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photo shows head and sholders portrait of a woman outdoors John Rice

Photo of Stevie Rice © John Rice

Image: John Rice

DAO Editor Colin Hambrook spoke to Dada-South’s Director Stevie Rice about the organisation’s role in Accentuate over the next couple of years.

Accentuate is a cross-agency programme for the South East with funding from the Legacy Trust. Accentuate aims to change the lives of disabled people by putting them at the heart of a programme that takes its inspiration from the South East region's unique heritage as the birthplace of the Paralympics.

Stevie Rice says, “Dada-South has always been about artists. It’s Dada-South’s biggest strength.” Which makes it no real surprise then that they have been chosen to collaborate on and run several of the Accentuate projects in the run up to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This certainly is acknowledgement of Dada-South’s past achievements but, as Stevie says, “This coming year will see Dada-South come into its own.”

Through the Accentuate Fest programme (and with funding from Arts Council England and SEEDA) Dada-South is going to create a series of extraordinary events that will attract major audiences.

Dada-South's plan is to infiltrate the festivals that are happening across the South East with the presence of work by disabled and Deaf artists.

Art is firmly on the agenda in a second Accentuate/Dada-South project – Go Public. (funded by Arts Council England and SEEDA)

“Go Public will provide a package that enables those artists to experiment in the public realm. I expect to see at least two pieces of work that will speak to people’s experience of impairment and disability.

But the commissions have been deliberately framed in a way that I hope will allow us to break out of that ‘us and them’ mentality. I don’t want Dada-South to adhere to that notion of being so marginalised that you draw your line in the sand and say here is disability and here is the mainstream, take your pick. It’s not a question of either/or.”

In this regard, like many Disability Arts organisations, Dada-South is addressing the issue of how Disability Arts fit into the mainstream. Stevie has a clear vision of how Dada-South operates in this changing context: “Dada-South, since its inception has always been about working with quality partners to ensure that disabled and Deaf artists are able to present their work on high level platforms."

"This isn’t about being disabled or not being disabled, this is a question of quality and supporting artists to be where they want to be. A lot of the people we work with have impairments but don’t necessarily define themselves as disabled people. This has been tricky for the Disability Arts sector. I’ve always felt that this ‘us and them’ divide is something which needs addressing."

Essentially, Dada-South is about providing support to those who need and deserve it - regardless of the labels. “It is about being open. Disabled people must have access to mainstream services. But I hate making that differentiation. Disability is mainstream.”

For the last few years Dada-South has been developing its Dada-Exchange programme. Dada-Exchange is all about supporting people through one-to-one advice sessions and bespoke individual and artist-centred guidance.

Working with Creative Junction as part of the Create Compete Collaborate programme, Dada-South is now sketching out a three year programme of entrepreneurial support and development for young people in the south east and internationally to be delivered as part of Accentuate.

Create Compete Collaborate is a ground-breaking ambition which aims to ensure that "Every young person in the South East has the opportunity to participate in a project with another young person from a competitor country between now and 2012."

Stevie describes the emphasis of this initiative: “Working with young disabled people in this way will enable Dada-South and Creative Junction to support them to develop their creativity and engage with their experiences of disability in profoundly positive and inspiring ways. It will inform our thinking about how we work with disabled and Deaf people in the future and will inspire our business partners and associates with whom we will be working.”

Go to the Dada-South website to find out more about their plans.