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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

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 disabled people - to be deeply offensive. It's as if it's suddenly okay to patronise us. And now of course that we can do everything and be everything, it's perfectly okay to do away with benefits and let us die.

Last April a investigation by Penman and Sommerlad estimated "an average of 32 people  are dying each week despite them being ruled not sick enough in the medical test for the new incapacity benefit." More recently undercover Dr Steven Bick reporting on Channel 4’s Dispatches claimed the Government has issued targets for 7 out of 8 to be reclassified as eligible for work. The Daily Mirror reported, earlier this summer that "Atos boss Thierry Breton received a bonus of nearly £1million to help slash the benefits bill." Another report in the Guardian yesterday said that "the government have outsourced more than £3bn of public services to the firm."

It seems we are in a state of rapid change. Perhaps the dream of the the Disability Movement to challenge the charity model of disability has been more successful than perhaps we might have wanted. We're no longer the worthy cause that demanded tick-box recognition. It's hard to predict what's around the corner, but it seems some disabled people are fighting back.

And perhaps some of the messages from the Unlimited commissions will get through. For example Simon Mckeown's 'Motion Disabled Unlimited' animation is a graceful take on the ordinariness of the impaired body. Claire Cunningham charts her lifelong relationship with her crutches and its impact on her love life in 'Ménage à Trois'. Kaite O'Reilly's 'In Water I'm Weightless' gives a textured portrayal of individuals relationship to their impairments.

However, performance can be interpreted in many different ways so whether or not the disability messages of challenging preconceptions about who and what is 'normal' get through, remains to be seen in how the press cover the events.

However entertaining a spectacle Jenny Sealey and Bradley Hemmings pull off for the opening ceremony tonight - in my mind nothing could beat Katherine Araniello's spoof on the Channel 4 Paralympics 'Superhuman' advert. Ready to do battle with fags and chocky cake, Katherine performs the amazing feat of balancing an imitation bar-bell on her finger, in the form of a cotton bud.

We can't match up to the aesthetics of the Paralympians however much we might try. Or kill ourselves trying...
The opening ceremony is being televised tonight on Channel 4 at 8pm

Keywords: comedy,cultural olympiad,disability art,disability arts festival


Victoria Wright

29 August 2012

Bloody love it, especially the bit where she's having a fag!!

Joe McConnell

30 August 2012

Thank you so much for writing this. I love the sport and spectacle around the Paralympics and also some of the Cultural Olympiad stuff even though the title always makes me thing of Munich '36. But we need to see more artists like Katherine whose work uncompromisingly engages with the reality faced by many disabled people in Britain today who are being forced against the wall by the new Atos state and whose lives are light years removed from a lot of the glitzy swishing about being trawled out at the minute by artists who seem oblivious to the collective aspect of disability.

Katherine Araniello

30 August 2012

Thank you for your positive comments – Much appreciated – feedback is so important.

Katherine Araniello

30 August 2012

Fantastic comments and feedback – thank you so much.

Deborah Caulfield

30 August 2012

I hate the opening sequence of C4's paralympic programmes. Too loud and aggressive. And the way they are individualising it all...

Katherine's film is very funny and therefore a much needed antidote to the hype and, in the case of Jon Snow, drippiness.

I am actually enjoying some of the sporting action, when it doesn't go on for too long. But I agree with Liz Carr when she said that afterwards we'll see a large gap emerging between the 'good' crips and the 'bad' ones.

All this 'interest' in disabled people ... the fascination with impairment. It can't be good. Let's hope it doesn't last.

Katherine, keep doing what you're doing, telling it like it is, with intelligence, imagination, creativity and humour.

kristina veasey

1 September 2012

Love it!

Sophie P.

12 September 2012

Finally got `round 2 reading this!

Lots of tiara-luv & giggles,

;-) x