Disabled Century BBC Produced and Directed by David Hevey

September 30, 2017 by richard

Can be viewed on line at www.davidhevey.com/viewing

Episode 1

The Disabled CenturyEpisode 1 of 3

A look at the experiences of those disabled while fighting for their country in the two world wars, and the harsh, often brutal realities that confronted the vast majority of disabled people in the early years of the century. It covers World War I heroes reduced to begging in the streets; Horace Blackburn’s struggle to get work; Bill Surrey, in institutions for 77 years; Gladys Brooks, strapped to a steel frame for two and a half years; Snowy Harding, whose family could not afford a wheelchair; fighter ace Douglas Bader, who lost both legs; and the Guinea Pig Club.

Episode 2

The Disabled CenturyEpisode 2 of 3

A look at whether the creation of the welfare state made life better for Britain’s disabled community, and at the rights that disabled groups, including the blind and those affected by thalidomide, began to demand.

100 years of solitude The Guardian


When Les Price wanted to transcribe Ulysses into braille in the 1960s, the prim volunteers at the National Library for the Blind were mortified. That wasn’t the sort of enlightenment they had in mind. Peter Lennon reviews a century of patronising attitudes towards disabled people

Snowy Harding’s life is a weird illustration of Bishop Berkeley’s dictum: “I am because I am perceived”. Or, in his case: “I am what I am perceived to be.” As a child in the 1930s, Snowy would race down 53 steps in the council flats where he lived in West Ham, east London, and rush off the mile and a half to the pictures with the other kids. Then, perceived by his pals as normal, he would play cowboys and indians on the street with them.

The kids just accepted that Snowy did everything crawling. He has suffered all his life from muscular dystrophy, and his mother could not afford a wheelchair. “I didn’t know I was disabled,” Snowy says, “until during the war, when I was 14 and the other kids were evacuated to families in the country. I was sent to an institution.”

How disabled and disfigured people have been perceived over this century is the subject of a new three-part BBC2 series, The Disabled Century, starting tomorrow.

The century opened with disabled people hidden away or tolerated in small communities. It was assumed that they had nothing of any significance to contribute to society.

The first world war changed that somewhat; a place was found for many performing menial tasks in the munitions factories, doing their bit to add a few more disabled to the world.

When the soldiers returned from the second world war, society realised it owed a debt to those disabled in that conflict. At least in the early stages, disfigured soldiers were taken care of, living together in communities of their own. Morale was fairly good since they were “able to face the stares together”.

The 1960s brought a new scourge: thalidomide. Mat Fraser tells how compensation cases were assessed. His mother brought him into a room where there were some strange gentlemen. One of them said: “There are sweets in the top drawer of that filing cabinet.” With only stumps for arms, Mat managed to find the sweeties in the drawer. “£15,000 compensation,” the man said.

Mat Fraser was one of the rare victims of thalidomide who was able to go on to public school. On his first day as a prefect there was a ritual where all the fags were lined up and he had to slap one. He kicked him in the face instead; Mat was more accustomed to using his bare feet than his shrivelled arms. Later, his father gave him boxing gloves and he became a handy kick boxer.

Old attitudes towards disfigurement still clung obstinately to those entrusted with the care of young thalidomide victims. They did not like the idea of those shrublike arms and insisted on prosthetic aids when the children were eating. When it became clear that they were infinitely more skilful handling their food without artificial limbs, a compromise was reached in some homes: there was a rule that decency must be observed on Saturdays and special occasions, so the children were harnessed up at weekends.

For all the liberating ethos of the 1960s, the old patronising attitudes to disabled people persisted; they were still treated as children, expected to be pleased with simple things. Their own courage in living with their disability was often put down to a matter of Christian faith. They were rarely offered opportunities to control their own lives.

It was in the turbulent 1970s – the winter of discontent, Edward Heath and his three-day week – that individual protest began to be heard; but there was still no effective organisation to speak for people with disabilities.

After a youth of dependent living spent in institutions, with few possessions and no experience of organising their own lives, thalidomide children were dumped on the community at the age of 18. Care in the Community was the slogan later, but where were the resources to fund it? It had one useful effect: for good or evil, disabled people lost their isolation and became a very visible element in society.

In the 1980s, there was a hurried attempt to hide them away again. In contrast to the second world war – when, at least for a time, the war wounded were honoured – the triumphalism of the Falklands war did not chime with blasted faces and severed limbs. So when it came to the Falklands victory pagentry, the disabled servicemen tended to be hidden behind the arras.

In the late 1980s, there were serious moves to achieve civil rights for the disabled. It looked as if they might be getting somewhere with the proposals for a disability discrimination act. But when the act was passed in 1995, disabled people once again felt cheated: there were no adequate provisions for imposing sanctions on offenders. “They could just laugh at our legal threats,” disabled groups complained.

The 1990s brought the issue of direct action for access to the forefront, and Londoners at least began to experience a new kind of traffic problem when disabled members of the Direct Action Network began to chain themselves to buses.

When director David Hevey began research for The Disabled Century it was hard to find archive material. “In the old days people did not film disabilities specifically,” he says. “It was not seen as worthy of being filmed, except in a circus. Before the second world war it was not really seen as a photograph issue.”

When he did get archive footage, instead of resorting to the conventional device of cutting back and forth from past to present, he hit on an ingenious device to underline the fact that for these people their tormented past was actively part of their present: he projected images of their past on to their breasts, their faces, pulsating on their skin. “That way,” Hevey says, “their past is a physical sign, almost a stigma on their body. We explained why we were doing it, and they were happy with it. It showed that their history is still active in them, a living issue.”

But they were not all stories of frustration and deprivation. For Les Price, a blind piano tuner, the future seemed forbidding when, in his forties, television sets began to replace the upright piano in the parlour. But he got a job in the National Library for the Blind, and one of his duties was to arrange for the transcription of books into braille. When in 1962 he was made head librarian, he saw a chance to achieve a great ambition: to have James Joyce’s Ulysses transcribed into braille.

“It was my proudest moment,” Les says. “Except, of course, Manchester United winning everything”.

However, initially there was a problem. The National Library for the Blind was founded in 1882 by a group of elderly women whose motive was to give enlighten- ment – mostly of the religious variety – to the blind. “Many of the transcribers were prim ladies, mostly retired school teachers,” Les says. “By 1962, it had moved somewhat, but there was a rearguard action that we shouldn’t give anything to the blind that was ‘dirty’. It was not the staff who objected, but the whole [transcribing] procedure was based on volunteers. I should say that they were very dedicated people, but Lady Chatterley they would not have touched.”

Molly Bloom’s soliloquy was out of the question. In the end, Les Price found an ideal solution: “The transcription was done by a Jewish lady, a member of the staff at the library.”

