History of disability in the UK to be unveiled

Great Britain from a wheel chair

This money will enable these two projects to explore and share with wider audiences two very different aspects of disability history. The first project will create a digital archive documenting the history of the Disability Arts Movement since its inception in the 1970s. The second project will explore the history of eight buildings that chart the history of disabled people’s lives since the Middle Ages.

Carole Souter, Chief Executive of HLF, said: “2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act and these projects offer a timely opportunity to delve into a part of our national story that is not well understood. I’m personally really looking forward to learning more about the stories they uncover.”

The projects:

With a grant of £853,600, Shape Arts, an arts organisation led by disabled people, will create a digital archive documenting the history of the Disability Arts Movement since its inception in the 1970s. The archive will, for the first time, catalogue over 1000 pieces of artwork, print and film footage created by disabled people to express and reflect on their experiences.

An interactive website and catalogue will be created along with a learning programme and touring exhibitions to help people explore the history of this movement, and its critical contribution to politics and demands for greater equality.

David Hevey, NDACA Project Director, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, as a result of this funding we hope to preserve the unique heritage story of the Disability Arts Movement, chronicling a time when disabled artists and their allies helped change society, helped change the law, and made great art while fighting the barriers they faced. And we want to go further: we want to pioneer new and innovative digital ways of telling this amazing story, using touring digital cinema, online films and moving image, to tell this heritage story across digital platforms, so that millions can enjoy, can engage and can be moved by it.”

The second grant of £878,500, is for Accentuate, a part of Screen South and an agency which delivers projects aimed at challenging attitudes towards disabled people. Accentuate will run a three-year project called History of Place which will investigate and animate eight important built heritage sites, helping to uncover their history in relation to disabled people from medieval times through to the first purpose built architecture of the late-twentieth century. Sites include:

  • Maison Dieu, Kent - a hospital founded in 1230 and one of the resting points on the Canterbury pilgrimage route,  where records of a skeleton of a severely disabled man aged 35-45 have recently been uncovered
  • The Royal School for Deaf Children in Margate – the UK’s first public school for deaf children founded in 1792
  • The Guild of the Brave Poor Things in Bristol – a self-help organisation for disabled people whose building - built in 1913 - is thought to be one of the first designed specifically for disabled people

Volunteers will research the lives of those who inhabited these buildings and the wider social attitudes of the time in which they lived. Community workshops, talks and exhibitions will be held in Liverpool, Bristol, London and Kent along with a high profile national touring exhibition in 2018. There will also be an associated development programme for heritage staff and volunteers providing advice in improving access to heritage sites and exhibitions.

Esther Fox, Accentuate Programme Executive, said: “We are delighted that we will be able to bring the hidden history of deaf and disabled people into the spotlight, uncovering a wealth of archive material which tells the story of the people who inhabited and designed these buildings. The national touring exhibition will be the first of its kind and we are proud of the outstanding partnerships we have with three key Museums across the country which will enable the wider public to also access this relatively unknown heritage.”

Notes to editors

Heritage Grants (HG) applications are assessed in two rounds.  A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.

More information about National Disability Arts Collection and Archive

The National Disability Arts Collection and Archive will bring to life the heritage and rich history of the Disability Arts Movement. NDACA is the story of that part of the Disability Rights Movement who showed a different notion of disability, which changed representation, and which championed in culture the notion of rights for disabled people.

NDACA will be far more than a worthy heritage. It will be a pioneering digital model, too. Beyond having the obligatory website with digital tools as a main location, the array of digital tools spreads across UK-wide pop up galleries, 100 films with contributors talking about their lives, touring digital cinema taking those films through local screenings out to partners, commissioning artists’ soundscape responses to the collection, and other many other digital tools for partnering platforms, with their tools co-curated through media, arts, broadcast, film and heritage sites. This ‘re-co-curate’ model which uses story across platform is where NDACA is a pioneer in digital.

So, while preserving, platforming and telling the great and unique story of the disability arts movement, in which hundreds of disabled creatives picketed buses, changed the law and made great culture about those struggles, perhaps the most original part of NDACA is its pioneering digital across-platforms strategy, which is about building users and audiences through story, character, testimony and artefacts across platforms. Yet, in this digital innovation, the key driver are people, their lives and the stories of their lives told in their deposits.   And they are character- and story- focused across digital platforms, because audiences are too.

More information about Screen South / Accentuate

Screen South, the home of Accentuate, is a not-for-profit creative development company operating in the wider creative and cultural community.

As well as managing and delivering creative projects, Screen South is involved with wide-ranging partners to deliver educational and training programmes using various medium including film and other creative practices.

Screen South has had a long involvement in the heritage sector through its involvement with regional film archives and projects like the Digital Film Archive Programme, delivering the hugely successful Kent in WW1 project and through the Accentuate programme which provided training in improving access and  interpretation of heritage sites in partnership with the Heritage Open Days initiative.

Accentuate, operating under the organisational umbrella of Screen South, launched in December 2009 as the 2012 Legacy Programme for the South East inspired by the Paralympic Movement. Accentuate developed and led a transformational programme of 15 major cultural projects during that time which harnessed the power of art, culture and heritage to engage the wider public with disabled people and disability related issues in order to challenge and shift perceptions. Accentuate continues to challenge perceptions of disability by providing life changing opportunities for deaf and disabled people to participate and lead within the cultural sector

Further information

For more information please contact Natasha Ley, HLF press office, on 020 7591 6143 or 07973 613 820.

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