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18 August 2015

NDACA: Back to the Future

December 2016

The Workhouse Cabaret with Pink Fingers

Banner image: The Workhouse Cabaret with Pink Fingers’ sign song in full effect – remember 501s? (C. NDACA/Elspeth Morrison)

Originally published on the Shape blog

NDACA archivist Alex Cowan finds help (and hope) in history repeating itself...

“Study the past if you would define the future.” - Confucius

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.” - Nietzsche

I am Alex Cowan, the Archivist for NDACA – the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive, a major project run by Shape. We are now continuing our collecting of great deposits that illustrate the great heritage story of the Disability Arts Movement (DAM).

The recent Return to the Workhouse Cabaret at Chats Palace, East London successfully recreated the iconic evenings held there in the 1980s & 90s – events which pioneered a new way of showing and seeing disabled people and disabled radical talent – and was the first time that NDACA had been approached to provide archival materials. We managed to locate several examples of posters, and images of performances and audiences from the old days for Liz Carr, the organiser of this ‘retro’ event, which were used to inform the design and posters for the new event – a great way for heritage to support new and radical Disability Arts initiatives.

The event emphasised the importance which all of our donors, audiences and users have been as I’ve worked on enhancing and developing the NDACA catalogue to accurately reflect the DAM story. The NDACA catalogue can only function properly with fact checked and enhanced records that prove the great disability rights adage that there can be “nothing about us without us.”   

NDACA holds hundreds of photos from the Disability Arts Movement’s previous times; some are identifiable by a featured person or location, but some are not. One fantastic result of the recent exposure of the images we provided is that those who saw them have been able to shed light on additional details for the NDACA catalogue.  Now, as I work at the NDACA catalogue, when I look at a random image from the original Workhouse I now know who’s standing at the back in the audience photo (Ann Pointon) and that Geoff Armstrong supplied the flower print table cloth which was part of the original Workhouse branding.  To continue this onwards, when NDACA Goes Live in 2018 our social media interface means that all users will be able to inform the ongoing enhancement and fact checking of our catalogue.

By bringing people together to celebrate the past and to look to the future, events like Return to the Workhouse Cabaret also help NDACA identify those people who might deposit further material with the Archive in 2017 and beyond, or helps trace more of those all-important mavens (the word maven comes from Hebrew, meaning "one who understands", based on an accumulation of knowledge). This helps tell us who’s (exactly) who and what’s (exactly) what. My thanks again to the encyclopaedic knowledge of Allan Sutherland for identifying the performers in the photo as the Lesbian Sign Song act, Pink Fingers.

Every time NDACA discovers or displays archival material I find this “virtuous” research cycle manifests itself: the Disability Arts Movement community in all its aspects, representations and personalities helps NDACA with our naming in the catalogue and other depositing, and this in turn helps write the NDACA narrative for future generation and insures that what I record in a catalogue record is accurate and true and conveying a great heritage story.

Access: An Essential Part of Design

November 2016

Ian Stanton performing

From the NDACA archive - Ian Stanton performs at an unidentified location, date unknown.

Originally published on the Shape blog

NDACA, the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive, is a project delivered by Shape and funded by Heritage Lottery Fund. Sarah Dormer, NDACA’s Learning Engagement Officer, talks us through how the project will incorporate access when it finally ‘goes live’, and has a request for accessible furniture suggestions from readers…

Over the last few months I’ve been planning the creation of the NDACA Wing at Buckinghamshire New University, which will be the primary study and research location for NDACA’s physical materials and digital resources. We believe that access is not a luxury, it is a right, and therefore should not be treated as an afterthought, so we’ve put together the following guidelines for our team to stick to during the preparation phase for the NDACA Wing, which will be going live in April 2018:

  1. Consider access as an essential part of the Wing’s design
  2. Create a space where all users can engage with the archive
  3. Make it possible for all users to learn and work independently
  4. Be an innovative and pioneering form of access in a study environment
  5. Be the best example of access that other study environments can look toward
  6. Increase awareness of the facilities and tools that are necessary to ensure access within study environments 

Part of my preparation has involved researching existing archive centres to find out the level of access already in place within these environments; perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s generally very poor, and there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement. This has made us realise how important it is for us to set an example, through our build and design of the NDACA Wing, to show other research and study environments the kind of accessible features that should be provided as standard.