Despite their determination and ingenuity, the disabled people are still a long way from winning a just place in society.Two out of three disabled people live in poverty or close to it; fewer than one in 10 secondary schools have wheelchair access; six out of 10 disabled people capable of working are not in work.

BBC/The Disabled Century, Broadcast 3 x 40’ film series. BBC2/BBC4/BFI 3×40’. Director/producer David Hevey
Mind Mental Health Media Awards nominee.
“Brilliant…a really good example of the bigger and better philosophy.” BBC2 Channel Controller.
“Visually striking” Paul Hoggart, The Times.
“Beauty and eloquence perpetually forced the viewer to look and hear in fresh ways”. Robert Hanks, The Independent.

“Exemplary..Magnificent..I hope to see it leading the Bafta nominations”, Gerard O’Donovan, The Telegraph.
“First rate”, Jack Dee, The Guardian’s My Media column.
“On any level, the best programme on television this week”. The Independent.
“Extraordinary” Daily Mail.
“Social history at its finest” Polly Toynbee, The Guardian.

Yvonne Mabs Francis, 1945–

September 29, 2017 by richard

Artist insight: Yvonne Mabs Francis

I was born in Oxford in 1945. I attended Brighton School of Art and The Slade School of Art, London, in the Sixties. After leaving college I created Mabs, a business designing and manufacturing clothes. In 1980 and after the birth of my son I returned to painting full time and work in my studio at my home near Oxford. My first notable series of eight paintings were begun in 1998. I painted my experiences I went through in 1969, after the death of my father, having had a serious nervous breakdown and being hospitalised for three months. All these painting were exhibited with a text which was essential to them. After this series I began to work on a personal but more general theme. Works such as ‘The Impossibility….’ and ‘Weighs of Ancestors’. I was still exhibiting with a text but my direction changed and I decided to let the viewer make what they will and I in turn felt free from any particular meaning. I began with such paintings, ‘onseeing…’, ‘Metamorphose’ and ‘Batwoman Building’. My last series are on the theme ‘Dare to Wear’. They are in preparation for an exhibition with the same name, to be held in St Pancras Crypt Gallery, London in November 2012. The themes are clothes in which to meet ones maker. A great theme for me bearing in mind I was once a dress designer even though I do not believe in a ‘maker’. My works are large scale oil paintings. In recent years I have begun to produce drawings as finished works, due to my ever increasing problem of rheumatoid arthritis, which I have suffered from my twenties. I enjoy my work, its creation and its exhibiting. I do not search for deep meanings or spiritual experiences. I am more concerned with the affect images make on people. To attempt to create the WOW factor. Or as Chuck Close an American Photo Realist painter said, ‘I want to knock people socks off’. Well I may not have the ability to render you stockless, I however would like to have a try. I have exhibited with Outsider Artists and I am now a member of the Society of Art of the Imagination. I exhibit in Oxford and London. Links:- www.suekreitzman.com/wow/artist.php?ID=6 www.open.edu/openlearn/profiles/yvonne-mabs-francis www.artofimagination.org/Pages/Francis.html


Liar by Yvonne Mabs FrancisCopyrighted image Icon
Liar by Yvonne Mabs Francis
[Image copyright: Yvonne Mabs Francis]

The painting Liar is mentioned in the main interview with the artist. Here’s what Yvonne says about the painting.

‘Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the liar of us all?’

This painting shows a figure looking into a mirror but she refuses to accept that the horns on her head are only imagined. The mirror tells the truth but the figure is so convinced of their existence that she believes the mirror is lying.

Thirty five years ago just before I entered the Warneford Mental Hospital I believed that my brains had grown like reindeer horns outside my head. I looked in the mirror, constantly asked people if they existed and even felt the space above my head to attempt to examine these horns. None of these actions convinced me they were imaginary. I believed I had brains like this on my head and absolutely nothing would convince me otherwise.


Breakdown by Yvonne Mabs FrancisCopyrighted image Icon
Breakdown by Yvonne Mabs Francis
[Image copyright: Yvonne Mabs Francis]

The Madness of Medication

The Madness of Medication by Yvonne Mabs FrancisCopyrighted image Icon
The Madness of Medication
 by Yvonne Mabs Francis
[Image copyright: Yvonne Mabs Francis]

My name is Yvonne Mabs Francis. I’m an artist by training. I went to the Slade in the Sixties and I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to paint for the last thirty years more or less full time. In the summer of 1969 my father died and I immediately felt ill. The first thing was sleeplessness, and this went on for a period of about three weeks, and I had obsessive thoughts that later became delusional, the delusional of the painting Liar I experienced at this time. I thought that these thoughts had made my brain protrude like horns from the top of my head. I would ask people whether they were there and I didn’t believe them, I would look in the mirror and I still didn’t believe them. I would even put my hands above my head and I still was convinced I had horns on my head.

Within about another two weeks I’d submitted myself to the Warneford Mental Hospital, Oxford. On entering it I was asked whether or not I was likely to commit suicide. I wasn’t likely to commit suicide, I’d felt quite a successful person, I felt there was everything to live for, I was simply terrified by the fact of what I’d gone through and having brains outside your head is, you must admit, pretty terrifying. I knew I was suffering something mentally so I’d gone there thinking that they would talk me through it, but none of them ever tried it at all. And I’m pretty certain that it would have worked because I remember at one stage a sister saying to me that the pieces that were sort of jangling about in my head, they would go away and in time I would feel better. And I remember just for a short moment lifting up my head and all these pieces that were in my head went to the back of my head and I felt defiant and I felt less afraid.

This just happened for a moment so I really felt totally convinced that if the doctors talked you through it, in the same way they may talk to you today about having a heart attack or any other physical illness, this would have relieved me to some extent. I appreciated it was something I had to live through but it would have helped. Mental illness is like a wall. You are behind your wall, you’re fairly logical behind your wall actually, and what you say isn’t always very easy for other people to understand, your language is, in other words, slightly disjointed or confused.

After four weeks when I was hospitalised I went up into a locked ward for more severe cases. They tried deep sleep treatment which really didn’t work because obviously you are partly conscious, and it made it even worse because the power of your body ceased with the medication that they’d given you so you couldn’t in any way sort of express your distress. What did help me, however, although I do feel at that time I was just beginning to turn the corner, was electric shock treatment. The Warneford, for all my criticism, were actually very good at electric shock treatment. Don’t ever be taken in by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, it really is wrong. And they did it in such a way that you hardly knew what was happening and you felt an awful lot better afterwards. It may only be temporary but you just hold onto the better times. After about three to four weeks of this treatment I managed to be well enough to leave hospital and I’m afraid I never returned there, I never returned to my outpatients appointments because I’d simply been too horrified. In fact I’ve never walked up the driveway in all the years since then.

