Disconsortia: a safe space to experiment and to speak freely

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As part of a series of artistic responses and reflections on the artist-led initiative Disconsortia, emerging artist Steph Robson aka Hello Little Lady talks about her engagement with the north-east based consortium, supported by Disability Arts Online through our D4D project.

four hands of different coloured skin grasp each other

Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

There’s been a few points since coming out of lockdown where I have stared, stuck to my seat and my screen, with the realisation of the enormity and privilege it is to be part of the community that is Disconsortia.

A space held for me. To be ‘part of the gang’ … of one of the doors I didn’t have to knock on first to get a foot in.

Because when you’re emerging – the arts landscape seems filled with this funder’s requirements here, deciphering the political landscape there, hearing snippets of gossip and resentments of individuals whispered in the shadows.

In a time where I have attempted to hunker down, questioned my path, dispirited with society – Disconsortia – a platform for disabled artists in the North East – has made sure that I do not.

Nudging me, kindly, to broaden my outlook on this road well travelled.

Given hope, opportunity and aspiration. To where we go next and how we can align without guidelines or strict outcomes – individually, and as a collective. Providing me with a safe space on this never-ending journey of identity and self-acceptance when disabled.

Rejecting Ableism

There is a tentativeness as I walk through the Disconsortia door, especially after years of dealing with one’s own internalised ableism, and at times the overt ableism of the non-disabled.

To be part of something that informs my identity rather than being brought together because we’re ‘different’. It’s not the 80’s or 90’s anymore, I quietly remind myself.

Walking through the Disconsortia door, you will never hear “You’re normal, you know!”. No mixed messages.

You are you.

No ifs, no buts, unapologetically you, respected… while being asked ‘what do you need while we Zoom?’

Embraced

It’s time to step out on a shared platform.

To be visible with a group with similar experiences. To embrace and be embraced by our identities – together.

To unquestionably take ownership of our collective and individual power. To have pride in our work and lived experiences, and being unapologetically vocal about them.

Not in an in-your-face kind of way.

More coming from that space that quietly roars ‘this is me’. To own that fierceness, regardless of however much you’re trembling inside and you want to run back through that damn, metaphorical, door.

Fighting this internal battle of ableism, realising that, perhaps, just perhaps, it can be done side-by-side with those who are carving out and accepting their own identities too.

Scarcely quite believing that there is a space where we have come together, not grouped together by society simply because we are disabled, but because we all have something important to say about disability.

A Reckoning

To give a voice to what you know to be true, yet cannot always articulate. The space of solidarity – to rest when you need to, and stand your ground when needed.

A reckoning, and a chance to shout to the roof-tops about our magnificence. The immense humans – Vici and Lisette – both warriors and wayfinders providing us with the space to breathe, to be heard, to be seen.

Disconsortia provides a safe space to experiment and to speak freely, unedited, and in power. To share and embrace together the overwhelm of this work. To envisage and build a brighter future for disabled artists – fit for the twenty-first century.