This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

> > Vince Laws

Human - first and foremost

Late last year I was commissioned to produce a visual piece based on my poem 'Human'. I had no idea what the end result would be. I was told to do what I wanted. 

I started by re-reading the poem with the commission in mind. The commissioner had said how he liked the way my work contains layers, and how the phrase 'human first and foremost' resonated. 

I was struck by how well another phrase from the poem, 'such a fuck off fabulous host' suited the commissioner. He likes good food and drink, both as a host and out dining. The Biblical meaning of 'host' combined with the profanity of 'fuck off', appealed to me.

I have part of my poem 'Diagnosed' written on a large mirror in dripping blood: 'If I believe in fate I can't cheat it' and for a while I thought about putting 'Human' on top of that. I have another canvas 6 foot wide, 2 foot high, which hangs above my fireplace, it is a constant 'work in progress', and I considered using that. I cut out empty medication boxes and sprayed through them. I tried this onto a roller blind too. 

Eventually I hit upon using a piece which was dark and gloomy, called 'I just stopped taking my medication', which I had made specifically to fill an ornate frame I'd bought at auction. It was hanging above the stairs. I took it down. I turned it 180 degrees and re-made it. It slowly developed. I added collage. Tintoretto's 'Adam & Eve' got painted over. So did lots of other stuff. It slowly grew. It went white. It went orange, yellow, and purple. I used household paints,and then acrylics. Finally I got to red and green. I wanted it to have vitality. I wanted it to have the human touch. Mistakes. Vs. Dust.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, H.I.V.
Human first and foremost,
A maker of mistakes.
The mistake I made,
Was to fall in love.
Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

I is Immunodeficient - 
I catch more germs than most,
Of course I prefer to think germs think me
Such a fuck-off, fabulous host!

V is for Virus,
It contains both I and Us.
We’re all human first and foremost, 
And in the end, all dust.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 22 January 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 22 January 2014

Vince Laws welcomes you to 'Incite'

Image - Ignite.jpg

I’m performing at this event: ‘INCITE’ @ THE  PHOENIX ARTISTS’ CLUB The West End’s Phoenix Theatre is opening the doors of its exclusive members club for a free evening of LGBT poetry and in-house jazz.

This monthly event, hosted by Trudy Howson, is an opportunity to experience the very best LGBT poets, and performance artists. With well-known guest performers and open mike later for budding and flowering poets who want to have a go.

Stay afterwards and enjoy this unique, theatrical club’s facilities. Phoenix Artists Club. 1 Phoenix St. WC2. Wednesday 8th May 7pm.

I’ll be bringing THIS POPE IS PANTS, MENTAL HELMET, and QUEEN NEVER plaques.

You were warned! Please share with London people, thanks.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 29 April 2013

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 29 April 2013

The B.Right.On Festival – February 2013

Image - B_Right_On.jpg

So here’s how it happened. I went into a cafe in Brighton where I used to clean the floors and asked for an art exhibition. The owner liked my work but said it was too political for his business. A friend knew someone who knew someone at the Jubilee Library – I got offered an exhibition there next February. I’m going to paint BANNED across the main window in dripping blood. In the foyer exhibition space there’ll be some of my visual poems, and giant speech bubbles from the OUT140 project, telling coming-out stories in 140 characters: ‘Mother said I’d rather you were a prostitute than a lesbian’ or ‘I told my parents I was bisexual when I was 16. They said "go to your room."

Then someone said do you want to see round the Town Hall – some lovely Old Police Cells, and a basement fitted with shelves, both ripe for exhibitions, performances, just saying – and I ended up saying “Yes!” to the Atrium, the perfect place to hang the Hankie Quilt, a memorial to those we’ve lost and those living with HIV. I’ll be representing the 482 HIV+ people who have died in Brighton since 1982 with drops of red blood, and the 1,895 people living with HIV in Brighton today with fresh lime leaves. Please update these figures if you know better. A quarter of the people living with HIV don’t know it yet – early diagnosis = longer life.

So then I asked if anyone else wanted to help celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans History Month in Brighton next February. First, National Co-Chairs Sue Sanders and Tony Fenwick said yes, and then Gscene magazine said yes, and Brighton Council LGBT Worker’s Forum said yes, and the Jubilee Library said yes, and Bear Patrol said yes, and Emmaus said yes, and Lunch Positive said yes, and artists said yes, and poets said yes, and choirs sang yes, and Disability Arts Online said yes, and Barefoot Wine said yes, and I Am A Poem turned into we are The B.Right.On Festival - now with added Arts Council England support! Thank you all for your enthusiasm! Needless to say, I’ve thanked the café owner for saying no.