I painted these series of pictures at least 35 years after my experience. I did it because they would make good images but I did it also – but this was secondary – I wanted to lay to rest this silence that I felt I had over this, and these issues that I had over my treatment up there at Warneford, and to try to put over exactly what mental health delusions are. Many people talk about them, they analyse them, they work out that it’s this and that but nobody actually says exactly what it is that they’re suffering. And this is what I was very, very keen to do because I felt that that would help people, that that would have helped me when I was suffering if somebody had done this to me, and I’d hoped it would help people in the future. And in fact one comment in a book when I showed them at a gallery was that they’d had a father suffering mental health problems and they’d never up until that point realised what they were suffering. So in that way it was done to not only help people that were suffering but to help people around them to see exactly what they may be suffering.

A lot of people have asked me whether these paintings were a cathartic experience for me. Well they were not, they were done in a really cold calculating way. I was out on a mission for mental health and I was out to produce good images, and it didn’t affect me in the slightest looking back and thinking about these experiences. My paintings do have great meaning for me in my life. I don’t think I’d want to be without working. I have, as I said, I do suffer depression, not to an unmanageable extent but it does certainly help my depression, and it also gives my life great meaning. This is the problem, you know, with sort of a lack of religion is finding meaning, and for me my meaning is my work and that is a huge sort of coping mechanism.

The Bodily Time Machine

The Bodily Time Machine by Yvonne Mabs FrancisCopyrighted image Icon
The Bodily Time Machine
 by Yvonne Mabs Francis
[Image copyright: Yvonne Mabs Francis]

Stages of Hospitalisation

The Stages of Hospitalisation by Yvonne Mabs FrancisCopyrighted image Icon
Stages of Hospitalisation 
by Yvonne Mabs Francis
[Image copyright: Yvonne Mabs Francis]

Third Month

Third month by Yvonne Mabs FrancisCopyrighted image Icon
Third Month
 by Yvonne Mabs Francis
[Image copyright: Yvonne Mabs Francis]

Here’s what Yvonne says about the painting.

This painting is a following on from the Stages of Hospitalisation, where I had divided time spent in hospital by three, all in four week stages. In the third month I believed I had become a severed head: a realisation I made while sitting in a side room as the left hand figure sits in the painting.

So I had entered the third month. To my horror my third month was not in a locker but I had become a severed head which swung from side to side in order to waddle down the passageway. My long hair caught under the bleeding severed neck and mixing with the blood, was pounded against the hard corridor floor and made a squeaking noise which set my teeth on edge, a sound I remember to this day.

A stream of blood runs across the sea to the suggestion of Arnold Bicklin’s, ‘Isle of the Dead’, a Symbolist’s picture where death is shown as part of life’s experiences. The stylised fish and the bottle-shaped fish, float in a cage on top of the water, while the bird, unappreciative of it’s freedom, hovers demanding to be in their places.

The Electric Bed

The Electric Bed by Yvonne Mabs FrancisCopyrighted image Icon
The Electric Bed by Yvonne Mabs Francis

The artist’s work would comfortably sit alongside paintings by Frida Khalo, Dorothea Tanning, Paula Rego and Leonora Carrington, the greatest female painters of magical realism/ surrealistic imagery of the 20th and 21st centuries. Fearful but equally invested with grace and humour, Francis’s paintings are beautifully crafted with a sublime use of colour.

Over the years some paintings enter your psyche as ‘old friends’. I had forgotten the scale of the genius of Francis’s ‘Mental Health series’. The Electric Bed was one such painting. Then, as now, it struck a chord partly because of a personal association the painting evokes of a fear of being plugged into the electricity supply with ECT.

Yet, The Electric Bed has a far more peaceful quality to it than I remembered. The figure lying supine on a bed wired up to the electricity meter is clearly not comfortable but equally she conveys a resigned nature. The vivid colour and above all the Iris petals that float from the sleeper’s bed with a cloud-like skull that surrounds the central image, give the narrative a protective quality, unwieldy as her predicament is.

Like Magritte’s The Reckless Sleeper, you get the sense that whilst in her prostrate state she is reinventing the world and is far less of a victim than you might think.

Yvonne Mabs Francis's painting The Bodily Time Machine, this colourful painting illustrates the cycle of life from woman to girl, to foetus, showing each incarnation emerging from the other.

Yvonne Mabs Francis, The Bodily Time Machine

Dominating the gallery space are three works that define Francis’s ouvre: The Bodily Time MachineManacles or Bracelets and The Impossibility of Being Inside the Head of Someone Living.  Colossal paintings, they represent a form of religious art for the secular age. There is a timeless and universal sensibility to the figures Francis presents us with. Each painting poses a question about contemporary life from a feminist perspective.

The Bodily Time Machine is most reminiscent of Frida Khalo drawing on motifs of flowers and skull while exposing the inner organs of the female body. The painting illustrates the cycle of life from woman to girl, to foetus, showing each incarnation emerging from the other. In the text accompanying the painting Francis talks about how it illustrates a feeling she experienced of going backwards in time to meet her death.

Again, it struck a chord personally, having also had the sensation of growing towards the foetal state during a psychotic episode. It’s an exhilarating feeling and echoes the story of the mythical character of Merlin who was said to have lived from old age to infancy.

Yvonne Mabs Francis's painting, The Impossibility of Being Inside the Brain of Someone Living. In the painting a tree supports a central head with an exposed brain, which draws new life, fish are in either corner and a dove flies overhead.

Yvonne Mabs Francis, The Impossibility of Being Inside the Brain of Someone Living.

Manacles or Bracelets represents the imperative to reproduce, asking whether that which confines and restricts us can also free us. There are echoes of the many-armed goddesses of Hindi art, and of mediaeval manuscripts, but the figure in this painting is a modern woman questioning her fate. She is an old soul reflecting on universal dilemmas.

Two pheasants placed on either side of the central figure add to the symmetrical, eastern influence in the painting. The text accompanying the painting says they are there because they are signifiers of beauty although they are going to be shot by gunmen. I like the plain language Francis uses to describe her narratives. It enhances the viewers’ appreciation of the work in a concise unpretentious way, conveying the backstory to the symbolism she employs.

Double Deaths

[Image copyright: Yvonne Mabs FrancisDeaths

Double Deaths by Yvonne Mabs FrancisCopyrighted image Icon
Double Deaths
 by Yvonne Mabs Francis
[Image copyright: Yvonne Mabs Francis]

Yvonne Mabs Francis, The Impossibility of Being Inside the Brain of Someone Living.

The Impossibility of Being Inside the Brain of Someone Living takes the 1999 American magical realism film Being John Malkovich as its inspiration. In the painting a tree supports a central head with an exposed brain, which draws new life. Again there is a dark comedic touch to the subject matter, an allegory for the limitations of being human.

