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Colin Hambrook established Disability Arts Online in 2004. Since then he has been editing and maintaining the journal and its social media outlets. In his blog he comments on aspects of stuff going in within Disability Arts and the specific arts programmes Dao is engaged with.. as well being known to vent the occasional rant.

Hurrah for Daisyfest 2016 in Guildford!

10 May 2016

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I’m delighted and excited that Daisyfest 2016 has given DisabilityArtsOnline a slot at G Live in Guildford to showcase some of the talent DAO supports through our blogging platform. So, we’re producing an event next month called Words That Defy Normality - a smorgasbord of humorous, reflective, autobiographical poetry and performance from Penny Pepper, Allan Sutherland and Dolly Sen.  I was over the moon at the success of Penny’s campaign via Unbound to get her memoir...

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Who draws the line on what is or isn’t a useful life?

14 January 2016

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A photograph of Liz Carr as Clarissa Mullery in the BBC's Silent Witness. The image is a close up on her face with a crime scene in the background.

The journalist Matthew Parris has a bit of a thing about ‘usefulness’ as an important human trait. When interviewed by disability activist and wheelchair user Baroness Jane Campbell on BBC Radio 4’s first Today programme of 2016, he branded her as “a clearly useful person” because of her place in the House of Lords. Parris makes his politics clear. His recent article in the Spectator was headed: ‘Some day soon we’ll all accept that useless lives...

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2015: The year impairment issues returned to the fore

17 December 2015

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photo of Jessica Thom in blue superhero costume on a ride in a funfair

In thinking about my round-up of the highlights of 2015 there are several events that stand out and a changing climate, culturally and politically, which are having an impact on the evolving beast that is disability arts. Last March, and for the third year running, SICK! Festival presented its increasingly influential showcase simultaneously in Brighton and Manchester. Branded as a festival that confronts the physical, mental and social challenges of life and death this years’ theme was...

Comments: 3

On the uses of art and polemic in theatre.. Howard Barker and Patrick Marmion battling it out in the same theatre...

4 December 2015

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black and white graphic of psychiatrist R.D. Laing's head divided in two

I went to the Arcola Theatre in Dalston the other night and was dazzled by an unexpected encounter with Howard Barker - considered one of the major writers of modern European theatre. I found myself in the 'wrong' studio as Barker began holding court about the state of Theatre in the UK: “The best thing British Theatre could do would be to get rid of the English,” he said, lamenting the utilitarian approach to the Arts evident in this country; “and probably something...

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Embracing the taboos of ageing and death with Sheila Hill

2 December 2015

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black and white photo of the face of actor Tim Barlow, taken side-on

Sheila Hill’s Him was a favourite in the Unlimited showcase at Summerhall in Edinburgh earlier this year. Aside from the quality of the work as a piece of art, the content seemed relevant to me, personally, partly because the panoply of impairment issues I deal with on a daily basis are steadily presenting new challenges as time goes by.   Choreographed into short sections ‘Him’ is a portrait of actor Tim Barlow meditating on life in older age.  The short film...

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Notes from SICK! Festival...

17 November 2015

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a picture of a park bench with a series of pie charts assessing how the bench feels about itself

I was invited to be part of the SICK! Festival Thematic Advisory group and recently attended a meeting at The Manchester Museum with a large group of academics, theatre producers/ makers and representatives of Arts and Health organisations. The purpose of the thematic Advisory Group was to help shape the focus and content of SICK! Festival in 2017. With broad provocations on themes of identity and selfhood the day was full of engaged and passionate discussion focusing on art and philosophical...

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The Creative Minds conference key question: what makes for ‘quality’ in theatre?

29 October 2015

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photo of an actor dressed as an elephant standing next to an actor dressed as Hitler

Coming back from the Creative Minds conference in Ipswich I was mulling over the day's discussion about 'quality' and remembered how six years ago I had the privilege of sitting in on a theatre-devising workshop with Australian theatre company Back to Back. It was very different from anything I’d experienced with learning-disability arts organisations in the UK.  Their community company ‘Theatre of Speed’ were being asked to express something about family...

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It's Easy For You To Say: Rowan James and the emergence of 'impairment-laden' work by disabled artists

19 October 2015

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An image of the torso of a Rowan James sporting a variety of labels such as 'average', 'awkward',  'dribbler', 'overcome'. He wears a stethoscope attached to his chest

I recently caught an ITV news item celebrating the “ordinary heroes of Britain.” An eight-year-old disabled child was put on the spot for being ‘inspirational’ for completing a triathlon. It was notable because the lad was much too sharp to be fooled by media patronising bollocks: “I don’t even know why I’ve won an award. Anyone could do it.” His response caused immediate embarrassment to the news presenter and to the boy's father and he was...

