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 First In The World Somewhere published by Unbound/ Penguin.
Penny ran the gauntlet of social media to ensure the publication happened. Backed by Daisyfest the crowdfunding campaign reached 102 per cent of its target, so the publication is due to be released in early 2017.
And now, hot off the stage from speaking at the Southbank Centre’s Women of the World (WoW) Festival, Penny will give Daisyfest a flavour of her personal recollections of the beginnings of independent living and disability civil rights.
Penny’s story is one of a first-generation punk crip who skirted through new romantic pop into being a music-junkie indie kid, always pushing her writing and performance alongside the emergence of the Disability Arts scene.
Allan Sutherland, once described as 'the first political stand-up on the disability arts circuit' has for thirty years been exploring ways of making the voices of disabled people heard.
He has explored his own epilepsy though performance poetry, stand-up comedy and personal writing. He has presented the lives and opinions of other disabled people through radio and television scriptwriting and journalism.
In more recent years, Allan has developed the technique of interview-based transcription poetry, which has proved to be a powerful means of telling disabled people’s stories. Supported by DAO, his first exploration of the form, told the life story of Disability Activist and campaigner Paddy Masefield, before further developments, which gave us The Explorer with scenes from the life of artist Nancy Willis and Neglected Voices, with stories recalling the lives of three disabled people:
In this performance he will be reading from his recently-completed collection, ‘Difficult People’. [We are the difficult people,/ The ones who do not fit,/ Who have no place in/ The world as you’ve made it.]
The collection straddles several decades of the writer’s engagement with disability arts, activism and culture. It starts with some of the performance poems, which document his own experience of living with epilepsy; followed by a set of found poems, and lastly his transcription work.
Dolly Sen has been blogging on DAO since 2008 with her unique and persistently uproarious take on the world. As a child, Dolly Sen was an alien in Empire Strikes Back. She knew then she would never know normal life. Dolly is an award-winning writer, artist, performer and filmmaker, which has taken her up a tree in Regents Park, to California’s Death Row, to the Barbican, Tower Bridge, Royal Academy, Trafalgar Square, and up a ladder to screw a lightbulb into the sky. She also thinks she is a sheep.
Dolly’s creativity aims to put sanity over her lap and slap its naughty arse. She will do this for your delight at Daisyfest, using poetry, art, comedy and sheep.
For my own part, as well as having the delight of compering the words that defy normality, I am planning to run a poetry sharing workshop earlier in the day as part of Daisyfest’s programme of free daytime events.
Most people dabble in poetry at some point in their lives. Some of us turn to writing poetry during difficult times in our lives as an outlet for deep-seated fears and anxieties. Some of us use poetry as an alternative way of recording feelings about people or events that are important to us, or as an alternative way of keeping a diary.
For others poetry can be the most direct form of self-expression when the creative urge takes hold. It doesn’t have to be precious or academic. It can simply be a rewarding way of giving voice to the value we attach to our lives. For disabled people in particular, poetry can often be a lifeline because poetry allows us the space to say things that are often negated, misconstrued or disallowed.
This workshop will be an opportunity to gain confidence through sharing poetry and getting feedback from others.