Sources http://www.outsidein.org.uk/Yvonne-Mabs-Francis


Hear Francis describe the link between her art and mental illness in this Open University programme


Sierra Leone amputees turn to art

by richard

Painting by amputee artist Seih MansarayBildergebnis für Sierra Leone Amputees turn to Art

But in Sierra Leone, a country where the people have learnt the hard way that anything is possible, that is exactly what you will find.

I feel so happy now. With my paintings I’ve been able to show people why I am like I am.

Seih Mansaray

An afternoon visit to Aberdeen amputee camp satisfied my curiosity.

In a rundown shack at the back of this makeshift village, I found the artists hard at work.

One’s immediate impression is of how colourful this small, dusky room is.

Colourful, not only in comparison with the dirty brown of the surrounding camp, but colourful because of the smiles.

Not all the artists are amputees – many of them are children of amputees.

Light into their lives

But all of them are victims of war.

During Sierra Leone’s 10-year civil war, thousands of innocent civilians had their limbs hacked off.

The rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were the main perpetrators, but many of those maimed by machetes will accuse government soldiers.

Aberdeen amputee camp artists

Amputees have found a new goal in painting 

Between fighting forces it was, the amputees say, like for like.

But the end result is the same.

There is an overwhelming feeling of depression in the camp.

On previous visits numerous amputees had told me that they would rather be dead.

‘What use am I now?’ they ask in frustration, waving a severed limb as if to illustrate the point.


‘How can I help my children grow up and have a decent life?”

Finally a very simple project has brought some light into their lives.

Some of the children, as well as their disabled parents, have found something to focus on.

Hillary Ravenscroft and Abu Bangura

The project is about taking and giving

The painting is both therapeutic and potentially lucrative.

It all started out of guilt.

‘Guilt’, because some United Nations staff who had been carrying out research with the amputees felt that it was all take and no give.

They were looking for a way to give something back to the amputees.

Then Hillary Ravenscroft arrived in Sierra Leone, joining her husband on a business trip.

Healing process

As a teacher and an artist she was able to take up the mantle for the frustrated UN staff, and started the art project.

Its impact, she says, has been remarkable.

The act of recreating their memories as a shared image has become part of a healing process for the amputees.

Seih Mansaray at work

Seih Mansaray says painting has changed his life

But Hillary would not accept the credit for such therapy.

This has become a community project at heart.

Local businesses provide bits of material for the artists; a ream of paper from a print shop, a bucket of paint from a paint manufacturer.

What is more, the volume of work that the artists has produced illustrates the dedication with which they have thrown themselves into the project.


In less than three months more than 500 pieces of art have materialised, and the art group, of more than 50 people, keeps on growing.

Seih Mansaray is the oldest amputee in the group.

He no longer cries at night. Instead he puts his worries and dreams into his art.

Hillary Ravenscroft

For him painting has been a godsend, a way of telling his story and exorcising the demons that have plagued his mind since rebels hacked off his right arm four years ago.

“I feel so happy now. With my paintings I’ve been able to show people why I am like I am,” he says.

His pictures are basic but their content is brutal.

A smiling rebel stands over him holding an arm aloft as a trophy.

“They laughed at me,” he says. “But I’ve got a life again, I can do something useful. When I paint I forget that I’ve only got one arm.”

New lease of life

One of the children in the camp, Abu Bangura, lost his father to the rebels.

His mother had both her legs cut off.

Abu Bangura with one of his pictures

Abu Bangura will buy food with the painting money

As the oldest child, Abu assumed responsibility for the family.

The burden was often too much to bear but, as Hillary explains, the painting has given him a new lease of life.

“He no longer cries at night. Instead he puts his worries and dreams into his art,” she says.

The therapeutic aspect of the painting is undeniable but recently another, more concrete benefit has been added.

Art for food

The amputee art is being sold.

An exhibition at the UN headquarters in Freetown sold almost every piece of work.

Standing in front of his gallery of paintings Abu’s eyes light up.

Every item has a “Sold” sticker on it.

“I am so proud, I’ve sold everything. Now I will be able to buy enough food for my family and maybe even continue my education,” he says.

An artist at the amputee camp

Amputees learn to come to terms with their disability

This monetary aspect is integral to the project.

The amputees and their families are desperately short of money.

This little project has made a significant difference to so many lives.

Some might argue that their work is only popular because of who they are.

Their customers are more interested in the fact that the painting they buy is from an amputee camp.

For many the aesthetic value of the painting is secondary, but so what?

More and more foreigners are coming to Sierra Leone, and the macabre fascination with amputees is always there.

The amputees and their family have found a way of making money out of this western curiosity about brutality.

More importantly, however, they have found a way to deal with the terrible memories they have bottled up inside.

BBC News Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2038949.stm

Tracey Lazard on UN CRPD Committee calling UK Government’s Treatment of Disabled People a Catastrophe

by richard


IL in Geneva

We gave evidence to the UN in August alongside our sister DDPOs

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations were hailed as “world leaders” by the UN for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on Disabled people in the UK.The UN Disability Committee condemned the UK government, saying that austerity policies have caused a ‘human catastrophe’ for Deaf and Disabled people in the UK.

DDPOs and the thousands of Deaf and Disabled people we work with can feel very proud at the contribution we made. Catch up here:

Disability in Medieval Art

September 24, 2017 by richard

Most of the portrayals of disabled people from the 10th to end of 13th Century are to be found in illustrated hand coloured and drawn manuscripts, miniature paintings from greater Persia and stain glassed windows produced by unknown artisans or artists.. They are mainly moral tales and tales of miracles deriving from the religious stories of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

St Gulthric expells demon East Anglia 1210 (1)

St Gulthric expels a demon 1210, England. A acknowledgement of mental health ?

Christ Heals a paralytic The Gospel of Tsar Ivan Alexander, Turnova 1355 (3)Christ Heals a blind man The Syriac Lectionaary Mosul 1216 (1)

Christ heals a paralytic at pool at Bethesda-‘Take up thy bed and walk’ and Christ heals a blind man
Syrian Lectionary northern Iraq 1256-20

A paralytic is healed by Cuthbert's shrine 1200 DurhamLife of St cuthbert book. Heals child and blind man. Durham 1200

A paralytic healed by Cuthburt’s Shrine and a baby and youth cured by relics (a hair) of St Cuthbert. Bede’s Life of Saint Cuthburt ,Durham 1200.

Often disabled pilgrims were portrayed on their way to a holly shrine for a cure.


Pilgrims, 2 lame and one blind, on their way to Mount St.Michel in France. The Luttrel Psalter Lincoln 1325

Sometimes just a thorn from Christs Crown, nails from his cross or his winding sheet-the holy grail were attributed with cures.

The Holy Grail is carried to Sarras(Jerusalam) La Queste del Saint Graal France 1316. Note lame man cured.

