Colin Hambrook wishes the good ship dao and all who sail in her a Happy New Year! / 29 December 2009
2009 was a year of extreme highs on the dao front and lows in terms of dealing with personal impairment issues. Big thanks to all our writers and bloggers for helping us bring disability arts online alive - and to Jon Pratty for taking over the reins.
Crippen's irrepressible humour has kept us entertained all year. I think his Old Farts cartoon probably has to be the one that sums up the challenges ahead for 2010.
We've been secluded in our disability arts tower for years now. The signs are on the wall that the disability arts scene will disappear, unless we change and adapt our approach; finding ways of reaching out and opening opportunities for younger disabled people - or just disabled people who don't necessarily identify with the old rhetoric of the social model.
When we finally published our first big commission in August 2009, I was incredibly proud of Allan Sutherland and Nancy Willis' pieces of work 'Explorer' and 'Transformation' Nancy's digital media piece was made in response to Allan's poems.
There is a lot of depth and soul to both works. They give a naked insight into disabled peoples' experience, from a place of strength. A big depth of gratitude goes out to Joe McConnell, without whom this work wouldn't have come to fruition.
I look forward to publishing more sets of Allan's transcription poems in 2010. They are a unique, creative way of documenting disabled peoples' oral histories.
Another biggie of 2009, was Liz Crows' seminal live performance on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square. It was a much-needed statement about the lack of equality for disabled people at a time when disability is getting less recognised as a form of oppression.
Alison Wilde joined us towards the end of the year with some great film and tv reviews. I felt a real sense of disability pride on publishing Alison's brilliant summing up of the uniqueness of Cast Offs.
I loved interviewing one of the disabled writers of the show - Jack Thorne. In terms of disability broadcasting for the mainstream, Cast Offs set a new standard - showing disabled people living real lives. As a family of cousins, we don't necessarily do the pc-thing in relation to each other. Cast Offs stripped off some of the layers of worthiness and gave us permission to laugh at ourselves.
The Ian Dury bio-pic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll will be released on 8 January 2010. With reference to Cast Offs it will be interesting to see the reaction from the media of putting non-disabled actor Andy Serkis in the lead role. In the wake of Cast Offs there is no excuse for Cripping-up any longer. The disability arts world has proven professional talent.
Who would you have liked to have seen playing Ian Dury? For my money I think Daryl Beaton - who did such a fantastic job in Graeae's Against the Tide - would have given the lead role a brilliant sense of authenticity.
Other personal highlights of my year were Russell Jones' paintings. This artists' work felt like the kind of painting I would be making if I weren't spending most of my working time on dao. I feel those tree of life narratives in my bones. The connection with nature in all its fragility and beauty, that Russ brings alive, have a resonance I can truly relate to.
I am also very grateful to Cate Jacobs whose poetry collection 'Climbing Mountains in the Dark' I reviewed. Her narrative about living and surviving with AIDs, brought home to me the importance of writing poetry for survival.
Another highlight was David Feinberg's fantastic gallery of images describing his experience of life with bipolar disorder, seizure disorder and ADHD. His surreal, disturbing images sum up how you can use impairment to give your life meaning and purpose, despite the discrimination.
My big highlight of 2009 was a trip to Australia where I met some of the leading disability arts practioners from down under. Gaelle Mellis of Restless Dance company, made my trip a real pleasure, introducing me to the disability arts scene in Melbourne and Adelaide.
I really enjoyed attending the Art of Difference Festival in Melbourne. I got to know the work of Back to Back Theatre, Restless Dance Company and No Strings Attached, as well as that of a myriad of fantastic artists and performers.
It was a whirlwind experience. It gave a chance to see the work of UK disabled artists Liz Carr and Tom Shakespeare in a completely new setting. Liz was on fire. One of her quips summed it up: "Last year I performed in the Furnace in Liverpool; now I'm in the Gasworks in Melbourne. It's getting to become a bit of a theme."
The two of them teamed up with New York actress Christine Bruno - to outrage the Melbourne audience with an impromptu version of the famous ouch! podcast disability game show - 'Vegetable, vegetable or vegetable!' Maybe Damen Rose at Ouch! will send it international in 2010.
There are too many people to thank everyone individually for turning dao into the vibrant publication it has become. But I want to wish everyone the best for 2010.
Happy New Year!