This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

> > > Leadership Lounge

21 September 2009

Jo Verrent attended an event at Manchester Town Hall on 17 September that discussed leadership issues amongst disabled people

three people on stage in a panel discussion By Jon Pratty/dao

David Bryan, right, chaired Kathryn Duncan, middle, and Christine Bruno in the discussion. Photo: Jon Pratty/dao

Image: By Jon Pratty/dao

Decibel isn’t just about performances, it’s also about encouraging debate. Leadership Lounge was an opportunity for, as the chair David Bryan put it, a warm and friendly discussion between the speakers, that could open out to include the audience.

So who was ‘in discussion’? Both speakers were disabled women – from Australia, Kathryn Duncan and from America, Christine Bruno.

Both spoke passionately about their own experiences – Kathryn as a self-styled ‘freak’, artist, provocateur and academic and Christine as a performer, director and Disability Advocate within the cut-throat world of casting for American TV and film.

Both had different perspectives – of fitting in, of their acceptance and delight in difference, their take on ‘mainstream’ and disability arts – but also much common ground. It wasn’t really clear if their differences were directly related to the differences within America and Australia or if they were part of their distinct personalities.

They were both warm, charismatic and certainly much-needed role models. The topics that emerged were varied: Is the term ‘Disability Arts’ a help or a hindrance? Why doesn’t Gordon Brown embrace his disabled identity?

Does labeling yourself ‘disabled’ mean people don’t take you seriously? Like so many debates though, it only seemed to wrestle with its principal focus – leadership and its relationship to disability – at the end, when time was short.

Perhaps we need to stop ‘lounging’ around (forgive the pun!) and really start to get to grips with the conflicts that some people have around leadership and disability.

One of the last questions asked by the audience was whether the experience of impairment meant that one becomes a different sort of leader. Now I think this is a fascinating question. It would be great if this could come at the start of a debate and not the end.

More about decibel

You can also visit Sync Leadership - a project funded by the Cultural Leadership Programme to examine the interface between leadership and disability.


Add a comment

Please leave your comments. They will display when submitted. DAO encourages critical feedback, but please be considerate. DAO reserves the right to edit or remove comments that don't comply with our editorial policy, which you can find on DAOs 'About' pages.

Your e-mail address will not be revealed to the public.
HTML is forbidden, but line-breaks will be retained.
This can be a URL of an image or a YouTube, MySpaceTV or a Flickr page (we'll handle the media embedding from there!)
This is to prevent automatic submissions.