The holy grail is carried to Sarras(Jerusalam) by knoights assisted by a lame man cured by Galahad The Quest for the Holy Grail France 1316

Manuscript illustrations give us glimpse into the life of disabled people during this period

meideval crutches July 18 Hermann of Reichenau 1013-1054Medieval crutches July 18 Hermann of Reichenau 1013-1054

MS. Bodl. 264, part 1. 14th C. The Romance of Alexander. Buttons up past elbow & low toward hem.

Disabled people as figures of fun. Harvesting

Royal 13 B VIII fol. 30v - A crippled man.


Stredovek Miniature fighter with a sword and crutch.

Fighter with a crutch!

n medieval England, the 'leprechaun', the 'blynde', the 'dumbe', the 'deaff', the 'natural fool', the 'creple', the 'lame' and the 'lunatick' were a highly visible presence in Everyday life.


Luttrell Psalter 1325.  In medieval England, the ‘leprechaun’, the ‘blynde’, the ‘dumbe’, the ‘deaff’, the ‘natural fool’, the ‘creple’, the ‘lame’ and the ‘lunatick’ were a highly visible presence in Everyday life and reflected in Manuscript illustrations.

Stained Glass windows in Cathedrals and Churches sent out similar messages.

William heals ablind woman York Minster

William heals a blind woman. York Minster

a-stained-glass-window-depicting-jesus-curing-the-man-with-palsy-church Church of Christ the Consoler, Skelton Cum Newby1


A-stained-glass-window-depicting-jesus-curing-the-man-with-palsy-church Church of Christ the Consoler, Skelton Cum Newby

Timur the Lame or Tamberlain featured in of minatures. The unlikely combination of a war leader who captured a sizeable central Asian empire whilst bein disabled from injuries in his leag and hand.

_64520891_tamerlane624Tamberlain in AnatoliaTamerlane who won the Ankara war against the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I in July 28, 1402 did not immediately left Anatolia and stayed there for approximately one year.

Tamberlain in Anatolia. Tamerlane who won the Ankara war against the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I in July 28, 1402

He did not immediately left Anatolia and stayed there for approximately one year.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20538810

A fallen rider revived by St Dominic. The caption says he broke his neck 1330 Yates Th0mpson MS England


A fallen rider revived by St Dominic. The caption says he broke his neck, 1330, Yates Thompson MS, England

Tamerlane imprisoned and humiliated the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid.


Lame Tamerlane imprisoned and humiliated the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid.

Timur defeats the sultan of Delhi

Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi

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The brazen serpent Hebrew Northern France 1278-98

The brazen serpent. Hebrew Northern France 1278-98

Source  Marvellous to Behold Miracles in Medieval Manuscripts Deirdre Jackson  2007 The British Library

Marc Quinn, 1964–

by richard

Marc Quinn, a contemporary artist and sculpture, works arises from a deep fascination with existence. The materials are both form and content in which he uses art history to investigate and expand and broaden our thinking about the essence of being human. In this journey he has shown himself to be inclusive in his choice of subject matter focusing often in interesting and revealing ways on subject matter that many artists would rather ignore often focusing on disabled people.

For example, as a recovering alcoholism Marc produced etchings and then lead cast sculpture of emotional detoxification in the Seven Deadly Sins (1994) -anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, lust, pride and sloth. The body parts used were molds of his own body.

Emotional Detox Seven Deadly Sins 1994


Works such as the above compel viewers to think, confronting them with their own ideas about beauty and ugliness, life and death, art and science, normal and abnormal. Quinn in much of his work studies his own body as a point of departure. So in Self he made a portrait head of five litres of his own frozen blood making the vulnerability of existence palpable.

Head filled blood front

In 1997 in his Shit Paintings Quinn again challenged the viewer ‘It is absurd that through culture people become alienated from something of themselves or a function of themselves.’

The paintings were prepared treated and covered to not smell.

Shit painting 1997Shit head 1997

In 1997 -1999 Nervous Breakdown feature  casts of the artist’s head covered in thick layers of rubber almost hidden behind a mask of rubber, impaled on a stake-a horrific effect.

mustard use (1 of 1)-2Scarlet Nervous breakdown 1997


In the late 1990’s Quinn’s work took a turn focusing on other people. This took two directions, one focusing on flowers and the other on bodies. Walking through a museum and seeing all the ancient sculptures with parts missing he wondered how people would react to living human beings whose bodies had the same for. This lead to the series Complete Marbles (1999-20001). Quinn sought models who from birth or after an accident lacked one or more limbs. He made casts of them and then had Italian craftspeople produce sculptures in dazzling white marble in the classic tradition.

Alexandra Westmoquette 2000

Alexander Westmoquette

Stuart Penn Victoria and Albert 1-London 2000


Stuart Penn 2000 Victoria and Albert Museum,, London

marc quinn peter hull 2000Tom Yendell 2000


Peter Hull    Tom Yendell

Alison Lapper and Parys 2000Kiss 3 Marc Quinn


Alison Lapper and Parys                                                  The Kiss

This series culminated in Marc Quinn’s design for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square being accepted and causing much controversy.

Marc Quinn Fourth PlinthAlison Lapper Prwegnant 2005

Alison Lapper Pregnant 2005. For educational activities around this installation see:-






54 foot inflatable Alison Lapper by Marc at Venice Biennali  for an appreciation of the impact of the statue see http://www.disabilityarts.online/magazine/opinion/fourth-plinth-raising-issue-disability/

A counter part to Complete Marbles is Chemical Life Support(2005) for which Quinn selected people, including his own son, whose lives were dependent on medicines because of a hidden impairment. Disabled people with hidden impairment are the most difficult conditions  to portray but making them of polymer wax that looks like skin all the statues are lying on the ground in sleeping postures.

Innoscience 2004

Marc’s son had severe allergy to dairy products, which after three he was ‘Free’ of.

Chemical Life support 2005



Kate Hodgkinson-Acidal D£-Ferrous Sulphate-Methotrexate Plaquenil- Prednisolone (Lupus)

Carl Whittaker-Amiodarone–Asprin-Cicosporin (Heart Transplant)

Silvia Petretti-Sustiva-Tenofivir-3TC (HIV)

Nicholas Grogan-Insulin (Diabetes)

In Mirrors for the Blind (2005) ‘ I made portrait heads of  Anna Cannings and Bill Waltier, who had both been blind from birth. When they touched their portraits it was the first time they had ‘seen’ themselves in the way they see others with touch.’

Mirrors for the Blind MarkWaltier 2005Mirrors for the Blind Anne Cannings 2005

‘ I came across an etching in an C18th medical text book of the skeleton of Marc Cazotte who had Phocomelia, a genetic mutation condition, which can be caused by chemicals such as thalidomide. The human skeleton is such an archetypal image that to see it configured differently has a very strong effect and seems to question the idea of a ‘normal body’ in a new way.’ This relates very strongly to my marble portraits, some of which are also Phocometic persons.

