The first day of our two-day Arts Retreat led by Purple Patch Arts has been action-packed. We are working with a brilliant group of young disabled people who are throwing themselves into the action without a second thought. So far, we’ve talked about what experiences and feelings we both hide and put on display through making lava lamps; we’ve made postcards of our happiest times and places; we’ve considered our heroes and what kinds of qualities are important through a wall of words; we’ve thought about what’s important in our lives – our relationships, aspirations for the future and what we enjoy – through making sand-mugs; and we’ve explored what we think of ourselves, but also the words and assumptions that get imposed upon us, through body-mapping.
This latter activity was really interesting because it revealed that it’s far easier to focus on the things we don’t like about ourselves than it is the good. We know that this isn’t just the case for young disabled people, but a whole host of groups: it’s also endemic in a culture that proffers perfection and success as the only valuable ways to live. How might we change this? How might we celebrate each other and ourselves, and in ways that run counter to typical discourses of disability that only denote deficit, lack and burden?
Most importantly, we have been documenting all of this with our Polaroid cameras (which are utterly awesome).
It’s been lovely to spend time with families, too. The Retreat being residential means that there’s lots of time to have dinner together, play board games and chat into the evenings. Not surprisingly, families have similar stories about access, resources, services and provision, which reveal just how much fighting for what you and your family need has become the norm for many.
Tomorrow we head into Day 2, so this entry is to be continued… In the meantime, check out our hashtag #ArtsRetreat2017 and follow @iHumanSheff.