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Creative Future host readings from their anthology of impossible things

29 September 2015

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photo of performer/ writer Jackie Hagan sitting in a bathroom

Last night the Free Word Centre in Holborn played host to writers from the Creative Future Literary Award ceremony reading poetry and prose pieces on the theme of ‘impossible things’. With support from Lemn Sissay and Maggie Gee and prizes of cash and mentoring from the Literary Consultancy the room buzzed with interpretations of the idea of ‘impossibility’: everything from Catherine Edmunds inanimate furniture to Peter Jordan’s ever-expanding warrior. I was struck...

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The Live Art Development Agency launch a book and DVD of Katherine Araniello's 'Dinner Party Revisited'

17 September 2015

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There are only a few days left to view Katherine Araniello’s ‘Dinner Party Revisited’ on the Live Art Development Agencies ‘LADA Screens’ platform. The audio-described version of the Dinner Party Revisited is a good example of using creative description to add another layer within a work of art  - taking it beyond documentation and allying with the performance’s intention to use humour to convey subversive ideas. The describer comes alive as another...

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Katherine Araniello and Simon Raven do 'The Golden Gherkin'

29 July 2015

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photo of artists Katherine Araniello and Simon Raven dressed in black costumes with a stall of 'golden pickles'  pictured in front of the Damien Hirst 'Charity' sculpture near the Gherkin

Unveiled in the same week that the UK government scrapped the Independent Living Fund (ILF), a debate about the artistic merit of Damien Hirst’s 'Charity' (2003 - 2004) ignited on Dao’s FB group.  A 22-foot painted bronze likeness of a Spastics Society (Scope) charity collection box from the 1960's-1970’s depicting a sad disabled child, the press lauded it as a statement about disability rights and exclusion. Why? Because in Hirst’s depiction, the giant...

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Liberty Festival 2015

27 July 2015

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photo of disabled performer Jamie Bedard flying through the air on a wire, dressed in a white suit

I arrived at the Liberty Festival in the Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford with that M.E. glow, swollen glands and throbbing head in a howling freezing wind and lashing rain, thinking “what am I doing here?” By the early evening I left with that Liberty love thing that keeps me going back year on year.  Liberty has always been about a sense of community and grass roots, which has been helped in recent years by the association with Together! who presented an afternoon of music...

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Sadcrip/ supercrip: two sides of the same coin

21 July 2015

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The Adventures of Super-Crip cartoon with an image of a blind super hero wearing a red costume and large black visors leading a family along a railway line.

Logging on to Dao’s FB group can be a reminder that we are living in a regressive period where Disability Politics is concerned. It can often feel as though the Social Model understanding of our lives as disabled people has taken several steps backwards. The Dao FB group has grown to nearly 3,700 members, increasingly attracting individuals from every corner of the globe. It’s an open forum with an increasing number of posts, linking to journals and blogs that present a dilemma...

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The City of London laughs in the face of the plight of disabled people with the erection of a new/ old Damien Hirst monument

7 July 2015

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A statue by artist Damien Hirst which according to the Evening Standard “aims to challenge our prejudices around disability” was recently installed next to St. Helen’s Church and opposite the Gherkin in London’s Square Mile. The seven-metre high sculpture, called Charity (2003), is a replica of a 1960s Spastic's Society charity collection box depicting a disabled young girl clutching a teddy bear and a collection tin. The Standard goes on to say that Hirst said he...

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On the eve of the closure of the Independent Living Fund, Disabled People fight back

25 June 2015

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The ghost of Ivan who sadly died at the tender age of 6 years, stares up at his father and asks: 'Why are you killing off my disabled brothers and sisters?'

It was great to see the news of the protests against the disbandment of the Independent Living Fund… I've always had a huge amount of respect and admiration for John Kelly and it was great to see him on the news singing 'Which Side Are You On My Boys'. Much warmth, respect and solidarity goes to all the protesters who stormed Parliament yesterday! I think this cartoon by Dao cartoonist Crippen from 2012 says it all about how despicable the puppet figurehead of our...

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Rowan James’ ‘Easy For You To Say’

9 June 2015

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An image of the torso of a man sporting a variety of labels such as 'average', 'awkward',  'dribbler', 'overcome'. He wears a stethoscope attached to his chest

We are pleased to be supporting Rowan James’ bid to raise £1500 to complete his debut Edinburgh Fringe run this year as part of the iF (Integrated Fringe) Platform.  Rowan and his team are seeking support to pay for their accommodation and food during their stay, plus production and technical support to make the show as professional and polished as it can be. Please click here to check out the campaign page and rewards and donate whatever you can to the future of performance...

