Accessing the Arts to tell Stories

On Thursday 28th June 2018, Living Life to the Fullest researchers Kirsty Liddiard and Carrie Aimes travelled to the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester to discuss the project’s on-going arts-strategy, which positions the arts and art-making as the means through which children and young people with life-limiting and life-threatening impairments can tell new stories of disability.

We wanted to make this connection after Michael Attenborough CBE, son of Lord Richard Attenborough and esteemed English theatre director, got in touch to say he was inspired by Living Life to the Fullest and, as a patron of the Attenborough Arts Centre, recommended we make contact to speak about possibilities of collaborative work for the future.

Artwork on the picnic tables

Artwork on the picnic tables outside the Centre

The Attenborough Arts Centre is a leading space for inter/national disability arts, attracting credible and critically-acclaimed disabled artists and cultural producers. For example, its next exhibition is In My Shoes. Art and the Self since the 1990s, an Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition currently on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park: ‘In My Shoes considers the influence of so-called ‘young British art’. The exhibition includes early works by artists including Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas and Gavin Turk, who gained international recognition during the 1990s for direct and often self-referential work. The exhibition also represents the work of a younger generation of artists who have maintained an active presence in their work’ (Arts Council Collection Gallery Guide, 2018).

Signage: Pop in to discover inspiring artWe were given a tour of the Centre’s incredible facilities, which includes new gallery and outdoor spaces, as well as a Changing Places toilet. The Centre prides itself on being accessible and inclusive, and is a crucial resource for local disability and youth groups, organisations and schools:

‘With over 18 years of experience, our programme offers performance, courses and workshops, contemporary art exhibitions, activities for children and families, and more. We are proud to champion emerging talent and disability-led artists, supporting those starting their careers. Our outstanding access and inclusive work has been recognised, through multiple awards and grants from Arts Council England, BBC Children in Need, Leicester Shire Promotions and Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Our audience has grown to 86,000 people over the last year’.

 Attenborough Arts Centre, 2018

It was a real honour to go and speak about Living Life to the Fullest and its artistic aims. We are very excited about the prospect of working with folk at the Centre, who were as enthusiastic and dynamic as they were committed to disability justice and liberation through access to the arts – a politic that runs deep in Living Life to the Fullest. So, watch this space for our exciting collaborative work coming up!

We want to end this blog post with a quote offered to us by Michael Attenborough CBE when in conversation. For us, it fully embodies the ethics and politics of Living Life to the Fullest and its positioning of the arts as emancipatory for disabled people:

‘The right of every individual to self expression is a basic human right. Consequently access to the Arts is indispensable. In a civilised society that must obviously extend to disabled people. Through the Arts we explore what it means to be human, how we relate to other people and to the world around us. They are deeply personal acts of emotional and intellectual communication. They look after the invisible parts of ourselves, our emotional, psychological and spiritual health. But this doesn’t come free. We need places where all of us, disabled and able bodied, can practise, refine and, above all, share our achievements. A caring and humane community has the arts at its centre, fully committed to providing and supporting access to them for everyone.’

 – Michael Attenborough CBE, 2018

By Carrie Aimes, Living Life to the Fullest Co-Researcher, and Kirsty Liddiard
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