Portrait of Marc Cazotte 1757-1801_2006 1


Marc Quinn Recent Works 2006 Nai Publishers: Groningeen Museum

Marc Quinn Fourth Plinth , 2006 Steidmack: Germany




Liu Shuai, 1989–

September 23, 2017 by richard



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Liu Shuai mainly employs black and colored ink and uses both the two main techniques in traditional Chinese painting-Shui Mo, freehand or watercolor or brush painting, and Gong Bi, meticulous or court-style painting.


Shauai  suffers from cerebral palsy and has been confined to a wheelchair since his childhood. Despite many adversities of life, Shuai has never yielded to it. Being not able to attend school, he asked his mother to borrow textbooks to teach him to read. Then he got a dictionary and started teaching himself . At 10, Shuai started painting when one day his father picked up a crayon in the street and brought it back home. “I soon lost myself in the pleasure of painting and found it a way to express my inner world,” Shuai said in an interview.


Liu Shuai, Elegant Gathering of Friends.


When Shuai paints, he has to sit in his shabby wheelchair with the help of his father he has his legs tied to the wheelchair in order to allow him to paint.  “I can’t stretch out my fingers fully and my hands tremble when painting so I have to lay my wrist on an ink box.” Shuai said, He is left handed only because his right hand is a lot worse then his left. .” For all these limitations, Shuai paints three to four hours every day.


Shuai is a self taught painter. He spends a lot of his time reading theory and instruction books, copying artworks in history and learning from videos and artists advice interviews.


Liu Shuai,  Picture of Listening to Spring


Traditionally, as a painter of Chinese brush painting, the artist must be versed in literature as well if he wants to be an accomplished painter. Chinese paintings have long been a means of expressing thoughts of great scholars down throughout the ages. Shuai knows this well. He reads as many books as he can get his hands on and keeps writing down his thoughts.  Here is a short note by Shuai: “Immersed in the painting for over a decade, how many hot and cold times have gone? Fingers tremble with the cold bed in winter and in summer shirts get wet and dry. Every single dot and line are painted in heart. My brushes and ink move and flow as days extend.”


In spite of years being isolated in his village, Shuai successfully held a small exhibition of his China  and won a second prize in an arts competition for the disabled in Hebei Province.


Today, Shuai is accepted as a member of Chilture Studio of Disabled Artists. Chilture will do its best to assist him in  holding a formal exhibition, having a collection of his painting published and getting instructions from accomplished masters of Chinese painting.



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Yinka Shonibare, 1962–

September 22, 2017 by richard

Yinka Shonibare race class and cultural Identity,  1962 –





Yinka Shonibare is a British – Nigerian artist living in the United  kingdom. He has  become well known for his exploration of colonialism and postcolonialism within the contemporary context of globalization. Working in painting, sculpture, photography, film and performance, Shonibare’s work examines race, class and the construction of cultural identity through sharp political commentary of the tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories.


Yinka Shonibare,  The Age of Enlightenment, 2008

YinkaShonibare (1) National SeATING AND mOBILITY


Shonibare contracted transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, at the age of 18, which resulted in a long-term physical disability where one side of his body is paralysed. He then went on to study fine arts. Following his studies studies, Shonibare worked as an arts development officer for Shape Arts, an organisation which makes arts accessible to disabled people.


“I do have a physical disability and I was determined that the scope of my creativity should not be restricted purely by my physicality. It would be like an architect choosing to build only what could be physically built by hand.” says Shonibare.  Shonibare readily acknowledges physical disability as part of his identity but creates work in which this is just one strand of a far richer weave.


Because of his disability, he is physically incapable of carrying out the making of the work himself, and relies upon a team of assistants to realise his artistic vision for him. In this context, conceptualism takes on a new angle. “That Shonibare became a conceptual artist who delegates much of the production of his labor-intensive projects to a network of other artists is partly a result of his disabling illness.”

Shonibare’s disability has increased with age; as his mobility has become further restricted with time, he has begun to use an Electric wheelchair,  In later life, Shonibare has become more open to discussing his disability and its role within his work as a creative artist.  In 2013, Shonibare was announced as patron of the annual Shape Arts “Open” exhibition where disabled and non-disabled artists are invited to submit work in response to an Open theme


Diary of a Victorian Dandy Series V&A



He was notably commissioned by  Okwui Enwezor at documenta XI in 2002 to create his most recognised work Gallantry and Criminal Conversation that launched him on an international stage.

shonibare-4-bINDING BREWERY

Yinka Shonibare, Gallantry and Criminal Conversation , 2002

Shonibare was nominated for a Turner prize in 2004, and was also awarded the decoration of member of the ‘Most Excellent Order Of The British Empire’ or MBE, a title he has added to his professional name. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennial and internationally at leading museums worldwide. In September 2008, his major mid-career survey commenced at the MCA Sydney and toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York in June 2009 and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC in October 2009 .

Black Gold II Y S

“Black Gold II” (2006) by Yinka Shonibare.  White/James Cohan Gallery

In 2010, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle became his first public art commission.


Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare during its occupancy of the  Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square

Shonibare examines, in particular, the construction of identity and tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories. Mining Western art history and literature, he asks what constitutes our collective contemporary identity today. Having described himself as a ‘post-colonial’ hybrid, Shonibare questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions. People always took his work seriously and he said ” if love someone fight for them with your hands”

A key material in Shonibare’s work since 1994 is the brightly coloured “African” fabric (Dutch wax-printed cotton) that he buys himself from Brixton market in London. “But actually, the fabrics are not really authentically African the way people think,” says Shonibare. “They prove to have a crossbred cultural background quite of their own. And it’s the fallacy of that signification that I like. It’s the way I view culture – it’s an artificial construct.”


Yinka Shonibare The Swing (After Fragonard)  2001 is now part of the Tate Modern collection in London.


I know something about loveYinka Shonibare,  I  Know Something About Love, 2011





“How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Ladies),” a 2006 work by Yinka Shonibare with mannequins,


The Scramble for Africa 2003














Yinka Shonibare,  I  Know Something About Love, 2011





“How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Ladies),” a 2006 work by Yinka Shonibare with mannequins,










Sanchita Islam, 1973–

by richard

c12ffcc4-c072-425b-94f5-eeec396bb004-2060x1236ProfitabilityIslam was born in Manchester, Lancashire, England to a “non-Sylheti“Bangladeshi parents. Islam’s father died when she was eight months old, at the time her mother was in her mid 20s with three children under the age of four. Islam and her sisters were brought up by their mother and step-father. Her mother was a social worker in Manchester and Oldham.

From 1977 to 1984, Islam attended Amberleigh Preparatory School. From 1984 to 1991, she attended Chorlton Convent High School for Girls. In June 1991, she completed A-levels in Art, English Literature, History at Loreto College in Manchester. In June 1992, she completed an Art foundation diploma at Manchester Metropolitan University.

