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.
Rowan is a hip hop and punk-inspired poet diagnosed with a specific learning difficulty and speech impediment, often disabled by other people’s perceptions.
Marv Radio is a beatboxer with dexterous lips and an arsenal of sounds. With big beats and big words, and the rhythm of Rowan’s irregular heartbeat, they ask you to consider the effects of a society obsessed with normality.
In a world of normcore fashion and statistical averages, what’s so important about blending in? Commissioned by Cambridge Junction. Supported by Escalator Performing Arts. Part of Stopgap Dance Company’s iF Platform.
This Dao crowdfunding campaign is part of a Catalyst-supported fundraising experiment in partnership with Salisbury Arts Centre, The Point, Eastleigh and Stopgap.
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 extrovert ego, capable of juggling demands from all directions; and the private face of the individual for whom every outing means a whole level of demand that has to remain hidden to justify any level of support from the state.
The performance also has a connection with Yoko Ono and John Lennon's bed-in staged as an act of nonviolent protest in support of peace, over forty years ago now. Knowing that their wedding would cause a huge stir in the press, the couple decided to use the opportunity to invite the press to their bedroom to talk about world peace.
There is something about the function the bed plays and the taboo that surrounds what happens in bed, that will make an interesting starting point for the emerging artwork. Bedding In is also an exploration of ‘the gaze’. The disabled body has long been subject to the fascination of others, with a long history of images of disabled people as subjects of tragedy and pity in circus sideshows, the poster child and medical demonstrations. The live performance will, in part, be about how the audience responds and how Crow controls the gaze she is subject to.
Each day, members of the public will be invited to join the artist in Bedside Conversations at Ipswich Art School Gallery until 3 November - gathering round the bed or perching upon it to talk about the work, its backdrop, its politics.
To find out more about Liz Crow's work go to Roaring Girl Productions
Colin reflects on decibel's aim to bring Performing Arts from across the diversity strands under one banner
A week on from decibel, the Arts Council’s Performing Arts Showcase in Manchester from 12-18 September 2011 and I am still reeling from the expanse and breadth of the work we saw there. At a time when the recession is hitting the Arts, it was exciting to experience a festival that understands how bringing artists and companies from across the range of work being made under the diversity banner can create an atmosphere that fosters new challenges, new conversations and new ways of doing things.
I won’t forget seeing Avant Garde Dance performing break-dance on top of a black cab. Aside from the decibel audience they drew the attention of builders and office workers who happened to pass the car park outside the music theatre where it was all taking place.
Brian Lobel [www.blobelwarming.com ] broke taboos with an extraordinary performance about his experience of testicular cancer that proved that one of the best ways of coming to terms with chronic, life threatening illness is by being able to laugh at it. The point of it was to break down barriers to the way we talk about impairment. I found it inspiring as someone who struggles on a daily basis, to come to terms with chronic illness.
The opportunity to meet and learn from people like Rawand Arqawi from the Freedom Theatre in Palestine was immense. There are big advantages to bringing artists together from across the sectorial divides. Maria Oshodi, Director of Extant put it well when she said “My art practise is informed by my norm, but bringing my practise into a more public arena, turns it into something other than the 'norm'.”
So crossing those divides can create the conditions to spark the imagination and break out of that sense of being constrained by the fact you are only speaking to people with a similar idea of what it means to be different. Difference provides the arts with a rich tapestry that is truly innovative and refreshing. But there needs to be a way to open up debate to a wider arena – and that is what the decibel showcase provides.
Programmers I spoke to gave a range of responses to how they might take on board the work on show, and the artists being showcased. But essentially there was no mistaking the fact that work coming out of practice that falls under the diversity banner; that represents the different agendas: disability, race, lgbt and women’s issues, can offer something refreshing and new to the Arts.
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.
In July Sophie Partridge reported on her experience of being part of Rethinking Disability Project Focus Group at Shape. She gives a lively account of reflections on images of disabled people from the Royal College of Physicians’ archive. The group was a preliminary adjunct to an exciting exhibition interpreting the context of image-making and attitudes towards disabled people to be shown in Shape's offices (and hopefully other venues) in 2011.
I also greatly enjoyed Anne Teahan's account of taking part in Revealing Culture - an international disability arts exhibition of 55 artists, which was shown at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington last summer. She gives an insightful account of her trip, and reflections on disability and impairment.
DaDaFest 2010 in Liverpool proved to produce a major high point on the the disability arts calendar this year. In her December blog Tanya Raabe gave an excited report on the part her talented brush and eye played in revealing disability arts culture to a wider audience on the BBC's Culture Show.
I can think of a few theatre companies that are tackling inclusion in a dynamic and ground-breaking ways. Over the Xmas break I saw the ever stunning deaf actress Caroline Parker in Red Earth's children's production of The Lost Happy Endings adapted from the book by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. This fun production was energised by the use of BSL by the cast of four who brought it to life.
Ian Dury cropped up several times in 2010. There was a memorable biopic starring Andy Serkis reviewed by Alison Wilde.
Fittings Multimedia blogged about their tour of Raspberry - a production that brought Ian Dury to life as a narrator in a surreal story line that evoked disability struggles. The show was much admired by Colin Cameron
Finally, John Kelly aka Rockinpaddy had a hilarious punky part to play as lead singer in Graeae's production of Reasons to be Cheerful at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. In Rockinpaddy's blog he talked about getting and feeling his way through taking on the part in what proved an affectionate, entertaining celebration of Ian Dury's music.
