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Exhibition by artists with disabilities showcased in Lancaster ahead of Edinburgh Fringe

image of artworks on wall
Claustrophobia, Embarrassment and Anger, by Scott , representing his feelings when engaging with commercial shops and retail spaces.

An art exhibition showcasing ability ahead of disability is being displayed at the Bay Health Festival next month, ahead of being taken to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

A series of works from people with different types of disability has been brought together by Dr Leighanne Higgins from Lancaster University Management School, as part of a project exploring disabled people’s experiences of the commercial world.

The thirty-six artworks tell of disabled people’s experiences across retail, hospitality, tourism and care services andinclude photos, sculptures, paintings, poetry, music, songs and dance routines. They will be exhibited in The Marketplace & I: Commercial Experiences of Disability Explored through Art, and available at The Bay’s Health Festival from 8th July – 14th July, before moving to Edinburgh Fringe Festival between 13th – 24th August.

Dr Higgins has been working closely with people living with disability as well as disability support groups and charities from across England and Wales since the project began in 2019.

She said: “Working with the disabled community has been a fantastic experience. It has been truly eye-opening witnessing the incredible depth of talent that lies within a community where society tends to focus on the things they can’t do, rather than the things they can.

“A wide variety of people have been kind enough to get involved, including those with physical, cognitive and learning disabilities; including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, visual impairments and autism. They have produced a real mix of works including wheelchair paintings, poetry and sculptures – which are absolutely fantastic.”

The exhibition, funded by The Marketing Trust, features works from people from the North West of England, East Anglia, Hertfordshire, Wales and other areas.  It also captures the point of view of parents and carers, as well as the disabled community themselves.

Dr Higgins continued: “When we first displayed the finished works, we were thrilled by how moved visitors were. We purposefully didn’t display any photos of the creators or any information about their disabilities, and we seemed to witness perceptions changing in front of our eyes, as visitors moved around the room.

“They saw ability first, rather than a disability – and the underlying messages about disabled people’s experience of the commercial world genuinely touched them. It was powerful to watch.

“I’m really looking forward to opening the works up for more members of the public to enjoy.”

Within the collection are works by Piccadilly Support Services, from Lancaster, who work to provide support for people with autism, and Unique Kidz & Co, from Morecambe, who work with disabled children and young people to provide play and social activities.

Dr Higgins will be inviting representatives from local businesses to attend the exhibition, to gain valuable insights into the experiences of the disabled community and the importance of accessibility.

Local schools and disabled groups will also be invited to attend special preview events, where they will be given the opportunity to engage with interactive challenges, such as making an accessible ramps for shop doorways – using only Lego.

The Marketplace & I: Commercial Experiences of Disability Explored through Art will be fully accessible and open to all at the Gregson Community and Arts Centre on Moorgate in Lancaster between 8th – 14th July 2022.

It will then be set up at The Whitespace Gallery in East Crosscauseway in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 13 – 24 August 2022.

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