So far we’ve got Launches, Adopt-A-Pansy, Trouser Wearing Characters, Make Them Eat Cake, a Queer Brighton Tour, a Human Library, The Small Frayed Knot, The ‘L’ Word, and How Gay is Your Pet? We could do with more wall space for art and photography. If you’ve got other stuff planned, let me know and we’ll put it in the programme and let as many people know as possible. Think what you can bring to the party, not what you can take.

I’m calling it a celebration of Queer History Month – I don’t care what your sexuality is, or your preferred gender - I just insist you’re not straight, white, and able-bodied. Only kidding. It’s a celebration for everyone who realises everyone is worth celebrating. As Oscar Wilde said, “You don’t have to bat for us to admire our balls!”

Get in touch if you want to get involved.

Vince Laws

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 5 December 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 5 December 2012

I Am A Poem: Folkestone

Image - Vince_Laws_Long_Blue_Self.jpg

Poet, artist and campaigner Vince Laws takes over Georges House Gallery, The Old High Street, Folkestone, from February 3-15. Expect visual poetry, text art, protest art, performances, events, and the chance to get involved.

I send greetings and solidarity to Folkstone LGBT History Month. It’s important to reclaim our hidden history and celebrate the huge contribution that LGBT people have made to human culture and civilisation. Knowing our history is crucial to understand who we are and to feel pride in our identity and community. This sense of self-worth is vital for our mental and emotional well-being.

Celebrating LGBT history starts local and goes global. Thank you for helping make it happen in Folkstone.
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

Celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Trans History Month at 12 noon in the gallery, on Friday 3 February. Those attending include The Mayor, Deputy Divisional Commander of Police Tim Smith, and Folkestone MP Damian Collins who will cut the pink ribbon.

“I think it is important that people are allowed to be themselves in a safe and secure community and I am very proud that this event is taking place at Georges House Gallery in Folkestone to highlight and celebrate LGBT History Month.”
Town Mayor, Councillor Sue Wallace

The Artistic Launch, 7-9pm the same day, will be opened by Tate Modern curator Marcus Dickey Horley, and will feature performance poetry and song from Vince Laws and guests. There will also be a site-specific text installation using coming-out stories and messages of support.

“This is truly a wonderful response to LGBT History Month, we are proud that the month calls forth such creativity and support. We can only hope that such work eradicates homophobia and transphobia and enables everyone to learn and celebrate the wealth of talent and diversity of our community.”
Sue Sanders Co Chair of LGBT History Month

On Saturday 4 February, from 1-4pm there’s a Human Library in the gallery, designed to combat prejudice, come and borrow a human ‘book’ and chat together for 20 minutes. Previous book titles have included HIV+, Blind, Bipolar, Wicca Priestess, Gay Christian, etc.

On Thursday 9 February, from 6.30pm there’s an invitation only performance of Vince’s poetry play The Small Frayed Knot.

On Saturday 11 from 12 noon there’s Pop-Up Pride, everyone welcome, poetry, song, speeches, and who knows what else. Queer calypsos guaranteed.

Finally, on Tuesday 14, there’s the St Valentine’s Day Poetry Massacre, details from the gallery.

All this, plus Adopt a Pansy, the Marcel Duchamp chess challenge, and Badger the dog, who will be exhibiting his homage to Tracey Emin!

All events are open to everyone. As Oscar Wilde said, “You don’t have to bat for us to admire our balls.” Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, (later for special events) all events are free.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 17 January 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 18 January 2012

Vince Laws offers some culinary tips with a dash of poetic licence...

Scapegoat Curry: Ask your local Lib Dem or Tory butcher to cut scrag end of poor person into bite-sized chunks. Pepper with insults. Fry until no longer red, then set aside. Tip the chilly winter sauce into the pan, add slander, diced threats, chopped benefits, and reduce forever. Serve cold, topped with a banker’s bonus. Enjoy. 

Stuffed Student. Ask your local Lib Dem or Tory butcher to fillet a student as near to the bone as possible and truss oven-ready. Now stuff with debt. Be firm, remember - you’re stuffing for Britain. Stuffed Student takes longer to bake than Millionaire Minister but if sliced thinly rewards with the delicious drip-drip of profit for many years to come. Eat with a runcible spoon. Enjoy!

Mental Mousakka. Ask your local Lib Dem or Tory butcher to do a mental’s head in and disturb its brains. Mince, just for the fun of it, then set aside close to the edge. Now finely chop benefits, fry, stew, scramble and throw everything in the air. Separate the mental from the benefits with layers of paperwork and half-bake until completely frazzled. Enjoy!

[NB this is a particular favourite of mine after having my benefit cut from £110 per week to £65 per week without warning on the say so of a nurse in an office, despite a sick note, support from my GP and Psychiatrist.]

OAP Pudding. Ask your local Lib Dem or Tory butcher to cut the tongue out of a pensioner and rub a pinch of salt into its wounds. At home, scrape the years they gave into a pot and set aside the carcass. Line a well-buttered ‘Banker’ style basin with hard-earned pastry, stretched to the edge. Press in your pound of flesh. Seal the pastry edges with a firm, repeated pinch. Freezes easily. Enjoy!