Very often during my visits to established research centres, my question of ‘What access tools are in place to assist disabled people in engaging with your archive?’ was met by confused looks and sometimes the answer of, ‘Well, the building is wheelchair accessible…’. With so much assistive technology now readily available and often inexpensive, it seems there should be no excuse for research centres not to provide and be aware of these. One organisation even told me that, ‘in the past we had text-to-speech software installed on our computers’, but that since updating their system, they had neglected to re-install this software, despite noting that it was frequently made use of by their visitors in the past.

NDACA is in the process of researching the best software and technology we can provide on the computers and tablets we install within the Wing in order to enable all users to independently study and research our online archive and digital resources. Again, a common response I found when talking to staff at research centres was that they ‘can assist on a one-to-one basis if people have specific requirements’, but this approach fails to consider people’s desire to work independently.

Availability and effectiveness of assistive technology has grown massively over the last decade, but another important thing for us to bear in mind when designing the NDACA Wing is the furniture we will provide. We want to make sure that the tables, chairs, and more will be accessible – that’s where this blog turns into a request to our readers...!

We would love to hear disabled people’s ideas and suggestions for what type of furniture you would like there to be when you visit a research or study centre, particularly from an access angle. All ideas are welcome and we’ll use your feedback to work with a designer to produce accessible tables, seating, shelving, and more.

If you have any suggestions, please get in touch with me directly by the end of 2016, either by emailing sarah@shapearts.org.uk or calling 020 7424 7354, or even just commenting directly below this blog. I look forward to hearing from you!

World Diabetes Day

November 2016

Apple on a plate

Colourful photograph of an apple on a plate, alongside Type 1 Diabetic medical equipment.

Originally published on the Shape blog.

Monday 14 November 2016 is World Diabetes Day. Shape's Georgia Macqueen Black, who works on our NDACA (National Disability Arts Collection and Archive) project and has Type 1 Diabetes, gives us some insight into what it's like to have an invisible disability, what NDACA has to teach us, and why it's so important for workplaces to understand and respect their employees' access requirements...

What is Type 1 Diabetes? What would you like to highlight about it?

Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune condition that stops the pancreas from producing insulin. Insulin regulates how sugar and fats are stored in the body, taking sugar from the blood so it can be used as energy by the body’s cells. People are usually diagnosed in childhood or as a teenager. The cause of Type 1 Diabetes is unknown and unfortunately no cure has been discovered, so I have to manage the condition for the rest of my life.

Type 1 Diabetes is classified as an invisible disability. So, although it is a chronic illness that impacts my life in serious ways, it does not show obvious outward signs. All the self-maintenance I have to do as a Type 1 Diabetic, such as regularly pricking my finger to test my blood, injecting myself with insulin, counting the carbohydrates in every meal and suffering from the symptoms of having too much or too little sugar in my blood – I feel as though I carry the emotional weight of these ‘tasks’ in private. The mechanical parts of Type 1 Diabetes, blood tests and insulin injections, are only the surface layer of what I have to manage. Someone may see me inject before I eat, but then there is the isolating exhaustion that I take with me afterwards, and with a chronic condition, that feeling never goes away. There will always be another injection.

The point I am trying to make is – if you have an invisible chronic impairment, one that no one else can see but you have to control, this can generate a disconnection between yourself and other people. As if you are the only one who understands the day-to-day lived experience of Type 1 Diabetes, the exhaustion sewn into you before you get into bed at night. This hidden struggle is why I think it’s important to talk about the condition in more depth. I want World Diabetes Day to create awareness of what cannot be seen, so that people with Type 1 Diabetes feel more at ease when talking about their needs and the support they require to fully take care of themselves.

Of course I feel supported and listened to whenever I talk to people with the same condition, or friends and family who care about my wellbeing, but there is still the underlying feeling that this invisible disability is mine to carry, on my own.

Can you tell us about your role working on NDACA, the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive, which Shape delivers?

