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Blending the personal and the political / 8 March 2016

Photo of the puppet from Sophie Partridge's 'Song of Semmersuaq'

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As no doubt many of you will know, it’s hard work being a freelance artist, especially if you’re what I lovingly call a 'Bendy Person' – someone like me with a very obvious physical impairment and what are deemed high access needs – and recently, this has taken a toll on my “well-being”... 

Government Cuts, however rosy a picture they try to paint, have made it increasingly difficult for disabled people, including those of us who work in the Arts and this has taken its toll on the health of many of us! I believe art by its very nature, IS political; what we include in our picture / poem / prose and / or performance and what we chose to leave out. 

Indeed whether ourselves as Disabled Practitioners are actively encouraged and included or excluded in the Arts at Large! Disability Arts (I leave all of you to the rapidly ageing (like myself!) debate whether we want to call it that are truly diverse and eclectic, from the personal to the political and back again.

Can we ever really separate one from the other? That single question has provided for me the continuing journey I feel I am forever on. Somehow our individual impairments are I think, always at the heart of our work, both implied and clearly stated.

When I write just as I am now, for example, my sentences are long to allow for time to work out what it is I want to say – hopefully by their end I’ll at least have some idea! – and are sprinkled with commas because when I speak, I break up my spoken voice with little gaps to breathe and subconsciously, this has spread like glitter, into my written text. Many aspects of my one woman show with Puppets 'Song of Semmersuaq' have been personal and political, for me. 

It is perhaps ironic that having to an extent `denied’ my impairment in any obvious way in my creative work, recently it has re-asserted itself big time in my life. I’m having to adjust to dreaded “new, exciting” (not!) health `challenges’ (give me a so-called Comfort Zone any day!) and re-think how I work. Maybe performing isn’t for me any more?? Maybe it is... 

Of course, the future for all of us is uncertain but perhaps especially so, for myself & other disabled Creatives. The Power of Media is huge in determining what is acceptable behaviour for disabled people.. that which is smiley, grateful and by turn it seems to me, Arts Funders & venues go for what seems `popular’; work that is Clean, Inspiring and not just ever so slightly, mucky around the edges with a tea-stain of Identity or streak of Activism. Oppression is not always obvious or consciously intended; it occurs where some voices are celebrated and made Loud by the Establishment whilst others, remain suppressed and unheard...

There IS and should be room for all; the Nice – and believe me, no-one does #KuteWithaK like this RubyPixie - ! in equal measures to the, err.. not un-nice but just a little more `earthy’?! WE the practitioners must set the agenda as to what is Disability / Quality Art (tea-stains are often a mark of authenticity and as that Mr. Twain said, “All that glisters...”) and not subconsciously, or otherwise, be led like the Fairy-talers in pursuit of the Emperor’s New Clothes.