Cripple Kebabs. Ask your local Lib Dem or Tory butcher to cut a cripple down to size, throw away any capabilities, then tie securely in red tape. At home, leave to chill over night, in a marinade of uncertainty. Now skewer - cripple, vegetable, lemon - and repeat. Carefully remove any zest, and grill. Grill again, and this time turn up the heat. Enjoy!

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 17 November 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 21 November 2010

Vince Laws redefines poetry with a performance of his Silent Poem

The silver lining to a prolonged period of depression and inactivity last year was the time to think. I came out from under the duvet of darkness determined to pursue a career as a poet and artist.

More specifically I wanted to perform my poetry in front of live audiences because that’s when it’s at its most powerful. And I wanted to continue exploring visual poetry, taking poetry off the page in every sense.

I became increasingly dissatisfied with the definition of poetry – the idea that it had to be a literary expression of feelings and ideas – it felt restrictive and limiting. “Make it new,’ said Ezra Pound. I subscribe to the view that as an artist, I define what art is.

Therefore as a poet, surely I define what a poem is? If my art can be anything from a painting to a concept, then so can my poetry. The embodiment of my new way of thinking is the declaration: I am a poem.

I was asked to write a poem last October to read at a candlelit vigil against hate crime. I thought about it and decided I couldn’t write anything more powerful than 2 minutes of silence shared by like-minded people in different cities, all opposed to hate. So I recorded the silence and called it Silent Poem, and of course it’s anything but silent.

There’s the sound of the photographer from the local paper capturing the scene, an aircraft passes overhead, wind catches the microphone, someone coughs, you can hear the bleeps of a lorry reversing, a lone skateboarder trundles by, and finally the time-keeper says, “Thank you everyone.”

I ended up with a poem I could neither perform nor make visual. In fact I tried to enter it into the Café Writers annual poetry competition in Norwich, but their rules only allowed for poems printed on an A4 sheet of paper. If that’s not making it new, I don’t know what is. Result!

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 17 June 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 21 June 2010

Vince Laws on the importance of Disability Pride

I was telling a disabled woman I know, let’s call her Tina, that I was about to perform at Disability Pride.

“I don’t get it,” she said, with a frown. “What have we got to be proud of?”

I was a bit taken aback. Maybe it’s easier for me to understand as a gay man because I’ve grown up with Gay Pride events. These events have given the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community visibility, strength in numbers, a chance to educate the wider world, and yes, a chance to party.

There are still people out there who think it’s acceptable to hurl abuse at queers. Only last week I heard about a man being homophobically abused on a bus in Norwich because he got out his knitting. It would funny if it wasn’t so tragic; that man is now worried about travelling on public transport.

“Oh well I understand that,” said Tina. “I get people following me and doing my limp, like it’s a big joke.”

So why is Pride important?
Let me tell you why.

The bird that lives life in a cage,
Lives no life at all.
The bird that never sees the sky,
Never feels the sun -
Is like the caged canary
That only knows one song.

Imagine! Setting that bird free
Letting it be the best canary it could ever be.

That’s why Pride’s important
And it belongs to everyone,
Because we all deserve to be our best
To see the sky, the sun.

Norwich, once you were canaries,
But now that you have Pride
I can see your eagles soar
Across a rainbow sky.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 14 June 2010

Last modified by Dave Lupton, 16 June 2010

DAO is pleased to welcome a new blog from visual poet Vince Laws

Disability Pride
Tonight, June 4, I’m performing at the Norwich Arts Centre, at a Disability Pride benefit gig. Tomorrow, June 5, I’m showing visual poetry in the Disability Pride art show at the Forum in Norwich.

One of the pieces is called Human. I wrote it for World Aids Day 2009 and then wondered how to make it visual. I decided to write it out letter-by-letter on my empty HIV and Hep C and side-effects empty medication boxes and bottles. A week before I was due to show it, I gathered together all my empties and started writing with a marker pen. Oops!

I only had enough to get past the first stanza. ‘Fortunately’ my partner at the time was also HIV+ so I added in all his bottles too. That got another stanza done. I even stole the dog’s worming tablet box, but had to admit defeat, and displayed the result as a ‘work in progress’ in a Norwich church and a Brighton nightclub.

I’ve realised that the longer it takes me to complete, the healthier I’ve been, so I’m pleased to announce that Human at the Forum is still short of the very last line!

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, H.I.V.
Human first and foremost,
A maker of mistakes.
The mistake I made,
Was to fall in love.
Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

I is Immunodeficient -
I catch more germs than most,
Though I prefer to think germs think me
Such an absolutely fabulous host!

V is for Virus,
It contains both I and Us.
We’re all human first and foremost,
And in the end, all dust.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 4 June 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 7 June 2010