Disability Power: DHS/Inclusion Scotland Artwork Hits UN!

Steve Robertson (People First Scotland) championing his own personal artwork/cut-up at the United Nations in Geneva. (Photo: Natasha Hirst, Disability Wales - @HirstPhotos)

Steve Robertson (People First Scotland) championing his own personal artwork/cut-up at the United Nations in Geneva. (Photo: Natasha Hirst, Disability Wales – @HirstPhotos)

Disability History Scotland was in Glasgow on Friday March 10th at Inclusion Scotland’s workshop on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – #CRPD17.

The event was introduced by Inclusion Scotland’s Rosalind Tyler-Greig. She and Steve Robertson from People First Scotland would be travelling to Geneva the following week to present Scotland’s response to the Convention, comprising (*deep breath*) the Implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Shadow Report from Scotland (see here) and an artistic response to be created by workshop attendees.

After a brilliant and cutting speech from Steve on the state of disability rights in the UK, our own Sasha Callaghan gave a presentation on textual intervention – taking one form of text or imagery, and subverting it to form something completely new. Thanks to Sasha, Stuart Pyper and Alex Callaghan, DHS brought copious volume of materials for workshop attendees to engage with: artwork; magazine and newspaper articles; political text and imagery, we had it all! The goal was for groups to create on A3 paper a visual expression of their feelings about disability rights and experiences in the UK.

Things… got messy, as they always do when experimenting with paper, scissors and glue. But that’s part of the process – creativity is collision. We were impressed that groups didn’t rush to judgement (when working on something so emotive it can be easy to jam stuff together out of sheer frustration) but took their time discussing and selecting images to create provocative but considered views of the lived of experience of disability – what works; what doesn’t; what needs to change, and what should happen next. And what they came up with was outstanding.

The works were created in an hour-and-a-half, and rushed off to be laminated the same day – indeed, it all happened so quickly Alex had to dry some of them with a hairdryer! The following week, they went out with Rosalind and Steve to Geneva. At which point Rosalind takes over…

[The posters] were of great interest to the UN security staff. The person on duty removed all the pieces and looked at them closely for a long time, pointing to Theresa May’s horned head and looking quite concerned. I explained in my best French that they were not props for a protest or presentation in the UN building, but for photographs outside. He called a colleague to have a look – also concerned, and a little amused –  and I explained this again. In the end, they held it in a locker and allowed me to retrieve it at the end of the day.

All the organisations worked together effectively and we ended up having a really good meeting with the committee. We are now waiting for the outcome – which will be the list of issues, which are a priority for the UK government (and devolved governments) to report to the committee on.

(l-r) Rosalind Tyler-Greig (Inclusion Scotland), Steve Robertson (People First Scotland), Rhona Neill (People First Scotland) at the United Nations in Geneva (Photo: Natasha Hirst, Disability Wales – @HirstPhotos)

A massive well done and thank you to all workshop participants, and for Inclusion Scotland for allowing us to contribute to such an event! We enjoyed our day greatly, and would love to run similar events in the future. As ever, watch this space!

A special thanks to Natasha Hirst of Disability Wales for the photos from Geneva. Check out her work on Twitter, @HirstPhotos, and at her website http://natashahirstblog.co.uk. 

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