This year’s DaDaFest – the world’s largest disability and Deaf arts festival – is set to attract talent from across the world to Liverpool later this month.
Among the highlights of the annual festival are Beyond Sight, an exhibition of photography by visually-impaired people from India, and a performance and workshop by Krip Hop Nation, an international collective of disabled hip hop artists.
This will be the second time DaDaFest has had an international flavour – the first was in 2008 – a development that is set to continue, with a smaller, UK-focused festival in alternate years.
Ruth Gould, the festival’s chief executive, said its growing success and reputation meant that other countries – such as South Africa, India and Sri Lanka – were now interested in importing the DaDaFest concept.
In 2012, Gould is hoping part of the festival will take place in the two August weeks between the London Olympics and Paralympics, with the second part of the festival coinciding as usual with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December.
She also hopes DaDaFest will link up with the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and that venues across the country, including those in London, will programme Deaf and disabled artists from DaDaFest during those two weeks.
She said: “We are having conversations with people to get that happening. Because of the quality of this year’s festival, those conversations are being taken seriously.”
There are even discussions taking place over DaDaFest artists appearing in Rio around the time of the 2016 Paralympics.
Gould said she also wants to build closer links between DaDaFest and London’s annual one-day disability arts festival, Liberty.
This year’s DaDaFest – the tenth – features nearly 80 different events, including dance, film, visual art, theatre, performance art, comedy, workshops and conferences.
The reach of last year’s festival was dramatically extended through the use of the BBC’s “Big Screens” in 21 public locations, which showed four short films by DaDaFest artists. This year, two more three-minute films will be shown on the screens across the UK.
Other highlights of this year’s festival include Hidden Herstories, which examines the life stories and experiences of 25 Merseyside disabled women using sound, film, photographs and documents.
There is political comedy from Laurence Clark, based on a journey across America and the UK, investigating health inequalities, right-to-life issues and American misconceptions of the UK health and social care system.
And Objects of Curiosity and Desire features work “exploring the human body, its quirks, questions and endless fascinations” by Ju Gosling aka ju90, Simon Mckeown, Tanya Raabe, Tom Shakespeare and Yinka Shonibare.
Mat Fraser stars in a “comic cabaret of striptease, freak show and subversive song” with performance artist Julie Atlas Muz, while disabled actor and writer Nabil Shaban will have his portrait painted live by Tanya Raabe.
Although DaDaFest’s immediate future seems secure, Gould raised fears that the government’s brutal programme of spending cuts could have a negative impact on the work of disabled artists, and the ability of disabled audiences to access art.
Those disabled artists with higher support needs could find their ability to work affected by the cuts, she said. “Some people need signers or PAs. I am worried that that is going to be affected.”
DaDaFest was about “making the lives of disabled people more visible” and “changing mind sets around disability”, including within the media, so she said she was “very excited” that art critics and the national press were now starting to take the work shown at DaDaFest seriously.
“This is not just arts by disabled people, it is art being created by artists who happen to be disabled people or Deaf people and have something to say.
“The conversations are moving away from talking about disability, they are talking about the art. It gives credibility for the artists and their work.”
DaDaFest takes place in venues across Liverpool, from 18 November to 3 December. For more information, visit: www.dadafest2010.co.uk
3 November 2010