Phew! Finally arrived in Ottawa, Canada on Saturday 24th June 2017, travelling for 10 hours from Manchester Airport. DaDaFest being invited to the Canada Scene Festival Deaf & Disability Arts Presenters Programme. Of course this was meant for our esteemed Artistic Director Ruth Gould, but due to illness I have been given this wonderful opportunity.
So here we are on Monday at the NAC, National Arts Centre, with Barack Ade Soleil leading a talk with Melanie Monoceros, artist & poet , Renata Soutter, Propellor Dance, Chris Dodd, Sound Off Deaf Arts festival and Niall McNeil of Newworld Theatre. The main points here being; don’t create unnecessary barriers for disabled artists and allow time & capacity to develop artwork of emotional depth. Disabled artists bring different perspectives, a collective knowledge and take up space.
Eliza Chandler gave a presentation; Seriously Creative, on curatorial practice & disability aesthetics showing key artists practice such as Gloria Swain of Mad Room and Justin Many Fingers. A key message here was invite and include disabled artists in to the gallery or museum and we will disrupt and decolonize the art gallery, in order to seriously work inclusively.
Carmen Papalia’s conceptual artwork shows him laying down his white cane, in White Cane Amplified in Ottawa City Hall, the public looking on with interesting reactions as he uses only a megaphone to declare he is blind while walking through the city. Do people help him or move away from him? Carmen shifts power relations between people, making himself vulnerable and at the same time keeping control of the situation. The white cane signals needing help and you are ‘the other’.
In King Arthur’s Night at the NAC, written and staring Niall McNeil and Marcus Youssef we see an inclusive play, using theatre’s language and narratives, exciting and tender with a partnership with BC Down Syndrome Research Foundation, a 16-person choir and a live band. Great collaboration here, showing dance, animation, music and a choir. The integrated cast worked well together with a full audience enjoying the show. The show had audio description and ASL but no captioning! This was a barrier for me personally.
The next 3 days was an Inclusive seminar named ‘Republic of Inclusion’ at the Shenkman Centre. This including panel talks, presentations, artist interventions, food and networking.
This was a fantastic networking event as we all shared knowledge, ideas, possible collaborations. The British Council Steven Brett was there, responsible for theatre and dance, Canadian Arts Council staff, Shape UK Fiona Slater and more presenters from Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Sudbury, Edmonton and of course Ottawa. This involved artists, theatre staff, collaborators, researchers, volunteers and more.
Conversations ranged from access, inclusion, designing spaces for people, equality, differences, funding, intersectionality, language, communication, cultures, bodies and ownership. Plus being creative, having a voice, and making art no matter how painful, changes and saves lives.
I wish to thank the Canada Scene and Presenters programme staff, particularly Cara Eastcott who was exceptional in making me feel welcome. Jason Dubois, Jennifer Fornelli and Laura Taler. A big thank you to the Republic of Inclusion people, Clayton, Andy, Jesse, Syrus and Sarah. Plus a big thank you to the volunteer drivers.
Chair of DaDaFest