Colin Hambrook celebrates a JODI commendation for Liz Crow's Bedding Out / 12 November 2013
This years Jodi Awards for equal access to culture for disabled people are soon to be made public. I'm pleased to say that an initial announcement made yesterday revealed that Liz Crow's Bedding Out received a Jodi commendation.
The pilot for Bedding Out - shown initially at the SPILL Festival of Performance in Ipswich in November 2012 - was a Dao 'Diverse Perspectives' commission, which just goes to show what far-reaching results can be achieved from a relatively modest investment of £1500. Nominated for accessibility and planning, user involvement; innovation; legacy and impact, Bedding Out was a performance about UK benefits system changes and their impact on disabled people's lives.
Liz Crow's 48 hour ‘bed-life’ performance in Salisbury Arts Centre was livestreamed, reaching 10,000 participants in over 50 countries, using twitter to facilitate a conversation controlled by disabled people. The artists' presence in a bed positioned in the altar of the reconditioned church that is Salisbury Arts Centre conveyed, in my mind, an image mirroring an appeal for asylum. In allowing the voices of disabled people to come to the fore, there was a sense of gentle revolution unfolding at #beddingout
Congratulations also go this week to Anne Pridmore, Gabriel Pepper, Stuart Bracking, Paris L'Amour, and John Aspinall for their successful legal challenge against the high court decision made last April to close the Independent Living Fund. Closed to new applicants since June 2010, the battle is yet to be won on re-opening the fund for all disabled people and putting an end to the two-tier system of support that is currently in place. Whilst the public perception is that disabled people are being supported into work by the current government, the grim reality couldn't be further removed from the broadcasts being propogated in the media through programmes such as BBC's Britain on the Fiddle.
As long as we can survive Dao has a duty to challenge those perceptions and fight for equality in the Arts. We know it's a tall order. We continue to bang our heads against brick walls and in recent years it has felt like the moves forward have been far outweighed by the moves backwards with the closure of so many of our Arts organisations.
Which brings me to 'What Next?' - a new movement seeking to enhance the national conversation about the value of arts and culture. Chaired by David Lan, Artistic Director at the Young Vic, What Next? hopes to facilitate "productive alliances and collaboration in public engagement and advocacy."
At a time when we see the Arts being devalued with the introduction of a baccalaureate qualification which will see arts subjects banished from our schools, I wonder what happened to all those empty promises to support Britain's creative economy released in the pre-election Arts Policy documents produced by both the Conservatives and the Lib-Dems.
We need to find constructive ways to challenge and to determine the role the Arts play in our lives. As dispiriting as it is having to continue to fight for accessibility (what accessibility you might argue?) the reality is that things will get a lot worse if we don't pull our heads out of the sand and seek creative partnerships with organisations and individuals who share similar values.
And for those reasons Trish and I are planning to go to the Diversity ‘Long Table’ being hosted by What Next? at Sadler's Wells on 27 November. They calling on all venues, organisations, artists, creative practitioners, leaders, thinkers, across generations, art forms and sectors, to attend. If you can make it, please let us know?