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About

Disability Arts Online – Sharing Disability Arts & Culture with the World

doodle with the face of a creature drawn with simple line and shading

Angela Street: The Art of Scriptwriting. Image © Gini

We are an organisation led by disabled people, set up to advance disability arts and culture through the pages of our journal. Our raison d’être is to support disabled artists, as much as anything by getting the word out about the fantastic art being produced by artists within the sector.

We give disabled artists a platform to blog and share thoughts and images describing artistic practice, projects and just the daily stuff of finding inspiration to be creative.

We know that being an artist is a hard road to travel and that being a disabled artist takes extra layers of resilience and fortitude, so we give support by connecting you with like-minds primarily through our social media networks. In a more limited capacity we will respond to email requests for information and advice.

Primarily, we publish editorial, blogs and showcases of art, providing a place where opinion pieces, reviews and interviews can be shared and commented on. We have a small commissioning budget and are always looking out for pitches from disabled writers, so if you have a proposal for an arts opinion piece, review, or blog about your artistic practice then do email Editor, Colin Hambrook via editor[at]disabilityartsonline.org.uk

Disability Arts Online offers a means for the wider arts sector to engage with disabled artists by sharing professional opportunities on our listings pages, reading about their work on blogs and editorial and in some cases, with partnerships facilitated by our consultancy services.

Disability Arts Online’s listings cover disability arts and culture related events as well as accessible performances of mainstream work. The listings also has a section for arts jobs and career development opportunities, artistic commissions, residencies and competitions.

When and where we can, we like getting out and about to speak at conferences and to produce events at festivals. As well as doing Disability Arts Online, our Director Trish Wheatley has extensive experience as a producer of performance and visual arts, and our Editor Colin Hambrook has worked on many performance poetry events.

Our understanding of disability arts and culture is informed by the Social Model of Disability, as an antidote to the Medical Model of Disability, which assigns us as rejects in need of being fixed in order to conform to normative values. We see disability arts and culture as a supportive environment where experience of barriers we face as disabled people can be shared and our lives valued.

Who is Disability Arts Online?

Trish Wheatley is Disability Arts Online’s full time CEO, has worked at DAO since 2011 and is based in Dorset. She started working in the arts sector in 2005 whilst studying for an MA in Art, with a focus on Photographic Art. Trish quickly developed a passion and specialism in working with and supporting disabled artists at Holton Lee curating and managing the Disability Arts programme. In 2009 she moved into freelance work, with a portfolio specialising in supporting disabled artists and organisations led by disabled people. Trish is a company director of We Are Freewheeling Ltd (known as Freewheeling), which was set up to produce Sue Austin’s artwork, notably her Unlimited commission and ongoing series of work called ‘Creating the Spectacle!’. She also sits on the committee of LinkUpArts, Salisbury and the strategic board of John Hansard Gallery, Southampton.

Colin Hambrook is Disability Arts Online’s Founding Editor, working full time from Brighton. Colin set Disability Arts Online up initially as a channel on ArtsOnline in 2002. In 2004, he registered Disability Arts Online as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, setting the journal up as an independent organisation. Since then he has strived towards his vision for the site as a journal dedicated to work by deaf and disabled artists, which reflects on disability as a social and political construct from a Social Model perspective. He has worked in the field of disability arts for 20 years having produced a variety of web and print based publications in that time. He is also a disabled artist in his own right and has two illustrated poetry collections to his name. Knitting Time published by Waterloo Press in 2013 was shortlisted for a Ted Hughes Award.

Joe Turnbull is Disability Arts Online’s Assistant Editor, based in Glasgow. He studied Politics at the University of Manchester but has since gone on to pursue a career in arts journalism. He has written for the Guardian, Apollo Magazine, Frieze, a-n News, this is tomorrow and Garageland. He was previously Politics Editor at the Inky Needles publishing group and Publications Editor for Art Map London. In 2011 he helped establish Novel, an arts and culture magazine based in his native North East. Joe has long been an outspoken critic of the hierarchical power structures of contemporary society and campaigns for the rights of various marginalised groups.

