Friends of the disability rights campaigner David Morris are to pay tribute to his life and work at next month’s Liberty disability arts festival.
Morris – who died in April – was a leading figure in Liberty’s development and this year’s festival – the eighth – will be dedicated to his memory.
But disabled artists Ju Gosling and Katherine Araniello are also organising a tribute to Morris’s creative and cultural legacy through their Red Jesus chill-out tent at the festival in Trafalgar Square.
Red Jesus was the name Morris gave to a cultural “salon” he hosted in his apartment in Limehouse, east London at which disabled friends showed their films and recited their poetry, as well as socialising and eating good food in an accessible environment.
Gosling and Araniello will be showing several of Morris’s films, including the first four showings of Together!, a short film for the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council he had nearly finished when he died.
There will also be portraits of disabled people by the artist Silvia Jahnsons that were commissioned by Morris for his film, open mic sessions and an exhibition on Morris’s life and work.
Gosling and Araniello are now setting up a Red Jesus social enterprise that will continue Morris’s work, with several events a year in which disabled people will be able to meet, socialise and share their creative work.
Gosling said: “We were just very, very keen to carry on David’s work in the way that he would have wanted it to be carried on, and continue with his projects.
“It was very important to him to encourage disabled people’s creativity and to create a space where disabled people could come together, meet each other, network, relax and socialise in an atmosphere where everybody was equal and it didn’t matter who you were.”
Liberty’s Red Jesus tent is being sponsored by Disability LIB, which focuses on building the capacity of disabled people’s organisations and is supporting Gosling and Araniello to set up Red Jesus.
Stephen Hodgkins, director of Disability LIB, said Morris was a “renaissance man” and the Red Jesus Liberty event would be a “lovely tribute” to him.
As well as featuring the cream of disability arts talent, this year’s Liberty will celebrate disability sport, with two years to go until London hosts the 2012 Paralympic Games.
The worlds of art and sport will be brought together by contemporary artist Rachel Gadsden, who will capture the action on life-size canvases as athletes from wheelchair sports charity WheelPower play wheelchair basketball and tennis.
Other festival highlights include a preview of Graeae’s new musical Reasons to be Cheerful, which features the songs of the late Ian Dury.
Another new Graeae production will feature the powered wheelchair dancing troupe Rhinestone Rollers, with a “witty insight into dance through the ages”, while bhangra legend Kuljit Bhamra will lead a street theatre performance inspired by Chutney, the popular music style of the Indian community in Trinidad.
Live music performances will include Yunioshi, singer Lizzie Emeh – with songs from her new album Loud and Proud – and The Fish Police, while the line-up in the cabaret and comedy tent includes Mackenzie Taylor, Francesca Martinez, Steve Day and Liz Carr, and poets from CoolTan Arts.
There will also be an aerial performance featuring Amici Dance Theatre and Cirque Nova, and an aerial collaboration between Candoco and Scarabeus Theatre inspired by the myth of the minotaur.
Liberty 2010 is at Trafalgar Square, London, on Saturday 4 September, from 1pm to 5pm. Entrance is free. More information and access details at: www.london.gov.uk/liberty
18 August 2010