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Deborah Caulfield's blog - disability arts online
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Disability Arts Online

Looking forwards, looking back. / 26 February 2012

Ian Stanton sings and plays guitar, with a BSL interpretor.

Ian Stanton, South Street Arts Centre, Reading, July 1996

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I have an excellent week ahead, gorging on art, including theatre, music and painting. It surely doesn't get better than this. I just hope I find time for meals.

On Tuesday 28th February I’m going to see1 Beach Road at South Street Arts Centre, Reading.

South Street holds a few memories for me; this one’s the best:

In 1996, as a keen and fearless community development worker, I organised a strangely controversial disability arts cabaret here.

The line-up was impressive for our little show. The late, great and supremely wonderful Ian Stanton headlined, superbly supported by Genie Cosmos with Fish Out of Water, and the gently challenging and truthful poet Peter Street.

100 people, nearly all disabled, crammed into the main hall. We had two BSL interpreters, and free food was provided.

Free transport brought people from all four corners of Berkshire, not without a few hiccups, including mislaid passengers and a few disgruntled late arrivals.

Incredibly, the cabaret almost didn’t happen.

My steering group, a majority of disabled people, was very nervous.  It was art, see. And fun.

A strong case against the event was mounted. Questions were raised.

Was it a good use of public money?

How would it impact on the design, planning and delivery of health and social care services?

Was this an appropriate or effective deployment of a user development worker? I certainly thought so!

I argued at the time that this was a good way to bring disabled people together, to empower them, to raise consciousness and expectations, and to help build a movement.

Fortunately, I had an enlightened CEO and the cabaret went ahead. Thanks Madeleine, wherever you are.

So the event wasn’t just accessible, it was subversive. It was social model without theory. It was empowerment without flipchart.

Don’t get me wrong. Although I love Disability Equality Training, both delivering and participating,  nothing hits the spot, or does the job, like having a good time together.

Of all the events I've organised since, I never quite managed to top this one.

 

Keywords: access issues,art,cabaret,consiousness raising,disability art,disability equality training,disabled people's movement,empowerment,genie cosmos,ian stanton,peter street,public money,social model,south street arts centre,user groups