In September 1996, Islam graduated from the London School of EconomicsUniversity of London with a BSc in International History and a MSc in Comparative Politics. In February 1998, she completed an MA in Directing and Screenwriting sponsored by Channel 4 at the Northern Media School at Sheffield Hallam University. She then enrolled for BA in Fine Art Practice and Theory of Visual Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design and dropped out in her second year.

From 1996 to 1998, Islam had a short career working as researcher in television for London Weekend Television. In 1998, Islam participated in the group show 000 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Later, during a show of her drawings and paintings, she was told she would have to be at the gallery full-time. Islam decided to take her practice to the public.

People came to the gallery and were more interested in watching Islam paint, which urged Islam to combine live painting, live visuals and live music. In January 1999, Pigment Explosion was initially set up to perform live art events, but now specialises in international art projects. Since 1999, Pigment Explosion has branched out into projects that include film, painting, drawing, writing and photography.

Islam has done nearly 100 group and solo shows  in London, Paris, New York and Bangladesh. She has written 15 books and two plays  as well as readings tours with writers like Irvine Welsh and Miranda Sawyer. She has worked with the British Council, on projects with the elderly, workshops in schools and with disadvantaged children. She has directed and/or produced 17 films, in London, New York, Paris, Bangladesh, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Rome, India, Pakistan, Frankfurt, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Barcelona and Miami; they have been exhibited and screened in these places excluding Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Barcelona and Miami. Her films and books, which combine text and drawings, have been funded by the Arts CouncilBBCBritish Council and Commonwealth Institute.

She was an artist in residence at the Whitechapel Art Gallery between 2003 and 2004, she was artist in residence at the Open Gallery from 2004 to 2008, and also worked as an artist in residence at TVF Media from 2004 to 2009. She was also artist in resident at Artscape and Shoreditch House and her art features in various venues around London such as Sketch, Mark Hix‘s restaurant and she was commissioned to do over one hundred paintings for Clifton Hotel Group in Bristol.

In 2010, the UK Film Council commissioned Islam’s animated film The White Wall. In 2010 and 2011 the theatre group Estaca Zero Teatro in Portugal performed two of Islam’s plays, The Suitcase and Hello.

In March 2013, she had a mid-career retrospective at Rich Mix. KAOS (TrActor’s sister organisation) awarded her a grant to complete the second scroll project with patients suffering from mental health problems in Brussels 2014. Rich Mix has invited Pigment Explosion again to exhibit this second scroll and write/perform a play about art, madness and disability, the show is scheduled in June 2015. In March of the same year, she was interviewed by Nadia Ali on BBC Asian Network about her exhibition The Rebel Within.

In January 2015, Muswell Hill Press published her new book, written under the pseudonym Q.S Lam, Schizophrenics Can Be Good Mothers Too. In June 2015, the book was launched in London at Shoreditch House and Rich Mix. Islam lives and works in East London, is married and has two sons. Her husband is of Swedish descent.

Since the age of four, Islam has suffered from melancholia. In 2009, at the age of 36, she had her first experience of psychosis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanchita_Islam 


Schizophrenics Can Be Good Mothers Too Exhibition 2009

The artist explains some of the ideas behind the exhibition in a moving and intimate series of reflections on a selection of the artworks

Wall 1: Mother and child sketches

In 2009 I suffered my first psychotic episode, I thought it was a mental aberration, but then it struck a second time in 2010. After a period of recovery I fell pregnant, but was never forewarned that I might be vulnerable to postpartum psychosis.

Throughout my pregnancy I worked on creating and delivering my animation film White Wall for the UK Film Council. Three days after I gave birth psychosis struck and my life changed irrevocably.

I was kept in hospital for one month, in a mother and baby psychiatric unit in Brussels, my mental health deteriorated, I had to act ‘normal’ to ensure release.

When I got home psychosis was never far away, I suffered multiple visions when I breastfeed or if I was sleep deprived. I had very little mental health support, but I learnt to recognise the patterns inherent within psychosis and realised the only thing that would help me would be to draw. I drew anything, the view from my hospital window and then my focus was my new-born baby.

I began to assiduously draw my baby as he breast fed or slept. I made a second book when my second child was born and postpartum psychosis struck again.

Making these drawings, each and every one of them, kept me well and silenced ‘Fred’ the negative voice in my head.

The oil paintings are part of a series that began when the children were still in the womb.

I am painting one oil painting of them each year until they are 18 and the idea is that the 18 portraits will make up one composite piece.

I have also included colour pencil portrait studies of the children.




I have also included drawings of my parents, because without them I wouldn’t be here and nor my children, my mother perhaps carried the mad gene and passed it onto me and thereby I may have passed it on to my children.

Can we break the cycle? I hope so through education and art – I think it is possible.

Wall 2: Postcards

While working in Brussels I participated in ‘Return to Sender’ at the Contemporary Arts Centre in Brussels, which consisted of an exhibition of various artists who each created a postcard.

Every artist involved had some history or link with mental health issues.

After creating my first one, I found the experience so positive that I decided to continue and hence my 1000 Postcards project was born.

As a mother with mental health problems and two small children, finding time and space to make my art can be difficult, creating a postcard is possible given my time constraints.

Very soon my young son became involved in the project, he would create squiggles and I would then transform them into ethereal landscapes replete with dragons or dinosaurs, Lego figures, poems and lines of wisdom etc. The postcard project has helped to cement the bond between us.


So far I have created 180. Some are drawn, others painted, I even created one in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, I realise the postcard can be a simple but powerful art form.

Wall 3: White Wall and Dragon Story – the realm of the fantasy






I have included this work because the realm of the fantasy has been an important part of my recovery. After my first psychosis in 2009 and 2010 working on my animation film White Wall, for the UK Film Council, helped to heal my broken mind since the film is about a little girl with mental health problems.


Similarly the Tree People is a story I wrote when I was 23, but due to my mental health issues I have never done anything with it, like many of the books I have written I just shoved it in a drawer, I then re-visited it thinking that my children would appreciate the story and this motivated me to create a colour version of the original black and white drawings.

I now hope to turn both of them into books for children. I want to write stories for children about people with mental health issues, environmental issues and write about ‘brown’ families or set stories in Bangladesh.

I am sure many of my mental health problems stem from this sense of not fitting, or belonging, or counting or being heard or represented.



Wall 4: Text, brain sketchbooks, Fred paintings and war

Shortly before and since the psychosis text has been an intrinsic part of my practise as an artist.

Text now features on my paintings, in my drawings, sketchbooks and scrolls.

People often ask why do I write so small? To which I reply it is because I need to get the stuff out of my head, but I don’t necessarily want people to read it.

Some of the text pieces were made when I have been emotionally very distressed.

The brain sketchbooks all feature, text, a level of colour abstraction and drawing.