NDACA is a Heritage Lottery Fund project that will tell the story of the Disability Arts Movement. The Disability Arts Movement started to take shape in the late 1970s, when groups of disabled people in the UK took action against the sustained discrimination they experienced because of societal barriers. They campaigned according to the Social Model of Disability, which frames disability as a social construct created by barriers which can be eliminated; individuals should not be ‘blamed’ for their impairment because it is up to society to plan and organise itself in a way that includes disabled people.

NDACA tells the heritage story of the disabled people who took their campaign to the streets, chaining themselves to buses and trains to demand full access to public transport.

It was up to disabled people to explain the hows and whys of equality, because no one was listening to their struggle. The campaigning became an arts movement because so many of its leaders were creatives or connected to the art world in some way – the NDACA collection contains remarkable pieces created by these people: paintings, sculpture, photography, posters and photographs of performances. I think every item in the archive is remarkable as they are rooted in a brave and inspiring fight for equality, one which has made an impact on my perception of Type 1 Diabetes.

I started working on NDACA as a volunteer in September 2015, after I graduated from university. I organised the Launch Event at the House of Lords, and my volunteer journey allowed me to progress into the role of NDACA’s Marketing and Touring Officer. I have to plan a series of further launch events when we go live in April 2018, as well as market NDACA to the general public, in the press and through social media.

What has been your experience of working at a disability-led arts organisation?

I have only positive things to say about working on NDACA and being an employee at Shape Arts. This is my first job since leaving university, and Shape’s holistic approach to disability and employment has completely altered my expectations of how Type 1 Diabetes should be treated by employers. Shape takes the time to address the individual needs of people with impairments, enabling them to perform at their best and creating a general atmosphere of openness and understanding. Being open at work feels liberating and enhances the work I do – I no longer feel awkward or ashamed about asking for a time out because of a high blood sugar level.

High blood sugar level brings fatigue, headaches and a haziness which makes it impossible to work effectively. Before, I was worried that my working life would be an environment where I had to hide my symptoms from colleagues, because Type 1 Diabetes would never seem serious enough to deserve workplace adjustments. That to the person facing me at the opposite desk, my erratic sugar levels would be interpreted as tiredness, when inside I am feeling terrible and suffering in silence. Obviously people aren’t to know what a high blood sugar level feels like unless you tell them, but at Shape, because of its holistic approach to disability, I don’t fall into the hole of being afraid to tell people that I’m unwell.       

Do you think the ethos of Shape Arts and messages of NDACA have permanently influenced the way you manage your condition at work?     

I know that I will always make the effort to explain the hows and whys of Type 1 Diabetes to future employers. Every workplace should be as disability confident as Shape. I have also been influenced by the disabled activists of NDACA: they were unafraid to call out societal discrimination and demanded rights, not charity, in the campaign slogan to ‘Piss on Pity’. In contrast to a lot of NDACA’s activists, Type 1 Diabetes does not impact how I move through the world. However, the key political message to be loud and fight has encouraged me in my own lived experience of impairment. I want to be open about the endless self-maintenance of my condition, on World Diabetes Day and every day afterwards! Expressing the invisible in words is not an easy task, but it is an important one, and I hope this article can generate some positive awareness for anyone else who is dealing with Type 1 Diabetes.

Alex Cowan explores the Disability Arts Movement

October 2016

Alex Cowan at Holton Lee

Alex Cowan, NDACA Archivist, re-discovering art work from storage at Holton Lee.

Originally published on the Shape blog.

Alex Cowan, NDACA Archivist, explores just what made the Disability Arts Movement (D.A.M.) history so accessible – those who went before him.

“The next best thing to knowing something is knowing where to find it” (Samuel Johnson)

“Knowledge of the world in only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet” (Lord Chesterfield 1694-1773)

“A stair not worn hollow by footsteps is, regarded from its own point of view, only a boring something made of wood”  (Franz Kafka)

The NDACA catalogue has moved to a new phase. Having begun with the initial information provided by partner artists and organisations, each record has been enhanced by further research and internally fact checked. The next step is to reach out to those donors again, to ask them if their work is accurately listed and whether they can provide more detail and depth for the catalogue.  This is a big part of my role as the NDACA archivist in Project Year Two.

