The appointment of two disabled artists to direct next year’s opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics creates a “fantastic opportunity” to showcase disability arts on a world stage, say fellow artists.
Disabled artists said the choice of Jenny Sealey – artistic director of the disabled-led theatre company Graeae – should provide “amazing opportunities” for disabled performers.
The appointment of Bradley Hemmings – less well-known but still an influential figure in the disability arts world – as the second artistic director for the opening ceremony has also been welcomed.
Hemmings is director of the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF) – a critically-acclaimed outdoor dance and theatre festival – and also curates and produces Liberty, London’s annual disability arts festival.
Sealey described her appointment as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work collaboratively with leading Deaf, disabled and non-disabled artists to create a unique, unforgettable spectacle to be enjoyed by millions across the globe”.
The disabled film-maker Liz Crow said Sealey was “an excellent choice”, and added: “She has spent years honing Graeae and refining what it does.
“To move some of that onto this bigger platform – the potential is huge. I think it is fantastic news and an incredible opportunity for Jenny.
“My hope is that within the Paralympic opening ceremony there will be a potential for a real showcasing of disability arts.”
Allan Sutherland, the disabled writer and performance poet, said Sealey had a “strong record of putting accessibility on stage”.
He said: “I think that could lead to some very interesting artistic choices because her work has been very much about including accessibility within the show and not just having a performance and an interpreter over there [at the side].”
Sutherland said that introducing that kind of visual accessibility into such a large performance space as the Olympic Stadium was “unexplored territory”.
He added: “It could make for a ceremony that really sets the rules for future ceremonies, that recalibrates what is expected and has to be delivered. That would be brilliant.”
Ruth Gould, chief executive of DaDaFest, said she admired the work of both Sealey and Hemmings, who would make “a good team”.
This week, she watched Sealey’s production of The Iron Man at GDIF, which she said was “very clever”.
Gould said: “How many times have disabled creators of any shape had this kind of opportunity?
“There will be amazing opportunities for disabled performers – that cannot be underestimated.”
She said Hemmings was “used to working on big events”, including GDIF, where access was “just brilliant” and which features many disabled artists.
The actor and broadcaster Mik Scarlet, who has worked with Sealey at Graeae, said her work over the last few years had been “incredible”, while GDAF had featured “superb” work by disabled artists.
Lord [Sebastian] Coe, who chairs the 2012 organising committee LOCOG, said Sealey and Hemmings were “the perfect team to lead the artistic direction of the opening ceremony”.
He said: “Both are directors with great experience of creating brilliant live shows and events together. They are respected in the arts world for bringing disabled and non-disabled performers together to create spectacular shows.”
Stephen Daldry, the Oscar-nominated film director, who is an executive producer of the four 2012 opening and closing ceremonies, said Sealey and Hemmings had been the “obvious choices”.
He said their “experience primarily as extraordinary artists who have led innovative work with disabled and non-disabled artists means we can look forward to a ceremony of spectacle and emotion”.
30 June 2011