Children’s TV Star Takes Part in Exhibition to Raise Awareness of Disabled People in the Arts in North East England
Photo of Kim Tserkezie by Paul Stephenson
A unique exhibition entitled On Whose Shoulders We Build is taking place at ARC Stockton at the end of this month to showcase the rich history of disabled people involved in the arts in the North East. Former Balamory star Kim Tserkezie, who played iconic Penny Pocket, is featured as one of a number of creative disabled people. Kim is now an award winning actor, presenter, writer and film producer, running her own production company Scattered Pictures and is a leading and influential voice in the campaign for greater representation of disabled people in the arts and media.
Talking about her involvement in the exhibition, Kim said, "I'm so thrilled and honoured to feature in this exciting and important exhibition which demonstrates and celebrates the brilliant and diverse, yet often overlooked, contributions disabled people make to the arts".
The exhibition’s Project Manager Vici Wreford-Sinnott, herself a disabled artist, said, “Disabled peoples’ contribution to the arts is often hugely underestimated and has been in the shadows for far too long. Black Robin is a disabled artist and film-maker with a phenomenal catalogue of records of this vibrant community. It seems vital to share them."
Disabled people often feel that their voices are not heard, and often great ways to engage with the wider public is through the telling of stories – on stage, in comedies, in films, in portraits, creative writing, photography… the list goes on.
Black Robin is creating a new archive to tell the story of the North East’s disabled artists and the initial phase of a website is up and running. He told us, “I’ve documented so much pioneering activity by disabled artists that it seemed wrong for it all to go dusty on a shelf. Arts Council England funded me to spend some time archiving the material and also drawing together an initial list of events – there are already over 100 disability arts events spanning three decades and we’re reaching out for more. We’d love to feature as much as we can.”
In the meantime the exhibition shares a ‘wall of fame’ montage featuring many, many disabled artists, groups and events. There are tributes to some of the founders of the movement who are no longer with us, and we have a feature wall of 10 disabled artists from a range of backgrounds, some long established figures and others who are newer to disability arts, including Karen Sheader from punk band The Fugertivs, Paul James a Senior Associate at Live Theatre, international artist Gobscure and Candice Keenan from Teesside’s Full Circle learning disability theatre company. You will have to come along to discover who the others are and more about all of them.
Vici said of Kim Tserkezie’s involvement, “We are so thrilled that Kim has been able to make time to take part. She is part of my own children's childhoods and was one of the first wheelchair users in children’s telly. And beyond that she is someone I admire enormously – she is incredibly talented, and also lends her voice to promote the equality of disabled people in film and TV. All of the artists featured are phenomenal. ”
The exhibition opens to the public on 28 July and runs until 24 September – do check ARC for opening times. The organisers hope it marks the beginning of a new phase of increased profile and improved education about this important part of our region’s heritage. There is a sound recording of the exhibition for visually impaired people and there is also an online version of the exhibition for those unable to make it along.
There is more information here On Whose Shoulders We Build - ARC | Stockton Arts Centre (arconline.co.uk)
You have to check out this film from a live event by The Quips aka Cutter // Nash. I'm unashamedly biased because they kindly invited me to be involved and the other artists featured are just mega-brilliant. They put on a five star event!
Gareth Cutter and Gemma Nash held an artistic research project into how disabled artists and audiences are feeling about life in the arts now, after the whole world seems to think we can just go back to how it was before the pandemic. They invited artists to be interviewed and others to create artistic responses to the experience of the pandemic.
The Quips culminated in a live radio broadcast which was an hour-long programme of pop and experimental music, political poetry and insightful interviews drawn from the queer and disability arts community which is now available here to tune in to.
The live event was shared on YouTube through the Disability Arts Online Channel and you can see the buzz it created in the comments. There were interviews and artistic contributions from amazing people like Quiplash, Karl Knights, R. Dyer, Ruth Malkin, Sonia Allori and George Parker. And Cutter // Nash created some phenomenal sound and visual pieces in response to the experiences of the pandemic.
Sonia Allori commented in the chat, "Being here is like collectively exhaling pent up anxiety saved up by us all for the last 2 years" and I would echo that. It felt like a very special event but I wonder who is listening to us. This subject and this work deserves a much greater audience. So please do share it - everyone in the arts needs to hear these voices and experiences. I can't speak more highly of Cutter // Nash for this - we really need to get people in the arts talking and thinking about these important themes too.
Cutter // Nash were inspired by broadcasts such as the 1947 French radio show, ‘La Tribune de l’Invalide’, and ‘Gaywaves’, the 1980s British radio programme run in the era of Section 28, its a space for queer and disabled voices to explore the changes, challenges and opportunities brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, and send a message out to the rest of the world about queers disability narratives. More radical radio is needed - let's turn the volume up!