NDACA aspires to be the “knowledge central” resource for those looking for a place where they can learn about the heritage story of the Disability Arts Movement. For this to happen the catalogue has to describe each item and provide as much detail and context as possible, something that will be further developed by other tools that will be on the NDACA web site when NDACA plans to go live in 2018.

The information I need to do this properly has been gathered from many places: NDACA’s partner artists and organisations, from the works as we digitised them and from innumerable locations on the web. Often as not this search has lead back to important works created by the very individuals and organisations whose stories NDACA hopes to tell. These DAM chronicles have authors who wrote or typed them and whose actions helped bring the Disability Arts movement into existence. NDACA follows the path that their footsteps first walked.  I’ve two key texts on my laptop’s desk top:

The great Allan Sutherland’s Chronology of Disability Arts, initially only covering 1977-2003, delivers the almost daily minutiae of a movement growing in identity, strength and variety. It was mainly informed by listings from the sadly defunct DAIL magazine, a publication that will exist as a completed run in NDACA’s physical location and one of whose most prominent editors – Elspeth Morrison – is an NDACA depositor.  An updated version of the chronology, quite rightly, sits on the SHAPE web site.

The other resource is Disability Arts Online.  The new and archived DAO sites provide invaluable context, criticism and review that will further enrich the NDACA catalogue. It’s only through employing resources of this calibre that simple information is transformed into knowledge and that NDACA will achieve one of its aims. I’ll leave the final word to Allan from the introduction of his Chronology:

“History is crucial to any culture, and it is essential to Disability Arts. It is through a sense of history that we define who we are, what journey we have undertaken and how far we have come. We also, implicitly, map out the future.”  

Amen to that!

NDACA Project Director David Hevey reflects on the beginning of Project Year Two..

September 2016

Nancy Willis at home

Photograph of Nancy Willis at home, an NDACA depositing artist. Photograph taken by David Hevey.

Originally published on the Shape blog.

NDACA - the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive - enters our second year of Project - ‘Project’ is what Heritage Lottery Foundation, our main funders, call the three-year building-the-assets period - and all is going superbly. 

We have digitised over 1,000 works, have gained social media (and other) audiences of nearly 1,000,000, and are building exciting locations to house, display and interpret the works, including The NDACA Wing at Buckinghamshire New University.  We also now have a full crew: myself as Project Director, Alex Cowan as Archivist - do follow his great blogs about his role on Disability Arts Online, as well as here on the Shape site -, Georgia Macqueen Black on Marketing - Georgia led on the tremendous celebratory NDACA event at the House of Lords earlier this year -, and Sarah Dormer who is now our Digital Learning Officer - Sarah previously led as Digital Producer on the digitising and Van-and-Scan road show, where we took our copying-set-up out to artists and partners. We’re motoring!    

This year, Year Two of Project, we will be taking in more artists' deposits from the golden age of the Disability Arts Movement, when disabled people and their allies broke barriers, helped change the law and made great culture about those fights; we will also be firming up our locations, planning our going live in 2018, and much more. Watch this space! 

You can read the previous NDACA blog here and stay up-to-date with NDACA's news by signing up to our newsletter at the bottom of Shape's homepage.

The Nov/Dec #NDACA Blog: 140 Characters and Van and Scan

This month, Georgia Macqueen Black, NDACA Project Team, gives an insight into the NDACA social media campaign and the Van and Scan roadshow.

A photograph of Georgia Macqueen Black with a Piss on Pity t-shirt

The Piss on Pity tweet: re-wearing the radical!

A photograph of Mike Flack, David Hevey and Georgia Macqueen Black holding up a Heritage Lottery Fund banner

Mike Flack, David Hevey and myself making the most of NDACA’s gifts from HLF!

26 November 2015 marked the final day of our first NDACA Van and Scan, a digital roadshow touring the country to preserve key pieces of disability art. Currently, the project team is made up of five people: one Project Director at the helm, ready to take action and drive the epic ambitions; one photographer and her assistant producer, working until each pledge has been scanned and photographed over and over; an experienced archivist turned surveyor, watching his careful plans come to life… And then there’s me, the social media 'person', writing tweets and transforming long days on set into a snap-shot focus.

