world. The assumption that is often made is that this just means ramps and toilets and general access issues - (and what sort of art movement is so narrow in its aims) - completely missing the point that disability is an identity. For the majority of us with invisible disabilities it is something that we take on or off, depending on how vulnerable it makes us to talk about ourselves as 'disabled.'
We learn that talking about our impairments makes us vulnerable ... so we learn to avoid those sorts of conversations, despite the fact that this means exclusion from learning, from work prospects, from social networks. We develop an extra skin and a myriad of survival strategies (most of which amount to increasing levels of isolation), so that we can avoid any attention on our disabilities.
A lot of disabled people (and I'm not only talking about people with invisible disabilities) eschew the label of 'disabled' because for them it means admitting to weakness .. or signing up to something that immediately places them in a place of disempowerment. And of course it's true! To be out as a disabled person - and I'm speaking as someone with a lifetimes' history of mental health and associated issues - on all sorts of levels you simply are not supposed to own up to that stuff. It is not supposed to go on display in a public place. You can't mention it on job application forms or to acquaintances ... or even possibly to your own family.
Yet from my perspective being a disabled person is what has made me ... me. And I know that I am lucky to be here; that it is only because of and through my own strengths that I'm still here. And that is something to be celebrated - hence why I'm sitting here as editor of the DAO of Disability Art.
We've recently conducted a readers' survey. Bear with me and I'll take some time and space here to go through what you have suggested we do to make this project more accessible and more exciting. We've also got a new team of peeps working on this project in the New Year. So I look forward to introducing all the dao dudes over the coming month.
It's rare I get out and about on the Disability Circuit these days, what with the pressures of family life and constant ongoing health concerns. BUT I was very fortunate to catch Liz Carr at the Peoples' Show Studio in Bethnal Green at the end of the month. It was one of the most original, and definitely the funniest piece of disability theatre I've seen in years.
It began with a few gags from the creative director telling the audience what a load of rubbish we'd come to see. I wasn't sure if the intro worked totally, but I loved the gag about asking the audience to keep their mobile phones on.
Liz's performance was a unique and at times shockingly hilarious piece of storytelling. If it's all true, this woman has gone to amazing lengths to break into the mainstream comedy circuit.
The show is Liz' take on the oft heard experience of disabled performers, that 'disability' is a non-starter as subject matter in the wider world of theatre (unless of course it is coming from the tragic but brave school). She illustrates her experience using voiceovers for the other characters.
The dialogue flows through anecdote and into areas of her own comedy performance. Apparently it's better to to joke about fish than it is to joke about disability. Liz obligingly subverts the genre by telling jokes about disabled fish. When she gets into 'disability dog' territory her surrealist humour starts verging on Nancy Friday fantasy.
Clearly in comedy you've got to be built like an emotional panza tank to withstand the torrents of abuse you can expect from mc's, promoters, and audience for getting on stage and declaring yourself to be 'funny'. It hasn't happened yet ... is Liz' answer to her abusers ... and when she gets into full throttle acerbic mode she really knows how to turn on the juice. My only criticism would be that at times the recorded voices go on for too long and some of the energy Liz has built up gets lost.
Above everything, this is a great piece of theatre and I for one am rooting for Liz to get funding to turn this into a full blown national tour.