Richard Downes attends the launch on 21 November of 'Together 2012', Newham’s friendly Disability Arts Festival at The Hub, Star Lane, East London
Late arriving at the the Hub, venue for Together 2012’s Disability Arts Exhibition, a singer songwriter ends his set with Romeo and Juliet. Canning Town, poisoned by love. Not a place or time to die.
I am here for the launch of the festival. A banner and inflated rings signify people scorched by the speed of the Olympics. I sit at a table. Diverse communities pass by and acknowledge my presence with a nod. Perhaps this will be the friendliest festival.
My table is in front of a sign, ‘Choices Club’. The entrance was step free and automated. Disabled People meet here. Our language is spoken and our practices observed. The exhibition is of work by the local community.
Sarah Hughes, Poetry and Spoken Word Producer, is acting in a voluntary capacity tonight. She escorts me around the exhibits. She knows the work well; the people who made it, the groups they came from, and the form the works take. She is imbued with a collective pride in these groups; Active Plus, Grassroots, and the fantastically named INUF, Independent Newham Users Forum where she attends an Art Therapy group. We are very chatty en route. Words testifying to the importance of Art hang in the air.
I excuse my interest in photography as the reason I am particularly taken with Des Blake’s entry. I find myself almost apologising for treading on the toes of others in making my choice. Subsequently I am introduced to Des who poo poos his contribution as an accident. To be in a place with Marie, wearing what she’s wearing, standing like she’s standing, where she stands, with the light that throws the shadow where it lies, and then discovering how best to display the photograph, creating the optical illusion it then delivers; as a complete accident – aw!!! come on. I find this modesty hard to take and talk about the classicism within the pose of angelic crucifix, only to be told Marie just happened to be there at that time, just happened to shrug when she did.
Des works for Active Plus www.activeplus1.co.uk. His project provides free Dyslexic Diagnostic Assessments, so that if you have the impairment, you can then present evidence in support of a formal assessment.
Des introduces me to Marcus Barr, the singer songwriter, whose act I largely missed. He operates within a new genre called Urban Music Hall. He is young, enthusiastic, attracting the interests of Tom Robinson. His intention is to find a tune with which to relate his experience and to tell his tale with a sense of fun. We fall into swapping stories about our chosen art forms. We share many understandings. Our art brings life, invigorates, speaking loudly with pride.
I say goodbye to Sarah and I look around me. Many of the artists are here. They have bought friends and family with them. The community is intact here. It shares a glory in the achievement of work well done, well presented and a festival well-organised Together we created a hubbub at the Hub. If I don’t make it through the wintry fug on the way to Star Lane Station (accessible) maybe Canning Town won’t be such a bad place to die after all. Could there be a better recommendation.
Look to the programme www.together2012.org.uk/history-month-programme/ attend, participate, be included.