People would often look at my sketchbooks and want to buy them, but they will never be for sale, but here they are in this exhibition for people to examine.




The Fred portrait is the closest I have ever got to visually depicting Fred, ‘the negative voice in my head’.

I do believe that this painting is very sinister.

The abstract colour paintings are examples of pure expression and emotion. The band Polar Bear commissioned these particular paintings for their album cover.

Working with colour in its pure form does have a palliative impact on my brain.


My Bosnian war paintings, created over the last twenty years, reflect my on-going interest in warfare both historical, actual and internal psychological warfare.

Often it does feel as if I am going to war with Fred each day of my life. These paintings were the inspiration for my trilogy of war scrolls.


Wall 5: Photography and self-portraits

I have included a series of photographic portraits of Mia, my glamorous alter ego.

There are also portraits of the patients I worked with in Brussels and KAOS with the photographer Lieven van Meulder. These same patients created a second scroll entitled ‘War on a Scroll Part 1’ which will be displayed on the opening night.

The wall also features Lieven’s portraits of the patients. His style is very different from mine. During my time working with KAOS and the patients in Brussels Lieven and I formed a friendship, we could talk about psychosis and he taught me a great deal about photography. I wanted to showcase his work as part of the exhibition.


Lieven and I have embarked on a separate project where I began taking portraits of him and he, in turn, took portraits of me. In essence two ‘so- called’ mad people taking portraits of one another, exploring notions of madness.

I have also included a series of drawn self portraits with the photographic portraits to raise further questions about the external image we project to the world and the other image we hide.




‘War on a Scroll Part 1’ is the first in a trilogy of scrolls that I have been creating about war. Image © Sanchita Islam

I created four scrolls during the postpartum period. I made three of them with my son, the idea was to cement our bond and create a work that could help me cut through the psychosis that kept on threatening the relationship with my son and also create something magical and indelible and special.

‘War on a Scroll Part 1’ is the first in a trilogy of scrolls that I have been creating about war.

I have always been interested in the futility of war and the importance of documenting it, so this war scroll project is my attempt at depicting all wars, past and present, on three scrolls.

The first in the series also depicts the internal psychological warfare experienced by the patients I worked with at KAOS in Brussels, juxtaposed with actual warfare.

I would argue one step further that internal mental war can lead to actual war and senseless acts of violence, so having a level of mental peace will go a long way towards actual peace globally.



Tony Heaton, 1954–

by richard

Tony Heaton ,  Sculptor, lecturer, NDACA founder, Shape Chair


Tony Heaton was born in Preston, Lancashire. At the age of 16, a motor bike accident left him with a spinal injury, he switched from a comprehensive school to a local arts college at Southport. From 1972, he was self employed as artist, sign writer, disc jockey, record shop proprietor, progressive rock band member and mural painter. According to a Disability Arts Online profile, at this period “Heaton gathered enormous expertise and self-reliance whilst appearing to drift aimlessly”  In 1986 he enrolled on a visual arts degree at Lancaster University whilst earning a living as a sign-painter

Heaton was CEO of Shape Arts for 9 years of it’s 40-year history, and is now chair of the organisation. Prior to Shape Tony was the Director of Holton Lee for over 10 years, a disability-led arts organisation through whose doors many Disability Arts Movement artists passed. Throughout the past 30 years Tony has been a practicing artist in the field of sculpture and performance art.

Tony’s sculpture work has been widely profiled. ‘Monument to the Unintended Performer’ was installed on the Big 4 at the entrance to Channel 4 TV Centre in celebration of the 2012 Paralympics. It was, in his words, ‘created in recognition of all those disabled people who are subject to scrutiny simply by getting on a bus in a wheelchair or walking down the street with a white cane.’



 Material: Fibreglass, steel, automotive paint.  Dimensions: L. 9’9” W. 4’6” Date: 2014

This sculpture began, as many do, with a conversation. This particular conversation was with the Curator of the ‘Art of the Lived Experiment’, Aaron Williamson, concerning alchemy, the idea of turning a base metal into gold, turning something of little value into a substance of value, a speculative philosophy. The objective of alchemy, the quest for transmutation, was often primarily aimed at effecting personal change in the Alchemist. The changing of objects and meaning has been constant within my practice as an artist, and, for this current work and response to the idea of ‘the art of the lived experiment’ I have selected an iconic object, the Invacar, and the notion of transmutation, the effecting of personal change. Its complicated, I transmuted from Biker to Invalid. I was issued with an Invacar in 1971. The Invacar was a societal response, initiated by government, to the lack of access to so-called public transport. The solution was to provide Invalids with a form of very cheap transport, though considered a prosthetic, a medical replacement for legs.  An unlined fiberglass shell, 9’.9” long and 4’.6” wide, a single seat, sat on a chassis of three wheels, space for a folding wheelchair, propelled by a small motorcycle engine with a cubic capacity of 197, three gears plus reverse and a maximum speed of around 45 mph. The single seat meant that you travelled alone, the assumption had to be that you had no friends, family, lovers, the solitary cripple, other. They were all painted the same colour, to mark you out as other. A pale blue, NHS Blue, this became know as Spazz Blue. It was banned from motorways. This was clearly stated on all motorway signage. No Invalid Carriages. It disappeared from the roads of Britain in 1983, and like all icons can now only be witnessed, restored pristine, in the museum. But this one escaped, suspended, transformed from prosthetic to sculpture, transmuted from Spazz Blue to Gold, Lame to Lamé.


‘Great Britain from a Wheelchair’ is a map of Britain made from parts of two grey NHS wheelchairs. When Tony first told me about this work as he was making it, it seemed a rather foolish and unworkable idea. I was wrong: it’s wonderful – I described it elsewhere as ‘like a disability version of one of my very favourite art works, the bull’s head which Pablo Picasso made from a bicycle saddle and handlebars.’ First seeing it, in the ‘Unleashed’ exhibition earlier this year, I found that initially it just looked like a lot of bits of old wheelchairs. As with those 3D prints, it took a while to adjust perceptually. Then suddenly it sprang into place – a complete, startlingly real map of Great Britain. A delightful game, it forms a wonderful repudiation of the value judgement (‘This is for some tragic bastard’, in Tony’s words) implicit in the wheelchairs’.  Allan Sutherland (edited from DAIL magazine)

Disability Arts Movement highlights


Heaton’s 1992 performance of his famous piece, ‘Shaken Not Stirred’, was part of the ‘Block Telethon’ protests. Through the destruction of a pyramid of over 1,000 charity collecting cans, this piece emphasised the needs for social rights as opposed to charity.

SHAKEN NOT STIRRED   Original performance piece 1992.

Click HERE for the original performance images and article on Disability Arts Online

Great Britain from a Wheelchair

Further reading

Heaton’s website:



Interview with Tony Heaton: