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29 January 2008

Joe recently caught up with Philip Patston, comedy performer, public speaker and the primal force behind the International Disability Arts Symposium which will take place in Auckland in March 2009

Philip Patston

What's been happening with you since we last spoke?

Heaps - it's been two and a half years! Though I haven't been performing much lately, my time has been usefully spent building Diversityworks - particularly the Group, which is my business and keeps me eating! We also started Diversityworks Trust at the end of 2007, which runs projects to further the advancement of social and community welfare (including the support of disabled people and other disenfranchised groups and individuals) and enhance social and economic participation, with an emphasis on artistic and creative processes. Of note in 2007, I was picked to join two entrepreneur programmes - the New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship and the ArtVenture Creative Entrepreneur Acceleration Programme. Being part of these two groups has been overwhelmingly beneficial to my professional development and has significantly extended my peer and wider networks. It has been an absolute pleasure having regular contact with 25 entrepreneurs throughout the country and a privilege to be the only person in NZ to be part of both groups. I understand now how similar the intentions of creative and social innovators are, and plan to facilitate the two groups coming together and learning from their synergies. Right now I am planning a trip to the UK and Hawaii in March and April 2008. I have been chosen as one of five international arts practitioners funded by Arts Council England North East to visit the region as part of an "Inspiring Internationalist" programme. I will also be a participant at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University, and present a paper on Constructive Functional Diversity at the Pacific Rim Conference on Disabilities in Honolulu. On a personal note, I landed up in hospital for 2 weeks with pleurisy and pneumonia at the end of 2006, which has made me a little more conscious of work/life balance (though it's always a struggle!). Oh and check out my new blog which pays tribute to the energy and potential of 2008 - 200GR8!

Tell us about the big festival coming up in 2009.

Momentum’09 International Disability Arts Symposium will bring pace, perspective and prominence to disability arts and provide the next step towards a viable and global understanding of and respect for disability arts and culture. It will be a melting pot of innovation, inspiration, aspiration and the very best in performance and visual arts by disabled artists and performers from around the world. A major international Symposium in the world-wide calendar of Disability Arts festivals due to take place in Auckland, New Zealand during March 2009, the event will deliver a 4-day Symposium involving the world’s leaders in the field. As well as providing time and space for intense debate on a range of issues and topics, Momentum’09 will concentrate on dialogue, audience development and capacity building via a learning fair marketplace offering professional development planning and highlighting career opportunities to artists. Momentum’09 will promote creativity in the widest form in all aspects of functional diversity and will have a strong youth development focus. Check out the website and sign up to the mailing list. We've just received funding to employ a Project Manager so things will really start moving very soon!

What's new on the international disability arts scene?

Certainly the movement continues to change and develop. There seems to be a growth in the number of disability arts festivals around the world, which is encouraging, though the potential of co-ordinating and creating a festival circuit remains unfulfilled. I've been following with interest the debate about the recent cutbacks in funding from the Arts Council of England and, while I empathise with the sense of frustration and loss, I don't think the situation is completely negative. I was impressed with NDAF's response that the organisation had met its objectives and would graciously close its doors in anticipation of what would come in its wake - I think that was a constructive attitude that could be seen more in the community and creative sectors.

Is the International Guild of Disabled Artists and Performers still going strong?

Membership is steady at around 375 people and 5 people have joined in the last few weeks. I created a new forum connected to the website early this year. Unfortunately this hasn't been greeted with huge enthusiasm - mind you, I haven't had time since to post and create interest. IGODAP is something I wish I had more time to devote to and I'd love to develop the website into more of an online news/blog/community/e-zine style resource - alas, it's very hard to get funding for international arts projects - regional funding bodies tend to shy away from anything that doesn't benefit their area alone! That said, people email me news regularly and I get positive feedback from time to time. So it seems to be serving a purpose, however small, and one can't shake a stick at that!

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