History walk offers quieter alternative for protesting voices


Disabled activists are organising an alternative and inclusive demonstration against government spending cuts, to run in parallel with the TUC’s major protest march later this month.

The “history walk” will give people with experience of mental distress and others who are uncomfortable with large crowds the opportunity to make their voices heard against the cuts.

The event is linked to the monthly guided cultural walk – the Largactyl Shuffle – organised by the user-led arts mental health charity CoolTan Arts and is being supported by Disability LIB.

As well as participants being able to learn about the history of disability rights, Disability LIB will keep them updated on the main march, while events on the walk will be recorded as they happen.

Kathrin Kirrmann, CoolTan’s communications officer, said: “A lot of people with disability do not want to go onto big marches, they are afraid of big crowds and any trouble that happens on big demos.

“It will give people the opportunity to get involved and make their voices heard and share their thoughts and ideas in a safer space.”

She said many mental health service-users were worried about the cuts and whether they would be able to continue to access services, with CoolTan itself facing threats to funding it receives from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

The walk will be led by two disabled activists, CoolTan’s chief executive, Michelle Baharier, and Ari Henry.

It will finish at the Imperial War Museum, which in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was part of Bethlem Royal Hospital, then a notorious mental health facility.

The walk’s organisers are also looking for contributors to share their stories and talk about the history of disability rights, and the potential dangers of the spending cuts.

The walk starts at noon on Saturday 26 March at CoolTan Arts, Unit B, 237 Walworth Road, London SE17 1RL.

8 March 2011