A one-day online festival is set to showcase some of the most exciting and influential disabled performers, artists and activists, challenge the erosion of disabled people’s rights, and point the way towards a more inclusive society.
The WILD Day In festival – on Saturday 11 July – hopes to provide an “escape and a safe space” for disabled people coping with lockdown.
In the long term, the World Independent Living Day (WILD) initiative hopes to fuel the transformation to a more inclusive society, with independent living at its heart.
The new event will mix the cultural and the political, and hopes to expose younger disabled people to new ideas about the independent living and disabled people’s movements and the push for a new National Independent Living Service.
High-profile disabled performers have already agreed to perform on the day, including Jon McClure, from the band Reverend and the Makers; comedian Rosie Jones; blind skateboarder Dan Mancina; and punk poet and author Penny Pepper.
McClure said: “I’m very proud to support WILD and any moves to provide a fully inclusive world for all disabled people.”
Others who have signed up include rapper and spoken word artist Georgie Stephanou, otherwise known as Potent Whisper; wheelchair motocross world champion Lily Rice, who featured in a BBC documentary about her exploits last night (pictured); All Abilities Martial Art, an inclusive martial arts and self-defence programme; the Project Impactive initiative at University College London, which is – among other projects – trying to design gaming controllers that can be operated with one hand; and Alex Walls, who runs an online computer game streaming channel.
Stephanou said: “It has never been more important for us all to take action – in whatever way we can – to oppose the violence of austerity and support those who are most affected by it.”
There will also be discussions, interviews and pre-recorded filmed segments; the screening of short films, including some that featured in last year’s Together! Disability Film Festival; and films of historic past protests by the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN).
Accessibility will be boosted by a new online platform designed for WILD Day In by Studio Hyte, building on technology that has enabled disabled people to participate remotely in anti-austerity protests.
The WILD Tool will allow disabled people to interact with performers during the afternoon, with the hope that those interactions will spark further events and activities.
The festival, which will feature British Sign Language interpreters and live subtitles, had been planned by founder Andy Greene to take place in central London on 5 May but had to be reimagined as an online festival because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Greene, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), which has contributed funding towards the event, said the idea had come from the need for “something different” after 10 years in which DPAC had “held the line” against the government’s regime of austerity, and a shattering general election result in December which appeared to pave the way for further years of austerity.
He hopes the festival will attract younger disabled people and expose them to some of the politics and history of the disability movement, and “regenerate” enthusiasm for the movement and a vibrant disability culture.
He said: “Hopefully, we will have kicked off something that will, a year down the line, have a bit of rolling momentum, with lots of people around the country doing interesting stuff.
“I know there is lots of interesting, sexy, buzzy stuff going on and I think that can be a vehicle for developing a sense of agency and collectivism.”
He said that DPAC and its series of direct action protests over the last decade have had a “massive impact and will continue to play that role”, but that it was also important to seek other tools and forms of activism and ways to involve disabled people in the movement.
Greene said: “You cannot have an inclusive society without a strong disability community.
“You cannot have a strong community without having a vibrant culture.
“Together we will build this vibrant culture by carrying on the spirit of the independent living movement and highlighting the contributions of the people who make up the movement’s past, present, and future.
“As we have learnt from history, independent living is the only way to ensure that we thrive as individuals.
“When we learn from each other and from our history, disabled people become central in defining our place in society.”
*The festival on Saturday 11 July will run from 3pm to 6pm and will be available on www.wildaboutculture.com
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