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Elinor Rowlands

My access needs cost more than the art materials I use, this is difficult and so my art is rarely seen. My experiences of RSD unique to ADHD means I make art to self soothe. After years working in mental health and disability as well studying my own timeline of illness, I have identified that when people are valued, validated and understood then they thrive, but if that voice is found to be too triggering it will be gagged, silenced, shut down. Why? Because we remind people of the system that seeks to remove us, fix us, punish us. Yes, what we say is triggering because we are fighting for equality so we can contribute our much needed skills... we are not searching for pity. We have to live with daily stigma and discrimination, managing barriers often in the form of cruel attitudes and untrue assumptions. At my most ill, I make art from my bed, it becomes my thinking environment, because it is a place where I matter. Surprised at the change in my artmaking -more vivid - confident even - I began paying attention to my RSD and ADHD Mind wandering, and began to make even more prolifically. Suddenly, I felt valued. I've only felt this way once before, within Disability Arts where no topic is too triggering and we feel safe expressing difficult subjects because they are our truth. Before I was chosen for DAO's Viewfinder in 2015, I never thought I'd ever be able to make art due to my impairments despite my art littering my apartment. Due to barriers, I am often prevented from being able to complete projects. RSD is so intense for me, that it takes days to heal from the emotional distress each time I meet barriers or must over-explain my access needs to the point where I fall back into emotional distress because I am made to feel a nuisance. My art, my writing seeks to challenge those assumptions, and celebrate my ADHD and Synaesthete artist brain which continues to make even when rendered non-verbal due to immense fatigue, pain and brain fog.

Posts by Elinor Rowlands

brightly coloured portrait of a woman's face

Access and the Neurodiverse Artist

Arts organisations often like to promote their workshops and events as fully accessible, but is full access a myth? Elinor Rowlands writes from personal experience about the pitfalls and misunderstandings of what it means to demonstrate access, rather than simply pay lip-service to it. The biggest mistake arts organisations can make ...

Two actors within an illuminated blue square

MakeSpace Productions: two dreamlike explorations

On 19 June at The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, London MakeSpace Productions previewed its two new productions, Roxy Likes Cats and The Way Out, ahead of taking them to the Edinburgh Festival. Review by Elinor Rowlands. Grief and the discovery for the truth are two common themes addressed by ...

A filmmaking workshop with 4 participants

Experimenting with sound: Together! 2017 Filmmaking workshop

The Together! 2017 Disability History Month Festival took place across East London 23 October - 15 December with a programme of performances, exhibitions and workshops. It also included the 2017 Together! Disability film festival, alongside which there was a two-day tactile filmmaking workshop led by Julie Newman for disabled filmmakers ...

Dust by Milly Thomas

Milly Thomas, Dust: closer to sensationalism than sensational

In-yer-face yet still so distant: Elinor Rowlands reviews Dust by Milly Thomas currently playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Dust centres on Alice who witnesses the aftermath of her own suicide. The play grew out of Thomas’ own experience of depression. It is challenging for the audience to connect with Alice ...

Anatomy of a Suicide: three generations of women repeating tales of distress across several decades

Alice Birch’s experimental play, directed by Katie Mitchell, explores the lives of three generations of women. Currently on show at Royal Court, London Anatomy of a Suicide is reviewed by Elinor Rowlands Alice Birch writer of Anatomy of Suicide, says that she is interested in whether trauma can be passed on ...

Door Ajar's Thisbe Production Shot

Door Ajar Theatre Company’s Thisbe, with integrated BSL

Door Ajar Theatre Company’s Thisbe is a follow-up to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set 14 years after Helena and Demetrius, were lost in the woods. The show features integrated sign language in every performance and played at Theatre Royal, Stratford East 21 - 25 February 2017. Thisbe takes off from ...

Balancing Acts at VAULT festival

Chloë Plumb on the balancing act of mental health representation in the arts

Balancing Acts ran last month at VAULT festival and was a result of a collaboration between Kaleido Film Collective and Feral Foxy Ladies. Two free workshops in February explore mental health with a particular focus on depression and ways of coping through an introduction to different expressive practices such as ...

Vaults Festival presents Balancing Acts – a textured tale of depression

Balancing Acts is a subtle yet powerful piece of new writing from the Kaleido Film Collective and Feral Foxy Ladies, part video installation, part physical theatre and part confessional memoir, delivered by Katherine Vince at the Network Theatre, as part of the Vaults Festival. Review by Elinor Rowlands. What is so ...

Portraits Untold at National Portrait Gallery

In Conversation: Portraits Untold: A Celebration

On 1 December, National Portrait Gallery played host to an event celebrating the culmination of Tanya Raabe-Webber’s Portraits Untold. The project saw four prominent cultural figures in Dame Evelyn Glennie, John Akomfrah OBE, David Hoyle, and Neil Baldwin sit for Raabe-Webber in four different cultural venues and have their portraits created ...

A photograph of light-box exhibition 'Letting in the Light' showing a number of illuminated artworks at dusk. A number of people are admiring the artworks.

Shining a light on Bobby Baker and Daily Life Ltd

Letting in the Light, a light-box exhibition organised by Bobby Baker’s charity Daily Life Ltd, lit up the streets of Stratford during the dark winter months of this year and showcased the work of artists who have experienced mental distress. Elinor Rowlands spoke to her about the impact of the ...

A photograph of Noëmi Lakmaier performing 'Never Happier'. It shows a shot of her head from above with various multicoloured balloons floating above it which are attached to her skirt.

Noëmi Lakmaier – Cherophobia

Artist Noëmi Lakmaier’s latest piece, Cherophobia takes the form of a 48-hour long live durational performance which will see Lakmaier suspended in mid-air using 20,000 helium balloons as part of the Unlimited Festival in September. Elinor Rowlands speaks to her about the roles of discomfort and control in her work. Noëmi ...

A photograph from the play The Solid Life of Sugar Water. Actors Genevieve Barr (Alice) and Arthur Hughes (Phil) stand in front of a vertical bed which has neon lighting around it.

Amit Sharma – ‘The Solid Life of Sugar Water’

Since premiering at 2015’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Solid Life of Sugar Water has picked up rave reviews from national and festival press. Elinor Rowlands caught up with Amit Sharma, the show’s director, ahead of a three week run at the National Theatre in London from 26 February to 19 ...

A photograph from theatre company, Bread & Goose's forthcoming production, Siege. It depicts a dank basement area with two chairs and a blanket on the floor, starkly illuminated by a bare light bulb.

Siege Mentality – Kate Lovell talks about Bread & Goose’s latest production

In the latest instalment of the #Viewfinder peer-to-peer interviews, Elinor Rowlands quizzes writer and director Kate Lovell about Siege, her company’s latest project, and disability representation on stage. Theatre Company Bread & Goose is led by Alison Neighbour (Designer/Scenographer) and Kate Lovell (Writer/Director). For Lovell it all began when she went to ...