Last night the Free Word Centre in Holborn played host to writers from the Creative Future Literary Award ceremony reading poetry and prose pieces on the theme of ‘impossible things’. With support from Lemn Sissay and Maggie Gee and prizes of cash and mentoring from the Literary Consultancy the room buzzed with interpretations of the idea of ‘impossibility’: everything from Catherine Edmunds inanimate furniture to Peter Jordan’s ever-expanding warrior.
I was struck by the affectionate portrait of Jackie Hagan’s ‘Edna’: a character whose impossible spirit cannot fail to invigorate. Edna features in Jackie’s one-woman show 'Some People Have Too Many Legs', which is a must-see when it tours again this winter.
For Lemn Sissay compering the evening there is something “freeing” about the self-selection process for the CF Awards, reaching out to marginalised and disabled writers. Self-selection as ‘disabled’ has always been a tenet of the Disability Arts Movement, but any kind of labelling has its drawbacks. There are valid criticisms of the processes of both the definition and the self-selection of an identity.
Rowan James’ spoken word show ‘Easy For You To Say’ that Dao helped get to Edinburgh with a crowdfunding campaign (brilliantly produced by Alice Holland) is a rhythmic and poetic look at the insufferable excesses of the ‘tick box’ system. Essentially tick boxes allow bureaucracies to dodge any real, effective inclusion of disabled people by replacing the needs of individuals with the self-satisfaction of meaningless statistics.
Allowing individuals to self-select gets around the artificiality of imposing definitions as one thing or another: it’s up to the individual person to say what or who they are; to own their identity, rather than it being imposed from without. But it’s important to bear in mind that ’being disabled’ is a tautology. It is not an embodiment, not something that’s ‘wrong’ with the person, but a social construct that says something profound about the way society is organised.
The aim of programmes like Creative Future Literary Awards is to reach out to creative people who don’t have the kinds of privileges owned by writers with a degree of financial backing, reputation and access to the ‘gatekeepers’… Creative Future offers an alternative route to being published or maybe just encouragement to realise the value of being creative. I know from personal experience how a little bit can go a long way.
The key to Creative Futures’ success in attracting more than double the number of entries this year is their focus, above all, on creativity and the purpose writing serves to widen the horizon and open up the opportunity to make the impossible, possible. As Maggie Gee eloquently put it: “writing is a break for freedom, a run into the light, a rebellion and the chance to put into words what it feels dangerous to speak.”
For a copy of the anthology ‘Impossible Things’ or to find out more about the Creative Future Literary Awards go to http://www.cfliteraryawards.org.uk
The Live Art Development Agency launch a book and DVD of Katherine Araniello's 'Dinner Party Revisited'
There are only a few days left to view Katherine Araniello’s ‘Dinner Party Revisited’ on the Live Art Development Agencies ‘LADA Screens’ platform. The audio-described version of the Dinner Party Revisited is a good example of using creative description to add another layer within a work of art - taking it beyond documentation and allying with the performance’s intention to use humour to convey subversive ideas.
The describer comes alive as another ‘invisible’ guest at the party, using her role to add nuances in describing the interactions between the host Katherine, her butler, the PA and the BSL interpreter. As the party unfolds, Katherine and the butler invite their ’guests’ , a series of on-screen incarnations of Katherine; conceptual portraits of disabled people.
LADA who have been producing Katherine’s work have launched a book of essays about Katherine’s work with a DVD of the live art piece, which was originally staged in the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre a year ago. Sophie Partridge described the Dinner Party Revisited as “slapstick, served up with hints of past comedy genius: touches of a Peter Cook and Dudley Moore style interplay between Katherine and `the PA’!”
Mik Scarlett also reviewed the piece in the Huffington Post as: “an anarchic art performance with a serious heart. While the audience laughs as the show rushes forward at break neck speed we unconsciously find our preconceptions and stereotypes challenged by references to the real day to day experiences of disabled people. Each nightmare 'guest' is a hideous caricature of people every disabled audience member knows all too well. No one is safe. Paralympians, disability activists, professional victims, charity loving celebs…”
In an interview, Unlimited producer Jo Verrent “loved the audacity of Katharine Araniello’s piece, The Dinner Party Revisited. It’s political, in your face, raw, edgy live art.”
A 46 min edit of the AD version of the film will be live until midnight on 23rd September on the LADA Screens channel.