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> > > News: YOU can play a part in preserving the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive

14 June 2012

photograph of the shape of England, Wales and Scotland made out of disability aids such as crutches and wheelchairs

Great Britain from a Wheelchair by Tony Heaton

Joe Bidder, (Chair) and Hayley Davies, (Secretary), Sian Williams (Treasurer) of the NDACA management committee, need your support for the 'Last Avant Garde Project!'

Many of you will have followed the development of the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA). We (but also you, the artists, audiences, makers, writers, critics and participants) are now at a very exciting part of the journey in seeking to preserve past work, build on that and reach into the future, in terms of making years and years of artistic activity accessible for now and in the years to come.

The newly registered NDACA Community Interest Company (CIC) is establishing a dispersed archive with a number of key strategic partners, including disability arts organisations, museums and educational institutions. They are geographically spread to give as much physical access as possible to this unique collection. This will be combined with plans for a significant online digital presence to take NDACA worldwide.

We are on the brink of putting together a substantial application called 'The Last Avant Garde Project' to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). If successful, this will finance the first five years of development and operation.

For this bid, we need to demonstrate demand for maintaining and extending this archive and this is where we need your support.

It is vital that you respond to this request so that we can record this interest and help prove the need for this project.

Please help us by spending a few minutes to write a message of support. You could think about why you are interested in NDACA (as an artist, audience member, student, researcher, historian, curator, programmer, etc.) and perhaps consider how you will use the archive and its unique contents.

You might want to use materials for exhibition, use the archive for study, or you simply might want to show your friends and family evidence of the achievements of disabled artists. There will also be opportunity in the future to become a Friend of the archive which will bring you even closer to the work of NDACA.

We think this is a unique heritage opportunity – there is no other archive in the world dedicated to the work of disabled artists. If this important, growing archive and collection is not to be lost, it is essential that you show your support to enable us to carry on developing these plans.

Please write your message of support in the comments box below to say why you think this archive is needed and needs to be preserved.  Alternatively you can email NDACA CIC directly to:

If you want to tell other people online about the need for support for this project, you can email your friends, tell them on Facebook,  inform people via Twitter, etc.  by posting this link in your message: 

Thank you, in advance, for getting behind this unique project and helping to preserve a valuable and major aspect of disabled people's heritage. Be assured, we are working very hard to ensure that this archive is preserved and expanded.

To comment below to show your support, it's easy. Just fill in the fields below. No data is stored for mailing or other purposes. There's a code number to put in but that's just so we know you are real!


Maureen Oliver

22 July 2012

The archive is of paramount importance to me personally and to disabled artists and individuals as a community. It is vital that our achievements and experiences are not sidelined, ignored and forgotten.

Dr Simon Jenner

20 July 2012

Archiving is vital to arts organizations of long standing particularly in work that can’t be easily replicated and stored electronically. Either the work has yet to be so scanned to allow the originals to be reluctantly disposed of, or indeed converted from reel-to-reel as is also the case; or they’re original artwork that needs to survive alongside any digital version made. The same goes for videos of events.

Organizations that receive funding and public purchases have a duty too to preserve the strength, diversity and witness of such artistic endeavour. Particularly when works spans decades backwards to a time when electronic storage was by no means the norm, and encompassing much that cannot be so easily disposed – like art, music or indeed musical materials like scores – storage is imperative. At the least electronic storage needs funding to make our archives and thus the witness of cultural history viable. It would be a strange age that suddenly does away with or even erases its artifacts.

Disability Arts Online rely much on a diversity of media that aren’t always easy to store, and can’t be folded in a pc knapsack like a government martial’s baton. Much however can be served by electronic copy. Physical elements such as books, original artwork, certain musical material, and theatrical productions of all kinds need space if they’re not to be lost. Arts funding is an investment; part of that investment contract would ideally wish for the artists product to be preserved when reduced to its post-production status. This isn’t to festishize whole objects, but to perpetuate the inner workings and indeed final product of much that disability arts covers. And to allow much else to be stored electronically.

