Currently Paul is depressed ... The Aftermath of a Disability Film Festival in Wolverhampton / 23 April 2008
Well, another festival has passed and, as is often the case, disabled people have let it pass without bothering to attend. Yes, audiences were low for a significant part of it. We had some good bits: the Friday night screening of the new Justin Edgar feature Special People was full and quite a few attended the first of our archive screenings of disability. But Saturday: the main day in my view, with its Installation Piece, selection of shorts, followed by a dance and disability selection and concluding with another (exceptional) archive of disability was quite poorly attended. Most of the audience came from Farnham in Surrey, Middlesbrough, Stoke-on-Trent, York and Leicester: plus the legendary Phil Samphire from Manchester (well, he tells me he’s a legend). But few, very few indeed, came from Wolverhampton.
If the marketing reached those outer limits of the centre of the UK – the Midlands – then it could not have been the marketing. I do not believe it was the marketing for a minute: we covered vast ground via e-mail, post, distribution and the disability networks. Not even the local disability groups came (who one might suspect of having a degree of politicisation) came to any of the Disability Film Festival of Wolverhampton: nor did any one from any of the professionals who work in disability in Wolverhampton (those most in need of a shock to their cosy order following oppressive behaviour). One is left with only one possible conclusion: the chose specifically not to come.
I understand why many disabled people do not come to disability events (across the UK, let alone in Wolverhampton): self hatred and the desire to deny their difference as they seek acceptance from those that oppress them (those who think they are normal). I understand why no one from the City Council of Wolverhampton came – not even their Disability Champion: my wife is standing as a Liberal Democrat in the Local elections and no self-respecting Labour councillor would be seen with a Lib Dem at an equalityesque event (they are that petty). What disappointed me – and it disappointed me greatly – was the lack of regional disability activists (there were some but very few). They will complain when it is not on again, or is more populist or shorter or impairment specific (as will almost definitely happen now): but what do you expect when partners give venues, funders give cash and volunteers give their time.
The most disappointing was the lack of visually impaired and Deaf visitors: we spent nearly £2,000 on sign language interpreters and audio description yet few turned up from a City that is known nationally as a centre of such impairments. When speaking to a few to inform them of it they claimed transport is an issue (and I accept that it is to a large degree) but do they have no friends who may want to go out with them to a free film with free food and free drink (obviously not). Given that Wolverhampton hosts the DeafFest – which is usually attended by Deaf people who are quite unwelcoming of disabled people (the whole politics crap is in full-play at such events) – I feel we should consider not having any sign at the next Festival (if it happens) as they are not worth the effort or the cost. Am I bitter: bet your arse I am! As one sign language interpreter said to me – who wasn’t doing any work for us: they want access, claim their not disabled but still take the Disability benefits at every turn. It was just nice to see someone even more bitter than me at the Festival!#
I am not innocent: the website – as Phil Samphire so kindly pointed out – could have been a little more accessible (not that it would have made any difference); and the venue more clearly sign posted within the city (but the you would have had to have been looking for it to notice that fact and few were). I do not anything else went wrong in getting people to the Festival – or should I say, letting them know it existed and was happening.
Does it matter: perhaps in the short term no – hopefully our funders will allow us another chance and another opportunity for people to see the quality of disabled filmmakers from across the UK and Europe and America? The quality of content was deemed by all who sailed in her to be of exceptional quality, variety and challenging at the same time (sometimes to the panelists assembled to discuss the screenings). But eventually bums on seats must matter as much as quality.
Disabled people are not good at attending disability events – for many understandable reasons – but until we do the institutionalisers will be bussed in to make up numbers and the institutionalisers like Leonard Cheshire will run and control disability as they do now. Let us not get to stage where we get what we deserve: we, society and civilisation deserve better than the crap mainstream oppressors such as Leonard Cheshire and the local authorities will force down our dependent throats. What can I say: get of your arse and go to a disability arts event now before it is too late.
I would like to thank all those that came to the festival from across the UK: Alison, Debbie, Harriet, Simon, Phil, Alan, Tanya and all our partners: ACE, ScreenWM and MACE, Script and our host partners Arena Theatre and Light House Media Centre and Cinema.
Please note that there will be a three weekend – four day – course in Screenwriting specifically for disabled people as a result of the work we have done in the festival and our support for Script and the assistance from ScreenWM. It will take place in June & July in the Midlands: spaces are available and if you want to do the course please email me now on firstname.lastname@example.org.
More ramblings of an fat biffy incontinent coming your way next month.