arts and disability


Tuesday 17th November 2015

The Attenborough Arts Centre

Art, Life, Activism

The exhibition runs from 18th November to 17th January 2016

Tony Heaton. Great Britain from a wheelchair. 1994. Photograph courtesy of Tony Heaton.
Tony Heaton. Great Britain from a wheelchair. 1994. Photograph courtesy of Tony Heaton.

A series of galleries exhibiting the art reflecting disability politics. Disability activism has seen a revival in recent years, caught up in controvertial issues such as the Bedroom Tax, Work Capability Assessments and the measures flowing from the Government’s insistence on austerity as an economic measure. All these have hit hard people struggling to cope with disadvantage. These policies came after the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 which was meant to give people equal treatment and access on a par with the rest of society.

Tony Heaton. Gold Lamé. 2014. Photograph by John Barraclough
Tony Heaton. Gold Lamé. 2014. Photograph by John Barraclough

Today’s launch brought together acclaimed artists whose work reflects and is inspired by the politics of disability; through sculpture, performance, film, drawing and photography. The day featured a visit by Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of the Arts Council of England and Michael Attenborough CBE, son of the late Richard Attenborough whose name is given to the centre.

Sir Peter Bazalgette in 2013, being interviewed by Trevor Locke (left) and Tim Parker of Radio Leicester. Photo © Kieran Pattni
Sir Peter Bazalgette in 2013, being interviewed by Trevor Locke (left) and Tim Parker of Radio Leicester.
Photo © Kieran Pattni

Sir Peter Bazalgette has been in Leicester before; he visited Leicester on 8th November 2013 to see some of the exciting projects of the city’s arts and culture scene. He told Arts in Leicester during his previous visit “I have had a really inspiring morning and early afternoon. I have been to Curve, Phoenix, a presentation from The Mighty Creatives, I am now here at Soft Touch, and what I have seen is a city gearing up for its City of Culture bid – for which I wish it the very best of luck. The results will be available very soon. It’s all about ambition and it’s all about what arts and culture can do for a city – in terms of its pride, it’s sense of place, it’s tourist offer, it’s institutions and it’s education.”

Bobby Baker. Day444. 1997 - 2008. Photograph by Daily Life Ltd
Bobby Baker. Day444. 1997 – 2008. Photograph by Daily Life Ltd

The exhibition brings together the work of many artists who have contributed to the politics of disability. There are many names but a few of them include Tony Heaton, Noëmi Lakmaier, Bobby Baker, Simon Raven, Aaron Williamson, Adam Reynolds, Liz Crow, Ann Whitehurst, David Heney and others.

Aaron Williamson. Gold Hearing Trumpet. 2010. Photograph by Joe Maxwell
Aaron Williamson. Gold Hearing Trumpet. 2010. Photograph by Joe Maxwell

The Attenborough Arts centre is looking forward to the official opening of its new £1.5 million gallery in January 2016. The new gallery has been constructed next door to the existing building.

Aaron Williamson. Decorated Skull. 2010. Photograph by Joe Maxwell
Aaron Williamson. Decorated Skull. 2010. Photograph by Joe Maxwell

Opened in 1997 by the Late Princess Diana as The Richard Attenborough Centre for Disability and the Arts, the centre bears the name of its patron. Tony Heaton, artist, curator and Chief Executive of Shape Arts, said “Art, Life and Activism raises questions about the relationship between art and politics and invites us to consider the complex, social, economic and cultural forces characterising disability and its representation in mainstream culture.” Shape Arts is a disability-led arts organisation, established, 40 years ago, on the principle that all disabled people should have the opportunity to participate fully in arts and culture and work with the vision of creating an inspiring and inclusive arts sector.

Visit the Attenborough Arts Centre website

See also:

Our review of A Streetcar Named Desire

Our feature article on Arts Education in Leicester