To give another concrete example: Survivors’ Poetry is another disability-led organization confronted by similar issues, and particularly now. SP now possesses over 20 years of archive material, written, printed and visual – and many reels of music and readings from the late P. J. Fahy and his hosting nights, dating through the late 1990s. With recent downsizing of office space, we’ve been confronted with the dilemmas axiomatically visited on scrunch-time. We’ve had to jettison meticulous folders of petty cash summaries and some of the minutiae of working. An archive of the endeavour of an organization receiving over £1M worth of funding over the years deserves to be chronicled in as efficient and virtual a manner as possible, and given storage for non-convertible objects. We’re also challenged with multiple copies of books, and a great deal of original material that ended in magazines, or the dossiers of the magazines themselves just before they went to press. There’s much of worth in all media and very little storage, which remains as our now halved office.

It’s imperative to realize that heritage starts with the now, with the work just completed, and not the ruin that will not even be the vestige of such work if suitable preservation isn’t forthcoming. And it’s funded work too, work deemed of excellence and permanent value.

Ann Young

20 July 2012

Without the disability archive, my life would be a world of black and white, a world where I had no home and no belonging. When I need other disabled people, it is often the archive that I turn to for wisdom and inspiration. So much of what I feel has already been said but what I really want funders and policy makers to understand is that our struggle, my struggle to negotiate life and to survive requires a strength that only we can imagine and communicate. Our hopes, our dreams, our fears and memories are in the archive and we need to not only keep it but allow it to grow because, as Mat Frazer reminded us, some years ago, "There will always be Disabled People!'

Denise Young

16 July 2012

Disability arts in the UK have played such an important role it is hard to think where to start describing just how important they are. Arts are critical in individuals exploring their own identity as disabled persons. They are fundamental in the creation of disability communities. They are used to change attitudes and open broader communities. They are critical for advocacy and bringing voices out of the darkness. Their history helps us to know where we have been and to determine where we still need to go. On an international level, the development of the Social Model, so critically entwined with the development of disability arts, must be preserved to share your amazing work with the world! Art is always at risk when governments with narrow vision are in power. Please do not let your most important art history fall prey to the vulgarities of this regime.

John Kelly

12 July 2012

this resourcce/collection is so important not just now, but our futures too. We gotta leave a proud footprint with our true narrative, it's our history, can't be forgotten and needs to be held to.

Natalie Meadows

7 July 2012

As a disabled woman this collection is a big part of my heritage, it treats disability as an immensely positive trait. My impairment is not subjected to simply being medicalised and pitied but something of value and celebration in society at large.

Colin Wolfe

28 June 2012

This is long overdue. This type of work will only grow more important with time; the demand and need is there!

Karina Cardona

28 June 2012

Disabled artists are an often overlooked minority whose work requires support and recognition. I wholly endorse the maintenance and expansion of this archive. As a community activist, I can use these works to help to communicate the struggles and joys of living with disability. As an artist, these works inspire my own creation. As a disability geography researcher, this archive represents an essential source of historical knowledge. I am proud to say that the Arts & Disability Network of Manitoba is beginning to make inroads in my community. Thank you for your efforts.

Erika Bockstael

27 June 2012

As a student, the NDACA is an important resource.

Nancy Hansen

26 June 2012

Virtual teaching resources are vital to the continued growth and development of Disability Studies world-wide.

Nancy E. Hansen, PhD

Director, Interdisciplinary Master's Program, Disability Studies

128 Education Building

University of Manitoba, Winnipeg,

Manitoba, Canada, R3T 2N2

Tel. (204)-474-6458 Fax. (204)-474-6676

Trish Wheatley

22 June 2012

To me, NDACA is vitally important. The preservation and articulation of an art movement that has been largely excluded by mainstream arts programming, criticism and history is essential. This cross-artform movement has a unique position in the history of the disabled peoples movement and has campaigned for disability rights whilst also recording the changes in society that this initiated. NDACA holds a collection of objects and materials that currently are at risk. They hold the key to plugging a huge gap in articulating and understanding the history of disabled people in the UK. At a time when many of the rights disabled people campaigned for are being undermined by cuts in funding, NDACA must be supported in order to make this archive safe and public so that people in the UK can access this unique aspect of their heritage.

