Working with Deaf and disabled Artists

22 August 2012

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Rachel GadsdenRachel Gadsden

Flame - Rachel Gadsden

The Cultural Olympiad in the South East has focussed on organisational and sector development.  We wanted the region to be recognised and celebrated for developed specialisms but to take these sectors even further through creating opportunities for new partnerships and more ambitious practice.  We particular focussed our programme on working with outdoor arts, sports heritage, the University sector and Deaf and disabled artists.  The latter being especially pertinent as the South East is home to Stoke Mandeville, Birthplace of the Paralympic Movement.

A consequence of our efforts is a huge range of projects being delivered this summer led by Deaf and disabled artists in film, dance, visual arts, street arts, carnival, digital arts, installation and music.  Alongside this is a range of archive, museum and heritage programmes which have either told disable people’s stories for the first time (including the first website telling the Stoke Mandeville story), got large numbers disabled audiences to heritage sites for HOD the first time or integrated museum collections for the first time. This work has been significantly supported by Arts Council England, our Legacy Trust UK programme Accentuate and through a range of access programmes and training sessions led by Tourism South East. A leadership programme, Sync, has supported all work with a CPD development framework for participating artists

Our methodology has focussed on giving artists and participants the time to develop projects over a matter of years rather than the more usual months. Throughout the project lifetime they have been supported and mentored.  The broader regional 2012 team have acted as advocates and consequently the work has been linked in across a range of partners with no previous experience of working with disabled artists.   This has ensured an authentic disabled voice has come through the work, has built confidence and leadership skills, has led to new partnerships across the region, has embedded disabled led arts practice is universities and made working accessibly the new norm for many non-disabled led organisations.


Blue Touch Paper Carnival - Paul Ackerley


A number of these projects are still to take place. Next week we see the Paralympic Flame Festival in the region, celebrations will take place on Aug 25 in Horsham led by Blue Touch Paper Carnival,, a new disabled led carnival project based in West Sussex and supported by the New Carnival Company on the Isle of Wight.  It is developing a creative exchange with Rio’s leading disabled carnival group Embaixadores da Alegria and is designed to be the most accessible, inclusive, integrated and friendly Carnival experience the world has ever seen. On Aug 28 there will be a whole day of activity in Aylesbury Town Centre including StopGAP Dance Company’s ‘Spun Productions’ a new outdoor dance performance that is full of subverted reality and absurd humour; a new commission performed by Rachel Gadsden and young disabled dancers from Candoco; screenings of a virtual global Paralympic Torch Relay made by 497 young people from around the world as part of Driving Inspiration; and the opening of the first ever Paralympic exhibition at Stoke Mandeville with ‘Pathway to the Paralympic Games’ (till Sept 16)  During the Paralympic Games we have artists taking part in both Liberty and the Unlimited festivals in London, ‘Gold Run’ at Dilston Grove and Jon Adam’s ‘Look About’ which maps cultural shift for Deaf and disabled artists in the region as a result of London 2012 will be on show at Kaleidoscope in Sevenoaks to coincide with the Paralympic Road Race at Brands Hatch .

Caterina Loriggio, Creative Programmer for London 2012

Dysarticulate at Kynance Cove - Jon Adams

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