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Disability Arts Online

Arts Council cuts / 8 January 2008

Digital image by Colin Hambrook

Digital image by Colin Hambrook

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Well the New Year came in with some devastating news in terms of Arts Council funding. It appears that 194 arts organisations who are currently funded by Arts Council are being cut. Of the few disabled-led art organisations in existence, two are to be axed this coming April, both the National Disability Arts Forum (NDAF) and the London Disability Arts Forum (LDAF).

The importance and relevance of disabled-led work cannot be under-estimated, both in terms of culture and equality of opportunity at a grassroots level. The London Disability Arts Forum (LDAF) has been at the forefront of promoting disability arts and supporting the work of disabled artists since its inception in 1986. This work has been key to the task of challenging perceptions of disability and combating stereotypes which have been handed down since time immemorial.

Without the experience, knowledge and understanding of disability-led organisations like LDAF, our understanding of disability arts is under threat to a very much watered down cultural vision of what it means to be disabled in the 21st Century.

The absence of LDAFs role in London’s Liberty Festival will mean that there will be a dearth of expertise in developing festivals like this with an in-depth knowledge of access and direct contact with established and up-and-coming disabled artists.

The newly formatted ‘Arts Disability Culture’ magazine is more professional in look and punchy in feel than any of its previous incarnations. I say this from experience as editor of ADC’s predecessor DAIL Magazine from 1994-2000.

On a personal note, without the existence of LDAF, it is unlikely that I would have come to a real understanding of disability arts as an artform with a powerful remit to challenge existing stereotypes and prejudices - one that stands up as a reflection of cultural difference from a perspective society has never had to face before historically. Without LDAF it is also unlikely that I would have found myself amongst a community of disabled people with whom I felt I could share my own difference as someone who had spent a life in fear. LDAF gave me the opportunity to develop skills in journalism and arts development. In short LDAF gave me a future. How many disabled people will be disallowed opportunities to realise their potential without the continuation of organisations like LDAF?