Sarah Playforth

20 June 2012

The illustration for this site has resonance for me; we used it on the front cover of an access guide, one of 12, written for use in museums, libraries & archives. To be able to source materials is a way of spreading those important messages in political, social, historical contexts. Stories and images offer a powerful way of recording our history. As a deaf person, I value the work many people do to preserve Deaf history, the same care needs to be given to the recording of all Disability history.

Susan Quick, Artisitc Director, Enabling Radio Drama

18 June 2012

Disability Archive is a brilliant idea. Yes of course I agree why do we have to be separate? But as Dolly says we haven't had a voice historically. Giving us our voice will lead to recognition, acceptance and true equality.

Enabling Theatre/Radio has got something to add to the archive! Nobel prize nominee, theatre innovator, Augusto Boal came twice to Hebden Bridge to train Enabling Theatre, which I set up in 2000. He writes about the experience in the Introduction to his last book: The Aesthetics of the Oppressed. And we had a 1/2hr programme on BBC Radio 4 "The Courage to be Happy".

Because of the nature of my impairment, head injury which includes lousy memory, Boal allowed me to video his training. He came twice and I have 32 hours of footage of Augusto Boal training disabled people in his Theatre of the Oppressed. Including an innovative blending of his Forum and Rainbow of Desires methods.

This is a totally unique record: Boal died May 2009 and nothing like this will ever be recorded again. International theatre innovator training people with a range of impairments. Indeed he writes about the total uniqueness of the experience in his book:

"In Hebden Bridge I worked with the deaf, the blind,with those suffering from cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, multiple sclerosis and profound depression all in a single group of twenty disabled people."

I believe that this uniqueness needs to be celebrated and brought to public attention. I hope to create a film from this exceptional record. Boal did not normally allow his training to be recorded. If there's a disabled film producer out there who would like to help produce such a unique record please get in tounch. You can Google Enabling Radio Drama.

Merry Cross

18 June 2012

Apart from anything else, we have some superb disabled artists...from every facet of the arts world. Why on earth would we NOT want to celebrate them?

And as Dolly says, history is distorted by their absence. I've been running sessions for young people in a local primary school and years 5 and 6 do a bit of research about disabled people whose names I've listed. The staff are no less gobsmacked than the youngsters with what they hear during the presentations of their findings.

Helen Aveling

17 June 2012

Disability is always put in the corner and ignored.

We need to bring ourselves out of the shadows and get noticed, known and noted as being valid parts of the communities in which we live.


17 June 2012

If history is always written by the victor, then there is an enormous part of history that remains untold. In itself that is a very sad fact. The teller of any story from all perspectives would be more more just, more honest, more complete. The telling of disability arts would be a part of an arts narrative.

richard downes

17 June 2012

i know nothing about this archive. it sounds important. i really do believe that as a movement disabled people have failed to record their history effectively. Anything that can be done to correct this is essential. Personally, I am always looking for datelines. calendars, photographic images. I would like the archive to be available to be seen to be heard, to be previewed, reviewed. We should look to our past to continue to correct our future

Michelle Baharier

17 June 2012

I do think this is a great idea

I do think it needs a political context to go with it!

People with Disabilties are part of mainstream art, including people like Frida Khalo, Antonin Artaud, and Donald Rodney but DO WE NOT SEE THEM as people with disabilties and really put them on the map as anything other than artists. Therefore they are not seen as disabled people?


