Murals paint colourful pictures of hopes and barriers


Colourful public murals that show disabled people’s hopes and joys, as well as the continuing barriers they face in their lives, are being unveiled across the country.

Murals have already been “opened” in public spaces in Norwich, and Frome in Somerset, while another in Bristol is to be unveiled this month, with a fourth in London due this summer.

The Big Lottery-funded project has been run by the UK Disabled People’s Council, working in partnership with the University of East Anglia.

Disabled researchers have worked with local disabled people to discover their “aspirations, priorities, and anything that stands in the way of achieving them”.

Participants put these thoughts into drawings, clay models or photographs, and then work with professional mural artist Andrew Bolton to turn their messages into public art which is installed in a prominent local site.

In Frome, the project worked with people with learning difficulties, and in Norwich with former members of the armed services, parents, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender disabled people.

The first mural was officially “opened” in Victoria Park, Frome, last July. It illustrates people’s hopes, such as becoming a bus driver, performing on stage and having a family, and problems such as a lack of accessible toilets, and the difficulty of finding a job because of the benefits trap and the lack of transport.

The second mural, on the walls of a cafe in Chapelfield Gardens in the centre of Norwich, shows the participants’ enjoyment of life, the importance of support in living their lives, and the need to celebrate difference.

But it also shows a darker side to their lives, such as the shortage of services, the challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the lack of human rights in the mental health system.

The Norwich mural was opened last October, the day before disabled people in the city took part in a rally in Chapelfield Gardens as part of the national Hardest Hit protests against cuts to disability benefits and services.

The murals are intended to be “attractive, catching the attention of passers-by, and to act as a form of billboard” to promote their messages, while aiming “to make a difference”.

9 February 2012


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