Bella Freak exists as a vehicle for inclusive arts, building audiences and participation, encouraging diverse culture.
It was started as a response to the lack of physical access to cultural spaces and events, as well as a recognition that the lives and stories of a wide section of Scottish society goes unheard.
The Scottish Government’s own statistics tell us that one in four of the Scottish population is disabled. However, there is little recognition of the life experiences or the particular stories that disabled people have and their take on life. Furthermore, a prevailing attitude exists that issues around accessibility to venues, training, careers, have been amply addressed.
Apart from some notable examples such as theatre companies Birds of Paradise and Lung Ha, in Scotland there is no dedicated outlet for disabled people to create and perform their works. This stands as a stark contrast to the situation in England, best exemplified by the DaDaFest, as well as a much better connected and resourced network of Disabled People’s Organisations that have a main focus on cultural activity.
Bella Freak, working with Alba Community Development, received funding through the Big Lottery Awards for All programme to carry out a preliminary scoping exercise which took place over 2016 /17, looking at access and participation. It used a number of techniques including participant research, an open round table discussion, and a video that highlights and explains some of the issues.
The report on the research, The Case for More Inclusive Festivals and Events: Still Not There, Yet!, is a “snapshot” which shows that the assumption made by decision makers and arts & cultural bodies that inclusion and access needs are being met in Scotland, is not supported by the lived experiences of disabled people. The report is available here.
The next step planned is to promote this research and stimulate discussion on inclusive festivals and events in Scotland. It is then anticipated that Bella Freak will work with other partners like Disability History Scotland, Edinburgh University, and others, to produce a much more detailed and in depth piece of research, expanding on the themes scoped over the last year.
Bella Freak: Unwritten
In late 2016, Disability History Scotland received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to produce Unwritten, a show collecting the true-life experiences of three disabled individuals in the 20th and 21st centuries, as a fundamental part of Scotland’s national story.
Unwritten was promoted under the Bella Freak banner, and ran at Surgeon’s Hall from August 4th-12th 2017, during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.