The UK General Election and the Future of Disabled Artists Part 2. By Kate Marsh

Following the recent election, like many of my peers and colleagues I have felt a genuine anxiety about the future of many aspects of my life and work. As an artist, a parent and a person with a disability, things do not look rosy.

Along with much of the commentary emerging in the media and on social network sites, one headline caught my eye, and then it caught my eye again and again, due to its rapid sharing throughout my own online and ‘real’ communities of artists, dancers, (disabled and non-disabled.) It was clear that this particular post-election story was a cause of real concern.

The news in question was the announcement that just hours after the votes had been counted, the department for work and pension (DWP) are proposing further cuts to the access to work programme.

Personally I have not benefited from the access to work scheme, but a significant number of individuals and organisations I have worked with have. These are people whose contribution to the arts has had a profound impact on my own experience of dance.

In my view access to work and programmes like it should be the silent supporting framework behind these brilliant creative individuals enabling them to do what they do best, teach, perform, direct, choreograph, produce the list goes on. Instead frequent cuts have meant that the application process is an arduous task of hoop jumping, form filling and long frustrating telephone calls. It seems to be a system that reduces individuals to their impairment alone and dismisses their creativity, drive and experience in their field.

These proposed cuts are very worrying to me as a disabled dancer. They are also pertinent to me as I approach the final stage of my PhD research. I have spent the last two years, talking to, watching, researching and reading about disabled dance artists. I have drunk tequila absorbed in a love story about Frida Kahlo, I have spat my tea out laughing at monologues about biscuits, I have immersed myself in the making of a solo that moves me every time I watch it. I have been inspired by the speeches and writings of so many disabled artists. All these are important things, they are essential things, not just to me, not even just for disabled artists, or people with disabilities, but to everyone.
These cuts have the potential to malign these disabled artists. Without the structures to support people with disabilities to produce this work it will become harder and harder to undertake and maintain the practicalities of the creative process.

I read yesterday a comment in response to the election results, that as artists we shouldn’t ‘complain’ about the impending further marginalisation of the arts in our society, because artists have always struggled, it is the struggle that makes us do what we do. Whilst there is some truth in this, throughout history some great work has evolved from great oppression. In light of these cuts, should we really stop complaining when these ‘challenges’ are the difference between being able to get to your place of work or not, or being able to communicate with your colleagues or not?


comments powered by Disqus