A photograph of Artist Tanya Raabe stands in front of a nude self-portrait alonmg with the NDACA team, holding a Heritage Lottery Fund banner

One of our earlier tweets: Tanya Raabe, Tanya Raabe (self-portrait), and the NDACA crew.

Tweeting has helped us shape Van and Scan into the overall NDACA narrative. Each visit provided an opportunity to capture something permanent out of the on-set bustle of artists, deposits, cameras and workers; the quality of a ‘spontaneously’ posted image that is actually the result of thought-out direction and control.  I felt assured our tweets would be received with enthusiasm, seeing as the tools were there already: artists with long careers and stories to share, seeking a new outlet for their creativity through digital preservation.

A photograph of artist Nancy Willis, in the foreground NDACA director David Hevey holds a piece of paper with her work 'Goats Grazing' on it. In the background Georgia Macqueen Black holds a lottery banner

Nancy Willis welcoming the NDACA crew into her home.

Tanya Raabe and Nancy Willis, two of the disabled artists we visited during Van and Scan, were more than happy to have their photo taken with key pieces of art and willing members of the NDACA crew. The idea of artists interacting with their work and tweeting the results started off as a simple gesture to show the process behind production; however, the delicate empowerment of these two disabled women, combined with our belief in the quality and longevity of the project, came together in a series of images that are undeniably special.

A photograph of artist and founder of NDACA, Tony Heaton in smart attire. He is holding a printed copy of Tanya Raabe's portrait of him and tearing it to reveal his face behind it.

A fun day at the office with Tony Heaton, founder of NDACA.

Even days spent in the office copy room were of value to our social media cause. We decided that the infamous ‘Piss on Pity’ t-shirts (see banner image) worn by disabled activists in the 1980s should be re-worn by us: partly for the glory of trying on the most memorable slogan of the disability arts movement, mostly because we knew the tweet would work. There I sit amongst happy chaos, proud to be wearing a piece of history that went before, and proud that NDACA will allow the disability arts movement to live on in full digital array.

A document describing what is and what is not Disability Arts

A great find at Holton Lee, one of the birthplaces of the disability arts movement.

How could we not include Graeae’s colourful theatre posters as part of our online twitter display? Or tweet a close-up picture found at Holton Lee, one that defines ‘Disability Arts’ clearly and succinctly: a culture of control, empowerment, and disabled people’s creative voices. These are the previews that our social media audience has latched onto; thanks to re-tweets from the Culture minister Ed Vaizey and Arts Council chair Peter Bazalgette, our chain of NDACA updates has travelled much further than expected, and overall the stats should exceed 100k impressions.

A photograph of Georgia Macqueen Black holding an old Graeae programme, plus other printed material

‘A Private View’ of Graeae’s theatrical history…

Together, these images depict Van and Scan’s development into a visual triumph. I believe each shot demands a response from the viewer; bold and vibrant, we clearly enjoyed shooting them, and as tweets they were NDACA’s first chance at public self-ownership. We succeeded, I think, in delivering a message that will only be amplified before the project goes live in 2017. The ‘epic’ has already happened in the trials and achievements of the disability arts movement: it is NDACA’s honour to re-deliver them, so that the British public can finally accept disability arts into its diverse cultural landscape.

This blog post is also available on the Shape website.

October 2015 NDACA Project Director’s Blog

This month, David Hevey, NDACA Project Director, on the need for the best and highest spec in the hands of the best crew, all pushing on in digital story-gathering to get the best from the artists works, and the artists image.

A photograph of the artist Tanya Raabe, standing in front of her nude self-portrait.

Artist, Tanya Raabe, in front of her nude self-portrait.

NDACA is the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive, funded to nearly £1M by HLF, ACE and JRF.   At the moment, we are building the archive, going live in 2017/8.

One of the greatest single-artist collections pledged to NDACA is that of the brilliant artist Tanya Raabe, who lives in Shrewsbury.  

So, to scan her works with our mobile digitising unit, known as VanNScan, we rolled into Shrewsbury, complete with five crew, Kaiser stands, Hasselblad cameras, scanners, easels, lights, rooms hired, props to set up, crews to rig, runners to find food, and the whole charabanc which is needed to create the right and best conditions to digitise artworks and ephemera on the road, capturing images at the top spec, to the highest standard, to tell our story most powerfully.  

