London 2012: Festival cancelled after venue plunges into administration


A major international disability arts and human rights festival set to take place during the London 2012 Paralympics has had to be cancelled, after the venue where it was being staged was forced into administration.

The Together! 2012 festival had been due to include a conference on how the UN disability convention can be used to promote access to art, culture and sport, as well as a feast of high quality disability arts, and was being led by the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC).

But the festival – and much of its programme – was called off this week when the London Pleasure Gardens venue in east London was forced to close, only weeks after it opened.

Some of the Together! 2012 programme has been rescued.

UKDPC’s offices in Stratford, a short walk from the Olympic Park, will host an “open house” event throughout the Paralympics, which will include some performances, although details have yet to be finalised.

And a Together! exhibition of work by local disabled artists, at the People’s Gallery and Museum of Newham, will still go ahead, from 3 to 8 September.

Other events are being rescheduled to take place during Disability History Month later this year, including some exhibitions, the conference on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a disability film festival, and poetry and film workshops.

Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair, said the organisation was “sad” to announce the cancellation, and added: “Together! has attracted a huge amount of support from across the disabled world, and has been embraced by disabled people who wanted to come together to celebrate disability sport and art as well as to raise awareness of disabled people’s lives in all our rich diversity.”

Together!’s organisers have already criticised the Arts Council and LOCOG, the London 2012 organising committee, for failing to provide financial backing for the festival, despite significant support from disabled people.

Both Arts Council England and LOCOG concentrated funding instead on the Unlimited series of 29 collaborations between disabled and mainstream artists, set to be showcased by the Southbank Centre in central London during the Paralympics.

Because of this lack of funding, Together! had already been forced to relocate from its original venue a short walk from West Ham station in east London, one of the “gateway” stations for the Olympic Park.

Organisers had hoped the festival would be a major boost for a disability arts sector in London that has been left decimated over the last few years, and provide a “springboard” for disability arts in east London.

9 August 2012

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