mobile navigation
Blog - Anna Berry

Slaughtering the Sacred cows – what are the taboo disability arts subjects you’d like to discuss?


Portrait of Sir Bert Massie by Tanya Raabe-Webber. Image courtesy of the artist

I have been curator-in-residence at MAC Birmingham via a programme run by DASH for the last year.

I am hosting a symposium day in association with the show I’ve curated at MAC Birmingham on 11th March. The show itself focusses on the Disability Arts Movement, and how art affected social change. However, I would like the symposium to cast a more critical eye, and I’ve called it ‘Slaughtering the Sacred Cows’.

Aaron Williamson will be doing a keynote speech addressing critical engagement within contemporary disability art. We’ll be having a chat with Tom Shakespeare, and some live art from Rachel Gadsden.

I want to ask people what they think the sacred cows that may need slaughtering are. Are we robust enough to criticise ourselves? Are there no-go topics which aren’t debated in Disability Arts? Do we embrace a diversity of viewpoints – or must we all be ‘on message’? Is there an impairment hierarchy? Is the social model being used correctly? Where do mental health issues and neurodiversity sit within disability arts? How do we need to subvert disability arts?

Who would you like to see chair the event? Who would you like to see speak? What would you like to see discussed?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments below or contact me at:

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Joe Turnbull
8 months ago

‘Why is disability arts so white?’ is definitely a question we’ve been wanting to interrogate for a while, so it would be great to hear from some BAME panellists about what the extra barriers are for them, even within the cloistered walls of disability arts. The mental health question is really interesting to me. Yes, I agree with including mental health as part of disability – if we accept that it’s societal barriers and prejudice that can be most disabling. But in the rush to make an equivalence between mental and physical health i.e. mental health problems are just as… Read more »

Anna Berry
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe Turnbull

I think diversity is something we talk about a lot in this sector, quite rightly. To that extent I think it’s absolutely a sacred cow. But it’s not one we want to slaughter is it? I mean, no one is going to stand up and say ‘what we want is more middle class white blokes’. So I think this is a sacred cow that we’re actually sanctifying rather than slaughtering? because by and large we all agree that we want to see diversity. This is actually my main fear for the day – that i can’t quite persuade people to… Read more »

Richard Downes
8 months ago

is there an hierarchy in arts? when does poetry become an art? what became of community arts? what became of live arts? when will events link in with local crip artists….. who’s using robert punton and robin surgeoner/angry fish in birmingham? either might make an interesting chair. but both would make better performers and this is indicative of the link that needs to be made if disability arts is to continue to get a message through. Glad you’ve got the gig Anna. I’ve been following your blogs. You do interesting work and raise such questions.

Richard Downes
8 months ago

PS. By the way i can always use a future gig as could my troupe REaD Rhymes Live

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x