For our digitising VanNScan road-show, we needed great crew and great kit.  Great crew means those camera assistants, assistant producers, runners, volunteers and others who make the operation of digital copying our arts heritage run ultra smoothly.

A photograph of the NDACA crew with artist Tanya Raabe in front of her nude self-portrait

The NDACA VanNScan crew image, with apologies to Sarah D, behind camera; the images’ Twitter tag was: ‘The new epic #NDACA crew and @tanyaraabe preserving the heritage of #disabilityarts’.

And they need to operate great kit. Great kit means whatever the best in the market is, and that, to name but one piece of kit, means Hasselblad cameras.  Treated like religious icons by photographers, these are the fantastic boxy cameras made famous by the Apollo space mission photographs. These Hasselblads are NDACA’s main weapon and are doing a vital job in copying the pledges, with our digital files off those cameras captured to the finest detail, with the best resolution, which helps make our digital files both the best, and future proof. And, sometimes, simply beautiful.

Why does this crew and kit precision, bordering on obsession, really matter?  Because a beautifully lit, superbly-resolved digital-image gets the viewer close to the original feelings of the painting – its texture, its brushstrokes, its details in colour, and more. Good crew with good kit – get that.

And, in the set which has been created to capture Tanya Raabe’s works – the lights, the scanners, the copy stand, the easels, the back-clothes and drapes – into that we wanted the artist also portrayed. All of our artists and partner representatives will be on set for portraits, photographed in situ and with their pledges, captured as we travel around. This, too, adds texture to our gathering and gives layers to our digital files and stories they tell.   

A screenshot showing Ed Vaizey's Twitter page having retweeted an NDACA tweet.

Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, retweeting our epic crew and cast shot.

So, into this Shrewsbury set up to digitally gather and copy her works, stepped Tanya Raabe, posing infront of her own nude self-portrait; the portrait smiling and naked, the artist a touch serious (asked to be so by me, the Project Director and photographer (along with Sarah Dormer). This juxtaposition of smiling nude painting/serious clothed artist makes an interesting portrait for us, the artist and their work, which in turn becomes a new deposit to the collection. Copies of her works, and portraits of her, both in our collection for posterity.

And capturing such moments is inspiring, and inspires us all in the crew to push on, do better, tweak the capture devices, get their best performance, and so on. The charabanc of NDACA’s VanNScan rolls around, with various staging posts on our journey, but with the central purpose – to capture the best art, in the best way, for the best story.

And it didn’t hurt that the crew shot got retweeted by Ed Vaizey, MP, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, given how much NDACA is about culture and digital.

So, onto the next location for the #NDACA VanNScan road show…

September 2015 NDACA Project Director’s Blog

This month, David Hevey, NDACA Project Director, on digital story-telling.

A close-up photograph of the artist Jo Bannon

This image of Jo Bannon was provided by the Unlimited Project who are depositing to NDACA.

NDACA is a unique archive about the Disability Arts Movement: NDACA will employ many original digital features to tell the Disability Arts Movement’s heritage story, such as our plans for touring digital cinema, our plans for pop-up digital prints in pop up galleries, our plans for several series of interlinking documentary digital films, and much more.

But, like many other organisations, we know that digital’s attractions can lead one into a narcissistic echo chamber, whereby one’s digital tools speak to a closed-group or niche: we want NDACA to reach out to both our natural audiences and those yet to know our heritage story. And we know how to achieve this, our digital tools achieved a third of a million social media users alone!

So we are prepared and have a strategy on how to get our digital stories out to reach audiences in the several millions. Our launch, carried on over 20 platforms including the Huffington Post, showed Shape and NDACA knows how to get our story-across-platforms out to users.

But telling stories digitally has levels. Before one even thinks of the story we are intending to tell, what about the mountains of other stuff: the digital ‘back end’, the hosting, the digitising, the testing, the market research, the users' digital needs and much more? All that stuff behind the scenes that makes viewing and using our digital tools not only exciting and stimulating, but technically possible and easy to use.

What about those horrible periods of ‘pre-production’, ‘beta-testing’ and, particularly, making sure one’s digital assets, files and tools are ‘best practice’? By the time some projects go live, many in the production no longer care what the public think or do – the miracle is that the offer exists and on budget – sod the public and their ‘zero likes’! Story is the last thing on many digital peoples’ minds.

