Disability Awareness Week 2018: Disability in the Arts

Elena Trayanova comments on disability in the arts in the light of Newcastle's Disability Awareness Week.

Elena Trayanova
8th February 2018

Over the years, disabilities in the Arts have not been paid enough attention to or received a lot of support. It is not only creators that feel neglected but viewers and audiences go through the same experiences. They do not feel that arts have been as accessible as they should be and it is about time for things to start changing. Despite the fact that a week is not nearly enough time for raising awareness to have quite the desired effects, it can still be good grounds for drawing the attention to artists who raise awareness on a daily basis.

One such artist is the Canadian spoken word poet and author Shane Koyczan. As an individual he has always been very open about his issues with health, he has kept his followers up to date and has made them part of his experiences. As an artist, his topics have been quite concentrated on relatable real-life experiences. Even though his most popular work centres overcoming a past of being bullied, the majority of the rest of his poems concentrate on disabilities in relation to both physical and mental health. He writes a lot about anxiety and depression, eating disorders and even about living with cancer. The special thing about him is how eloquently he describes certain emotions that feel indescribable. He has the ability to dig very deep into uncomfortable subjects and bring them to the surface, make them more relatable and accessible even for people who have never experienced such issues. My favourite poem of his is one called ‘The Crickets Have Arthritis’. The poem is told from the perspective of a person sharing a hospital room with a 9 year old child who has cancer. It is about life, death, miracles and believing in angels. It is about not losing hope despite any disabilities we have to live with.

Newcastle's Disability Awareness Week is from the 5th - 9th of February! 

Theatre Company Graeae is yet another example of a platform that gives voice to disabilities in the arts. They have openly spoken about the difficulties they face being in the Arts business because of lack of support and lack of awareness. They explore a very diverse range of genres from contemporary plays to musicals, through what they would describe as the “aesthetics of access”. Creating a more comfortable environment for both creators and audiences they give Arts a whole new meaning for disabled people. Graeae also provides a lot of exciting opportunities for deaf and disabled people to get included in the practice of arts by launching training initiatives and workshops. In this year’s Edinburgh Fringe their show Cosmic Scallies was made entirely physically accessible. There were even subtitles of the dialogue, included within the set of the play, which not only made every member of the audience feel included but it also contributed to the whole atmosphere and the idea of their play.

Despite the lack of complete support, people are still moving forward. We stand behind #DisabilityAwarenessWeek with hope that everyone will keep daring to create and more people will support them in it.

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