Tonight’s opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games will provide a “world stage” on which to communicate the importance of disability rights, according to one of its two disabled artistic directors.
Jenny Sealey was speaking hours before the opening ceremony was due to begin, after being asked about the controversial involvement of the company Atos in the London 2012 Paralympics.
She told journalists that boycotting the event because of Atos – a London 2012 sponsor and the subject of protests this week by disabled activists over its role in carrying out “fitness for work” tests for the government – would mean that the disability movement “would just fade away and people would forget about us all over again”.
Sealey, who is also artistic director of the disabled-led theatre company Graeae, added: “So the Paras, and all of our artists’ involvement in tonight, is monumentally important to remind people that we are here, we have rights. We have a world stage to communicate those rights.
“I’m not saying we could change Atos but to go about this with real political and emotional integrity, I think doing this is really important.”
She revealed that the ceremony would begin with an appearance from Professor Stephen Hawking, who she described as “the most famous disabled person alive in the world”.
And she said it would offer “the most exquisite journey of discovery” and would be inspired by “the wonder of science”.
Sealey said that she and Bradley Hemmings – her fellow artistic director, who is curator and producer of Liberty, London’s annual disability arts festival – had a “very prudent” budget.
She said: “Bradley and I are both theatre makers and work for very well-funded companies, but to be given a world stage like this, and more money than we have ever had, we have been incredibly resourceful with what we have had.”
Sealey, who is Deaf, also said that if the budget for the opening ceremony had been “very inflated” she would have felt “very uncomfortable knowing what is happening with cuts around Deaf and disabled people”.
29 August 2012