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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.

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

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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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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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...

Comments: 7

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...

Comments: 1

Disability Arts versus Pudsey Bear

17 November 2014

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photo of a packet of Pudsey Bear sweets, sold on a train as part of a BBC marketing campaign

I often ask myself what is the point of Disability Arts? Every board meeting we have discussions about how we are swimming against a tide in our desire to raise the stakes for equality for disabled people. The attitudes that keep us in chains abound everywhere we look and our small attempts to challenge collectively are consistently ignored. Just last week we suffered the BBC’s annual celebration of everything Tragic but Brave in which Pudsey Bear struts his stuff to let the world know...

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To define or not to define: the dirty 'disability' word

27 October 2014

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photo of three images of the artist throwing an artificial leg at a pyramid of collecting cans

A stimulating discussion unfolded on Dao’s FB group last week in response to the Shape Open Exhibition, which was launched at Shape’s Gallery in Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford last week. The call-out for Shape’s annual Open Exhibition was for the third year opened out to disabled and to non-disabled artists specifically asking for work on the theme of [in]visible. The question posed was whether Shape should be supporting work by artists who didn’t necessarily see...

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Colin kicks off 2014 with a look at one of Dao's most accessed pieces of in-depth content

7 January 2014

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normality training cartoon

Happy New Year to one and all. As a theme running through DAO's tenth year I want to draw attention to features in our back catalogue for those who may not be aware of the depth and breadth of the content in the journal.  Many of you will be aware of the value and importance of the Social Model of Disability to the history and development of Disability Arts, but may be confused or sceptical about the Affirmative Model of Disability which attempts to bring the theory into a 21st century...

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Avant-garde or art as activism? Colin Hambrook discusses Disability Art in relation to Grayson Perry's Reith Lectures and Liz Crow's In Actual Fact

4 November 2013

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Liz Crow lies in her bed, white bedding, with red fabric draped across the sheets, a red rope barrier around the bed.

Since 1948 the BBC have been broadcasting an annual series of lectures by leading figures of the day addressing contemporary themes. It's over twenty years since there was last a Reith Lecture on the place of the Arts within society, so initially I was a bit non-plussed as to why Grayson Perry had been chosen to deliver a series which I normally associate with heady science or hearty politics. I listened to the third of the 'Playing to the Gallery' series of talks 'Nice...

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Colin Hambrook adds a vote of thanks to the intoxicating and cerebral survivor poet Dave Russell

25 October 2013

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woodcut of a man strapped to a table whilst being given electro convulsive therapy by a doctor in a white coat

This week Trish Wheatley and I have been busy making plans for new projects on DAO, getting ready to for DAOs tenth anniversary in April 2014. As one of the projects we hope to develop is a poetry prize, I thought I'd add a quick post on the first Outside In poetry event hosted by Pallant House Gallery on the 12th October. Simon Jenner penned a review of the event last week, but for those who were in attendance [and those who weren't] who wondered at the words of the wild and...

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Colin Hambrook gives an overview of Liz Crow's Bedding In Bedding Out.

16 July 2013

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Crippen Atos hammer cartoon

In April 2013 Crow produced Bedding Out as a 48 hour durational performance for the 'People Like You' exhibition at Salisbury Arts Centre. Having piloted the installation piece (as a DAO Diverse Perspectives commission) at the SPILL Festival held in Ipswich Art School Gallery in November 2012, Crow had time to consider how to up the level of engagement created in response to the live art installation. Through a livestream the performance was watched in over 50 countries; had a...

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Colin Hambrook asks where do we find Disability Arts and activism?

15 April 2013

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colour image of shocking pink grab rails spelling out the word 'People' on a black background

The Disability, Arts & Diversity Symposium: 'From the Personal to the Universal' at Salisbury Arts Centre last week, promised to be "an in depth look at Disability Arts and activism from the viewpoints of artists, producers, presenters and policy makers." There are myriad implications for Disability Arts and its activist role in the wider social context, but to my mind the Symposium itself did little to address the issues. I wonder if somewhere along the way, the glory of...

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Colin Hambrook introduces the new look DAO and invites you to attend a symposium on disability art and activism at Salisbury Arts Centre

1 March 2013

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a pair of hand drawn wings, extended to the sky, white on dark blue.

We've been working hard during the last six months on the new design of DAO, which we launched earlier this week. Big thanks to everyone who has sent us feedback in the last few days. Responding to our last readers survey in March 2012 we decided to move away from the handmade feel and produce a bolder design which highlighted art form to make it easier to find features on specific topics within the navigation. We're working hard on identifying bugs in the older pages and tweaking...

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A guest editorial from Q.S Is in response to Colin Hambrook's article on medication and mental health

7 January 2013

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a black and white drawing of a woman knitting

I read your DAO editorial Colin and found it very illuminating. I'm personally, not an advocate of medication either. Actually, I've been asked to write a book by an organisation called KAOS, based in Brussels, which will include essays detailing my own personal strategies and methodologies to deal with issues of the mind, along with accompanying artwork. I have no proof, but I think making art and writing helped me recover from psychosis and stopped a recurrence of episodes. I think...