Cathy Waller is Disability Arts Online’s Operations Coordinator, working 2 days a week based in London. She trained in Theatre and Dance at  Laban in London and has since been working as a Choreographer and Artistic Director of Cathy Waller Company. Alongside her Choreographic career, Cathy has been supporting companies with administration, finance and project management, as well as grant and funding bid writing for independent artists and organisations. Using this experience, Cathy Waller Company have been awarded various commissions and Arts Council grants from 2012, to create both indoor and outdoor tours around the U.K. After becoming disabled later in life, and working extensively with disabled artists, Cathy is passionate in advocating for better understanding and inclusion within the Arts sector.

Deen Hallissey is Disability Arts Online’s Digital Influencer as part of a partnership with Access All Areas. He says: “I’m Deen, I’m 28 years old and I’m from London, of Irish-Caribbean descent. I am on the autistic spectrum and was diagnosed as a child. I am an individual and so is my autism.​ I am a Performer/Artist and actor and I am one of Access All Areas’ Associated Artists. My creative journey started a few years ago when I began taking his interest in performing more seriously. My childhood mate Cian Binchy introduced me to the folks at Access All Areas and I got on to Access All Areas Performance-Making Diploma towards the end of 2015. Since then I’ve been hungry to work more and more in the arts community. I have worked with Black Cab Theatre Company and have been in two shows with Access All Areas – Madhouse and Joy – I was even interviewed by Channel 4 TV! I am sharing my interests in alternative culture and how I see the world as an autistic creative on my DAO blog and across social media platforms.

Disability Arts Online’s Board members

Amy Zamarripa Solis is co-chair of DAO. Amy has worked in communications, fundraising and management in the arts, culture and creative sectors for over 20 years. She was born in Austin, Texas. She has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and qualifications from University of the Arts London and Trust for Developing Communities. Amy has worked at a range of charities, businesses and organisations, from start ups and grassroots community groups to national and international bodies including Arts Council England. She has over 18 years of experience producing multi-art form projects in the UK with strong arts and cultural partners and networks.  For the past three years she has run her own company, supporting and developing art and cultural work that promotes social cohesion, equality and diversity. She is currently Communications Manager at Foundation for FutureLondon. She is founder and Chair of Writing Our Legacy – a literature organisation focused on supporting Black and ethnic minority writers and writing in the South East of England. Amy sits on several arts boards (AudioActive and New Writing South) and BAME focused groups.

Mx Dennis Queen is co-chair of DAO. They are a grassroots activist and musician who has been performing in the disabled people’s movement since the turn of the century. Dennis is currently involved in Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, Not Dead Yet UK, Crip The Vote UK. She also supports as an ally where possible with anti-eviction and no borders/ anti-deportation campaigns and Black Lives Matter UK. Dennis is 45, a nonbinary transgender person, and polyamorous with a rainbow family which is co-parenting and home educating 3 wonderful disabled children. She is disabled by society which uses her variety of boring impairments as an excuse. She’s white so she’s still stupid about a lot, but trying to learn. They arrived at DAO with an agenda around making arts more accessible to grassroots and multiply marginalised disabled people.

Michelle Molyneux. Driven by a passion for collective action leading to equal opportunity and treatment, she studied art history, philosophy and economics and politics. Over the past 15 years, she has worked at a senior level at leading creative and cultural organisations such as Fuse Magazine which reported on socially and politically engaged art practices, Gallery Gachet an exhibition and studio space run by artists with mental health, trauma and addiction experience and was a business consultant at Invisible Dust which facilitates dialogue between visual artists, creative technologists and scientists. Michelle is a board member of the Association of Charitable Foundations and manages a philanthropy charity. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, painting and using clay, and she is busy figuring out how to live with migraines.

Paul Wilshaw is an artist at Mind the Gap (England’s largest learning disability theatre company) and intern assistant producer on Mind-the-Gap and Walk the Plank co-production ZARA. In 2014 Paul moved to Bradford from Dorset to join the company and is the lead artist on his own show, A Long Way From Home, which is a semi biographical theatre show about mental health, rejection and bullying.

Paul is 32, has learning disability and cerebral palsy and is a keen football player and manager for his home town of Wimborne in Dorset. We play ‘ability counts’ football and it great to be part of a team just like DAO and Mind the Gap.