So if we are compartmentalizing people into art made by disabled people is it second class? Is it disabled art? We need historic context. Charles Dickens had mental health issues yet he is quintessentially English and the UKs most read writer. Many of his characters had disabilities of one kind or another - either mental health addictions or through art school and imprisonment. And so we have to be really careful what do we mean? 'Art is about the human condition'

In Dickens time women were badly treated. There were no Gay, lesbian or transgender characters. There were the deserving and the non-deserving. That was really apparent with disabled children yet people with physical disabilties in his era did die younger. So for me a political context and a mapping of how medical changes and living conditions has enabled disabled people to have lives, life before the electric wheelchair or the computer etc. would be important? These inventions have also helped shape and change our lives

And it is so important about art in a compartmental way and  taking that out into the world and giving a voice to people for me if someones work explores human condtion then its working that can be through dance etc and it does not have to be labelled if anything seeing the Damien Hirst installation at the Tate was awful. it was boring and more and more art is just boring. I find most of the brit art boring, meanless drivel with no real emotion in the art. Is it art if doesn't provoke living emotion?


I use Ju Gosling's image that says 'normal' on it - all the time. I love it as it has a context but is it disability art? It's Art! It explores the human condition and is infomed by her life - as is Penny Peppers underground experience.

The other day I heard the hospital had sold a piece of someones art for £10. It really upset me. I knew the artist and the work and I felt what had happened was they had been abused by the system. The art collections in mental asylums are vast and the exploitation of such also well known.

Please take time to also archive and put into context these histories

I am disabled when I go to a mainstream art school. I am also Jewish and a woman. I have not lived all my life in the UK. We are not boxes but we are not compartmentalized into fractions and we are discriminated against - and if due to our disabilty our levels of poverty are increased it becomes even harder to make Art. And let's face it, most well know artists are rich before they start. I do not know many who were not given a leg up in art school to provide the wealth. And that's where this archive could help

I am rambling on but my feelings are in need of contextualising so that also exploitation of disabled peoples' work through the asluyms is also a part of it. I am very conscious that some work may fall into other types of political history just as body image and body fascism is so important and impacts heavily on how disabled people are viewed by the world.

So yes it is if only to explore why disabled people are not taken up more by mainstream galleries.

Tony Heaton

16 June 2012

HLF need to know that there is no other place that holds our history, in that sense the overused word unique is correct in this case.

We have a heritage full of shiny steam trains, castles, country houses and the like, (because people lobbied and bid for money for them...) what we don't have is a comprehensive archive and collection of works relating to our political struggle, which still goes on, and the artistic and creative output that was intertwined within the battle for social change. If we as disabled people and disabled artists don't get behind this bid we actually reinforce the stereotype that we are apathetic and passive recipients! If we don't care enough to want it why should anyone else and therefore why should public money go to support it. The choice is ours, choices and rights anyone...?


16 June 2012

There's something that concerns me that the NDACA could address, and it's close to my heart. You have to sort of view the growth of Disability Art historically as coming out of a political radical agenda. This agenda put disability rights on the wider agenda. As a result of that now, while it's by no means perfect, DA is seen as 'worthy' of attracting funding. Yes, we could discuss whether I am right in thinking this. BUT in terms of the NDACA, I want to be able to put that into a historical context now that we have Unlimited commissions, the Creative Case and so on. If you want to discuss my ideas, I'm up for that but that we can do so with evidence and documents to back us up, whatever our opinions, I think what we need to say is that to be able to have that discussion we NEED the NDACA to draw on. So in a nutshell, whether it's a debate down the pub or for someone to be presenting ideas while working on a Disability Studies MA or whatever, we need to have this history there and built on for my kids to see what happened, so we can have those discussions and people can do so into the future. PS. I will always be right by the way :-)

Dolly Sen

16 June 2012

There is an African saying: 'Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.'

Disabled people and disabled artists have not had a voice historically that have been their own. So am glad that there is something like this to archive the stories and storytelling that comes from disabled people themselves. It is both decent and right that this is in place. Better to historically document an equalising venture and project, than to maintain a horrible and unfair history where our lives are hidden and told by a society that has no idea of our experience of being treated by as lesser being. This, in its small way, redresses that imbalance.

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