For us, it is about never losing sight of both story, and the key ingredients of story: characters, drive, barriers, their pledges as meaning in their lives, their fights to get recognition, their fights to change the law. Our NDACA digital strategy is, in reality, about the drama of how disabled people and their allies broke barriers, helped change the law, and making great culture about that fight. Digital is what we are employing to get that story out, but story is our driver – the lives people lived and how they lived them. Without story, so much digital is pointless.

So, in the maelstrom to build powerful digital stories across platforms, as NDACA and our production team is doing, we never forget that, for all our best practice, high-end digital capture, we are doing all this digital heritage for one clear purpose – to tell our powerful story to people, and that we create a heritage story that people will care about in the millions. NDACA is all about putting our story out there through digital, but digital is just the conduit, peoples’ heritage story is the real driver.

August 2015 NDACA Project Director’s blog

This month, David Hevey, NDACA Project Director, on being in the heritage story…

Image shows David Hevey, as BBC presenter © BBC

David Hevey, as BBC presenter © BBC

The past is a foreign country, it is said. It can also be an embarrassing place, too. I recall Beckett’s Krapps Last Tape and the annoyance his character Krapp felt when he heard himself, ‘the fool I mistook myself for’, his voice recorded on old reel-to-reel tapes, when I find and see my former self there in the heritage we are preserving at NDACA.  

This is happening to me, since I am Project Director on a project whereby I also helped make the original works Shape Arts (lead on NDACA Project) are now preserving.   So, now and again, I turn up as my past self, as a media creative, but now being filed, catalogued and archived by me now, as project director.   

It is so odd to find oneself, the fool you mistook yourself for, grinning out of old pictures, gassing off with old opinions.  Of course, it makes others in the Project Team laugh, thankfully. 

The image (right) is from when I was a BBC presenter on From The Edge, working out of the Community and Disability Programmes Unit, as a tv and film director too.   Some of that television and film history, when diverse, different and disability media was broadcast to millions, will be in our NDACA story.  

Who knew when that publicity-image was taken, that the older me would archive the previous me! Hey, Dorian Grey,  get back in the attic! The image may (or may not) end up in the final NDACA Collection – I hope our Acquisitions Committee decide not!

David Hevey, NDACA Project Director, painted by Tanya Raabe, an NDACA depositing artist.  © Tanya Raabe

David Hevey, © Tanya Raabe

Other heritage portraits from the past are also emerging, particularly through the fantastic collection, pledged to NDACA, by the artist Tanya Raabe and her brilliant Who’s Who collection.  

These paintings recorded many of the greats of the Disability Rights Movement and its partner wing, the Disability Arts Movement (whose heritage-story we are building).

For me, Tanya Raabe’s brilliant portrait works capture a plethora of moods, from the faux-naïve to the seeringly observed: she painted me as Project Director and people said it didn’t look like me, but I replied that it felt like me, so the artist has done her job.  

I hope that image IS in the collection but, again, the Acquisitions Committee will decide. 

And Tanya painted the Project founder, Tony Heaton OBE.   Tony is a doyen of both the artists and the capacity-builders of the Disability Arts Movement, and began the whole NDACA journey, some twenty years ago. 

He, too, looks different now, probably finds the past a different country, but the painting of him, by Tanya, which led our press campaign, was hugely widely used by the media who covered our launch (and got us to a third of a million views and audiences for the launch alone).

Image shows Tony Heaton OBE, NDACA Founder, by Tanya Raabe.  © Tanya Raabe).

Tony Heaton OBE. © Tanya Raabe

Why did that picture prove so popular?  It isn’t because Tony ‘looks disabled’ so was an easy signifier for a lazy press. I think it is because Tanya Raabe’s portrait of Tony Heaton is accessible, clear, painterly, and even entertaining. It is upbeat, enthusiastic and quietly powerful, as our heritage story of the unique Disability Arts Movement is going to be.  

That image will definitely be in the NDACA collection, since Tony was the NDACA founder and Tanya is one of the great collections we are collecting. And it’s a great picture, and great heritage.

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