A leading Deaf arts festival director has been recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours after years of work that have seen her develop relationships with disabled artists from across the world.
Ruth Gould (pictured), artistic director of Liverpool-based DaDaFest, has been recognised with an MBE for services to disability arts.
Her work with DaDaFest over the last 15 years has provided a platform for Deaf and disabled artists to appear in what is now the biennial DaDaFest International festival.
She said she was “honoured to be acknowledged with an MBE, for doing the work I value and feel immensely proud and passionate about”, and she paid tribute to the people who have been “part of the disability and deaf arts story”.
She said: “I especially want to honour the many artists and activists who are no longer with us, to remember their work and the impact they had to change lives through the lived experience of disability.”
Jane Cordell, DaDaFest’s chair, said Gould was a “global phenomenon” and had “helped gain national and international recognition of how quality deaf and disability arts can change perceptions and lives, and challenge social injustice”.
Gould said she hoped the publicity surrounding the MBE would “help raise our profile and make people take note of our work”.
She said she believed it particularly recognised the festival’s recent growth, with the last DaDaFest in 2014 attracting more than 800,000 visitors, while there was also an exhibition in the US, and DaDaFest was now hoping to develop festivals next year in the Indian cities of Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata.
She has previously been critical of government cuts and reforms that have impacted on disabled people, but she said she had never considered turning down the MBE because it was an acknowledgement that disabled people are in roles where they can “lead and develop work”.
She said: “Whilst I oppose the government’s track record of hitting those who are already the hardest hit, I will not stop saying what I feel as we live in a country which always allows freedom of speech.
“We must have the right to campaign and critique and this award may give me more scope to say how I view things.”
In all, 1,149 people received awards in the birthday honours, including 477 receiving MBEs and 215 handed OBEs, and 5.5 per cent of them saying they considered themselves to be disabled people.
Dr Peter Ingram-Monk, who receives an OBE for services to disabled people in Dumfries and Galloway, said he was “very pleased indeed” with the award.
The voluntary work began after he retired in 1999, after a working life that had seen him running five companies that manufactured construction equipment, despite the pessimistic predictions of the surgeon who treated him in 1947 after he contracted polio as a teenager.
He moved to Scotland with his wife after his retirement, but eventually became involved with about 20 different disability organisations and ended up working seven days a week.
He said: “It wasn’t my style to stay at home and do nothing.
“I knew there was an organisation for disabled people in the area so I phoned up the chair and told her that I had been in business for 50 years, and she arrived on the doorstep the next day. I never looked back.”
He was awarded a doctorate by Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh for his work designing and helping to implement a new course – mainly aimed at disabled people – on access and inclusive design.
Ingram-Monk has now retired from all his voluntary positions except for chairing the Dumfries and Galloway accessible transport forum and the Dumfries and Galloway disability access panel.
He said: “Things have improved for disabled people, but there is a long way to go.
“There is much more to do, but I think I have made a contribution.”
Another recipient of an MBE was Paralympic sitting volleyball star Martine Wiltshire (formerly Wright), who receives the award for services to sport.
She suffered traumatic and life-changing injuries in the 7 July bombings in London in 2005, but later went on to become a successful public speaker and has earned more than 60 caps for the Great Britain sitting volleyball team, appearing in the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
She said: “I am absolutely honoured to accept this award. I am a product of the power of sport, which has positively impacted not only my life but also those of many others across our nation.
“This is an award that recognises the contribution of volunteers, coaches and officials and those behind the scenes that help to put the ‘great’ into Britain.”
Another recipient of an MBE was Christian Raphael, who receives an MBE for services to people with complex and severe disabilities in the east of England.
He is a founding member of the Cambridge High Support Needs Committee, helping people with learning difficulties in his area to discuss the issues that affect them.
He has also campaigned on issues such as Changing Places toilets, and improving hospital services, and has spoken at conferences and workshops, as well as working as a disability consultant.
Also recognised with an MBE is journalist Melanie Reid, who became disabled after a horse-riding accident, and has since built a large following with her weekly Spinal Column in The Times.