Simon Dell works as a computer programmer, specialising in web applications. He has a particular interest in making web content accessible to all, informed in part by his albinism-related, life-long partial sight. He holds a Masters degree in Software Engineering and has worked for household name media brands, educational software and digital marketing agencies both large and small. Simon has composed and performed music with several bands and for short films. He brings his technical and creative experience to DAO and its board of trustees.

Melissa Hill is a contemporary artist whose practice examines issues of migration and economic displacement. Trained as an economist, Melissa earned her BA at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and went on to work as a financial analyst at JP Morgan on Wall Street and then later for SBC Warburgs in the City of London. She founded the fashion accessories company Stone Bridge, where the recruitment and staff development programmes strove to support young women whose life circumstances resulted in disruption to their secondary school education, a demographic widely neglected social aid programmes. Melissa is pleased to share her experience in financial operations and risk management with DAO and its board of trustees.

Consultancy and Partnership Publishing

As well as filling Disability Arts Online with great content, we also help others in the arts and cultural sector to improve their work with disabled artists and audiences. The way we work with each partner is develop around their needs at a particular point in time so at the beginning it’s about having a conversation to find out how our expertise can help to build their knowledge and confidence. Quite a lot of this work tends to be focussed around the Creative Case for Diversity* and Disability Awareness sessions, but often also leads to fruitful creative project-based partnership work.

People we’re working with:

British Council: having initially been contracted on a consultancy basis to support the refresh of the Disability Arts International website – a platform designed for international arts programmers, venue managers and policy-makers. We’ve been working on updating the site and producing a regular newsletter every six weeks since June 2016 as part of a rolling contract. Each newsletter has been themed to reflect and promote a range of concerns affecting the arts and disability globally.

Unlimited (weareunlimited.org.uk) is an arts commissioning programme administered by Shape and Artsadmin that enables new work by disabled artists to reach UK and international audiences. DAO has been a media partner since 2012. Our contract within the current Unlimited program is to profile Unlimited artists pitching content to a wide range of platforms with recent successes in securing publication with Artshub, The Stage, a-n, ArtsProfessional and Theatre Times amongst others.

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra: We are supporting the orchestra’s change maker’s project, which sees disabled conductor James Rose develop an integrated ensemble. At the beginning of the project we provided training with an experienced Disability Equality Trainer for the entire orchestra and administrative team. We are now supporting the dissemination of the project through James’ blog on DAO.

Creative Diversity Network (CDN) have partnered with all the major film and media companies to assist the process of documenting diversity data for the industry. We have been advising the team on the accessibility, content and language – specifically related to disability, used on the site.

Disability and Community: Dis/engagement, Dis/enfranchisement, Dis/parity and Dissent: (D4D) is a four-year AHRC funded, Connected Communities programme research project investigating with disabled people the evolving ways in which disabled people express, perform, experience and practice ‘community’. Our role has been to administrate the design, building and updating of the website, as well as acting as co-leader on Electric Bodies – one of the eight strands within the project that looks at the history of the development of disability arts practice and its impact on disabled artists.

We also partner with projects to support the creation of resource material that documents the history of disability arts practice.

National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA) is currently bringing to life the heritage and rich history of the Disability Arts Movement. April 2018 sees the launch of a website with an online catalogue of over 2000 images, interactive learning resources and a series of oral history films. DAO is supporting the telling of a heritage story that began in the late 1970s by producing a series of recorded contextual essays, recorded interviews and audio-descriptions of specific artworks to be accessed online as part of the presentation of material from the archive in the new NDACA wing of Bucks New University.

Disability Arts in Surrey (Daisy) is a grassroots organisation working across the county to support participatory arts practice with disability groups. We partnered with Daisy and the Surrey County Libraries Service to deliver Our Future Selves – a series of spoken word events and creative writing workshops across the county in Autumn/ Winter 2017. Funded by ACE Grants for the Arts the project is continuing through Spring 2018 with a series of follow-up creative writing workshops with the groups we worked with last year.

*The Creative Case for Diversity is a way of exploring how organisations and artists can enrich the work they do by embracing a wide range of influences and practices. DAO worked closely with the Arts Council through the development of the Creative Case and delivered the website for its launch.

Other partnerships and consultancy activities are in the pipeline: we always welcome enquiries about working together. Please email Trish Wheatley, CEO, Disability Arts Online at trish[at]disabilityartsonline.org.uk