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Dao 2015 Reader Survey

9 June 2015

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dao logo, consisting of a square within a green circle with the letters 'Dao'

 We are looking for responses to our 2015 Reader Survey to get Your valuable feedback is absolutely vital for future development of the organisations and to help us to secure funding for future projects.  This year we are doing something a bit different. The questionnaire is completely anonymous because we want to gauge the temperature of feeling towards some of the major disability related arts programmes. We're also really excited to hear your thoughts on how we can improve...

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Defend disabled people's right to independent living

3 June 2015

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The Government's plans to do away with the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on 30th June are going to have an immense impact on many individuals Dao works with either directly or indirectly. The ILF helps over 18,000 disabled people with high support needs to live independent lives in the community rather than in residential care. The fund was introduced in 1988 as the Conservative party at that time realised that supporting disabled people with personal care needs to live independent lives,...

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Disability Arts is dead! Long live Disability Arts...

26 April 2015

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In a recent Guardian blog theatre critic Lyn Gardner quotes the late Chinese Communist leader, Mao Zedong: “Works of art which lack artistic quality have no force, no matter how progressive they are politically.” Gardner goes on to talk about ‘quality’ in relation to Disability Arts, specifically Learning Disability Arts and the Creative Minds conference, which took place in Bradford recently. Posted on the Dao FB group. It provoked a fair bit of response from a few...

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There aint ‘alf been some awkward bastards

16 March 2015

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the word 'anarkissed' written in a scrawling, heavy black and white hand across a white gallery wall

Having entered a decade akin to the Victorian age with an increasing rise in importance placed on benevolence and charity we have to ask ourselves is there a place, now, for Art Movements that seek to address social justice and inequity within society? Or do we rather want to throw in the towel; see it all as worthy nonsense and let the White Men in their ivory towers carry on business as usual putting the mundane and populist at the top of the charts. Has Disability Arts or Black Arts or...

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Apologies...

20 February 2015

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Dear readers, firstly I’d like to apologise to all those individuals who have been communicating with me over the past few months, who I have promised interviews, reviews, listings etc. but have been frustrated by my lack of communication.  It has been a stressful time as my father is fast approaching his dying. I am currently overwhelmed by attending to his needs with the rest of my family. Indeed for all of us who are close to him the acceleration of his passing has been sudden and...

Comments: 1

Dao's FB group debate Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Stephen Hawking in 'The Theory of Everything'

19 January 2015

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There was a lot in the media last week, centred on Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Dr Stephen Hawking in 'The Theory of Everything'. Newsnight covered it with an interview with the US disabled actor RJ Mitte - star of 'Breaking Bad'.  Frances Ryan's critical response to news of a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for Redmayne on the Guardian’s comment is free pages was to say: “while ‘blacking up’ is rightly now greeted...

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Highlights of 2014: with thanks to DaisyFest, Together, Unlimited and DaDaFest

10 January 2015

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purple tinted drawing inspired by a surreal character from the Bosch painting 'The temptation of St Anthony’

Firstly I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all Dao’s readers and contributors. Last year we got out and about a fair bit, spreading the word about the disabled artists who engage with the disability arts sector through being a part of events, over and above the usual work we do of reporting on events and supporting artists through networking. Firstly last June there was DaisyFest in Guildford, which featured two of Dao’s writers Penny Pepper and Allan Sutherland. Both...

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Happy New Year: we've got a fight on our hands!

5 January 2015

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A young person in a self propelled wheelchair is holding up a banner that reads 'Stop blaming us ya bastards!'. She is saying:

We know we’ve got a fight to survive in the year ahead. Many of our artists, dependent on the Independent Living Fund are under attack. We need to come together creatively and positively to challenge the threat we are under from measures designed by people in power who basically don’t seem to have little clue about the real world. The letter I received personally from my own MP to complain about the closure of the ILF said:  “...Ministers have considered the implications...

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Looking back: 2014 has been a mix of triumph and devastation for Disability Arts

18 December 2014

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hip hop artist Ronnie Ronnie wears a red and black costume

Firstly I’d like to extend my condolences to Richard Longstaff’s family at this time. His loss last summer, as a result of cancer was a big blow to me personally. I could see a book of poetic reminiscences of growing up in a rural Northern village emerging from his poetry blog. It was a joy to work with him and he is sorely missed. 2014 has been an eventful year for us here at Disability Arts Online. There have been lots of highlights but I’ve been particularly pleased about...

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