Comments: 3

Colin Hambrook posts the debate from FaceBook group on disability art and Identity

5 December 2012

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ink drawing of several figures in a strange landscape

Last week DAOs FaceBook group was the site of a raging debate about disability, art and identity. Between 19-27 November members of the group posted something in the region of 15,000 words in 122 posts. Responses were passionate. It was a valuable debate testing the validity, or otherwise of Disability Art, a Disability Arts Movement and of definitions of being a 'disabled artist'. Many of the contributions question the social model ethic of 'self-definition' and the validity...

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Colin Hambrook attends the 21st Anniversary celebration of Survivors’ Poetry

9 November 2012

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screenshot of the homepage of the survivors poetry website

Last night was the 21st Anniversary of Survivors’ Poetry. It’s not difficult to fill the Poetry Café in Betterton Street, London, but it was a suitable venue for what was for me, an emotional occasion. Being involved with Survivors’ Poetry through the 1990s was instrumental in my getting involved with the Disability Arts Movement. Joe Bidder was then and remains to this day, an engaging mentor and advocate. Without him I would never have been able to move forward with...

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Colin Hambrook on Liz Crow's 'Bedding-In'

2 November 2012

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I often edit DAO from my bed. As someone with ME who has limited capacity for getting out and about responding to emails, publishing and sub-editing are frequently done between bouts of resting in bed. So when Liz Crow sent DAO a proposal for a Diverse Perspectives commission for an artwork involving a live bed-in I was particularly intrigued. Her intention for the live performance was to make a statement about the immense contradiction between the public face of the artist as someone with an...

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Colin Hambrook asks will the Paralympic opening ceremony provide more of a laugh than Katherine Araniello's take on the 'Superhuman' ideal being proselytised by Channel 4?

29 August 2012

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The London 2012 Paralympics, which will be broadcast in over 100 countries, with a count down to the opening ceremony being broadcast on Channel 4 tonight. After months of top level secrecy I got an email earlier from an excited disabled performer saying "it's all tantrums & tiaras back-stage". I can just imagine! All those 'superhumans' in the background getting ready to flex some bicep. Personally I find the whole malarky about how 'inspiring' we are - as...

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Colin Hambrook, reports on news about DAO, past, present and future

18 May 2012

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the disability arts on line logo

We've had an exciting time recently finishing off DAO’s New Voices project. Our 2012 group of New Voices writers have been fully engage with DAO. During the project, their blog entries, reviews and interviews have delivered lots of interaction from our readership. In preparation for our next project, Diverse Perspectives, we’ve been awarded a significant Grants for the Arts award by Arts Council England (ACE) to do a range of things. Firstly, we are commissioning eight disabled...

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Colin asks 'What is Liberty?'

12 September 2011

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road sign

Last Friday I entertained a group of nine young disabled people on a research visit from Seoul in Korea. They were wanting to find out about the history of disability arts development in the UK. They wanted to know how disabled artists in the UK have achieved the level of independence that we have; how we have got into a position where our work is seen, now, within the pantheon of professional arts practice. I talked about the importance of the Social Model of Disability as a rallying cry; the...

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Editor Colin Hambrook reviews some DAO highlights of 2010

1 January 2011

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Tanya Raabe drawing at the easel

Greetings to all the wonderful disabled artists, performers and writers who have contributed to DAO and made it such a fantastic journal to edit over the past year. Over the last eight months or so I've been making more of a concerted effort to encourage disabled individuals, companies and projects to use DAO as a place to blog about life, art, access and artistic practice. It's been a rewarding experience and so (in no particular order) I'd like to share some of my highlights of the past year....

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'Dreams of the Absurd...'

19 July 2010

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black and white surreal drawing with a clock

In the 1990s I put together a visual arts exhibition called 'Dreams of the Absurd' which got shown in various galleries in the UK and abroad. It was an extension of a series of large-scale paintings, prints and writing about experience of mental health issues. During research I did whilst still at college I connected the work with the representation of 'madness' within the history of art. I've been trying to get back into making and showing my own work since the those...

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Colin Hambrook continues to be mad...

10 May 2010

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painting of a man injecting large needles into another man

Living with disability can get extreme sometimes. For me, living in the wake of so-called 'schizophrenia' has meant a lifetime of juggling the darkest emotions like tennis balls. My relationship with the illness has been a lifelong struggle... one of those things you are not meant to own up to. It's a guaranteed conversation-stopper. Even within the disability community you are not guaranteed an empowering response. Reference to the illness can be a great way of losing acquaintances you are not...

Comments: 5

Colin Hambrook reflects on the second Artists Debating Identity event at Shape

16 October 2009

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On Thursday 15 October Shape held their second informal conversation, led by Michèle Taylor - this time targeted at performing artists. Recognising the current lack of a platform for disabled and Deaf performers to come together to share ideas and talk about prevalent issues, Shape has created an ongoing event where 20 or so disabled and Deaf people can come together to talk openly and honestly. Michèle set the tone by opening the debate with a showing of Liz Crows’ film...

Comments: 6

Disability arts - is it politics, or is it art? Who decides?

10 July 2009

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I have always been reluctant to write about my impairment issues. Such talk always leads towards a medical model, victim mentality. And that is why the disability arts community has always, rightly, made room for self-definition. We’ve been labouring against medical model labels that brand us as tragic for a long time. And certainly the weight of media still continues to represent us as victims of our conditions and to define us with negative stories about our lives; or dressing us up in...

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