Dolly Sen has been making lively contributions to DAOs pages for nearly three years. She added a gallery of artworks last summer. Did she ever find that missing hula hoop I wonder?
Victoria Wright had a few outings on tv and radio in 2010. As well as having (in my opinion) the best role in Channel 4s award-winning comedy Cast-Offs, she also supplied DAO with an open letter to mainstream comedian Frankie Boyle after his incessant attacks on learning disabled people.
This discussion piece provoked some interesting comments about humour and discrimination. There are no easy solutions. Attacking disabled people for the way we look, sound, are stereotypically expected to behave etc. still largely goes unchallenged. Except for the first time complaints to Ofcom were registered.
Thanks to everyone for supporting DAO in 2010. We look forward to more in-depth focus on you, your talents and our community in 2011.
I caught Ed Vaizey on BBC Parliament last week. He was answering questions before a Select Committee challenging him on whether there is any justification for spending public funding on the Arts. A key reason he gave was that he saw the Arts as a bastion for sharing Happiness. Believe it or not he described himself as the Minister for Happiness.
He talked about the economic arguments for investing in the Arts, although it was clear from the discussions that the agenda for commercial sponsorship is going to be higher on the agenda than ever.
There is a massive divide in ideas about the value the Arts bring to peoples' lives - and who the Arts are for, and whether they are simply about entertainment. And of course whether the Arts are best served, as any funding becomes more dependent on sponsorship - as a marketing tool for Business.
Disability Arts is very much about challenging perceptions around identity. The movement has arisen out of a massive lobby, particularly in the UK, to challenge the deficit model and to support authorship of creative expression, exploring Disablity as a construct.
In my opinion none do it better than the Disabled Avant Garde (DAG) producing work that combines a liberal dash of sardonic wit and disability politics. Their latest christmas offering 'No Room at the Igloo' is a 9 minute video mockumentary they've produced for youtube.
The video is a bit of fun that casts some wry comment on the commissioning process behind last years' Igloo in the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank. They also make some pertinent remarks about perceptions of 'disabled artists' - combining humour and attitude.
My guess is that seeking business sponsorship will up the anti on a reliance on the tick-box approach for any funding disabled artists can expect to realise in future. DAG take a subversive approach to the notion of the tick-box and the tragic but brave connotations it supports. The DAG image of disability arts and Joseph and Mary is very pertinent.
Have a look and explore some of the other videos on the DAG channel too.
On the way to Stratford Theatre Royal for an evening of Graeae's raved-about Reasons to be Cheerful - it was bizarre to read a report in the Daily Mail of several Labour MPs using twitter to send messages of support in favour of the students who attacked the Tory headquarters earlier this week. The Labour Party's support of violent action is not unprecedented, of course. They took us into Iraq despite the million march and a national sense of the injustice of waging that war.
Reasons took us further back in time - to the beginnings of Thatcher's reign of power in 1979. It was a nostalgic trip back to the days before the reconstruction of the male psyche. The musical is a full-on, energy packed evening, reveling in Ian Dury’s up-front obsession with sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
Graeae's cast of ne'er-do-wells were totally up-for-it - using BSL and captioning to give further emphasis to the pure inventiveness of Dury's lyrics. The show was a wonderful tribute to the man as a poet of his time. His songs are full of characters on the periphery of society, like Plaistow Patricia - ducking and diving in the pursuit of "a little bit of this and little bit of that! Oh Oh!"
The story tells the tale of Vinnie, his mate Colin – doing all they can to get tickets to see Dury at the Hammy Palais in 1981 – Vinnie’s mum Pat and his dad Bob. Bob lives a parallel life to that of Dury himself. He is dying of cancer and yearning for younger days of love, made to the music of one of Dury’s heroes - Gene Vincent.
It is a simple tale of ordinary folk, nicely pivoted around a tender rendition of 'My Old Man' - telling the story of a father and son come together in front of death’s curtain:
Seven years went out the window
We met as one to one
Died before we'd done much talking
Relations had just begun
All the while we thought about each other
All the best mate, from your son
All the best mate, from your son
My old man
And of course, Reasons is a tale about disability – reaching a crescendo towards the end of the first half with the ground-breaking Spasticus Autisticus:
Hello to you out there in Normal Land
You may not comprehend my tale or understand
As I crawl past your window give me lucky looks
You can be my body but you'll never read my books
Dury’s comment on invisibility of disabled peoples’ voices is as relevant now as it was back in the early eighties. Thatcher’s reinventing of British society around the values of consumerism has now reached its apex. Disabled people in residential care are now labeled ‘customers’ who receive ‘services’ – as if care was just another commodity to be valued by quantity.
Reasons draws conclusions about similarities in the political climate now – with the cuts to benefits, beginning to undermine disabled peoples’ independence. But the world is much more complex with the flow of information afforded by the internet.
In Thatcher’s time, everything was a foregone conclusion, with tight, unrelenting control of the media at the heart of her campaign to change the way we think and feel. What’s going to happen next? Will there be fisticuffs in the House?
Hopefully, at the very least, Graeae will get an opportunity to do a further run of Reasons to be Cheerful at a theatre near you!
Reasons to Be Cheerful ends its run at Royal Theatre, Stratford, London on 13 November 2010