It’s time to reflect on Hello Little Lady’s – A Year in Review 2019. The past 12 months have been a whirlwind of activity and experiences. Thankfully there has been more happy experiences than sad.
Working by and for myself is a lonely, isolating slog at times. It feels like you’re not achieving much or getting anywhere fast. Yet, when I took an hour out to look back at what I had done, I surprised even myself.
The highlights of 2019
UNION – The Northern School of Creativity and Activism
Joining UNION – The Northern School of Creativity and Activism has been a game-changer for me professionally and personally. The sector-based coaching programme has so far consisted of 4 weekends that enable social activists and emerging artists to develop ourselves as practitioners.
The has course given me a language and a framework that I was not aware of or certainly didn’t understand the context of. To understand the way I work as a scanner and multipotentialite and it’s not a failing, more of a strength. To be able to give me permission to see myself as a person who works with ideas and attributing worth to this work, rather than success and worth being about producing something for someone else.
The co-facilitators, Adrian, Chris, Linda and Sara have been nothing but encouraging and generous with their support, time and guidance.
I’ve met some amazing fellow UNIONites. All of us in our own way trying to make the world a better place. I particularly enjoyed the Hull weekend, as I think it helped clarify the direction I want to take my work in.
Disability Arts Online
When disabled writer, activist and spoken word activist, Lisette Auton, approached me about interviewing social artist and drag king, Lady Kitt, as part of her guest editorship on Disability Arts Online, I jumped at the chance.
It was wonderful to be able to flex my interviewer muscle again, and I loved finding out about a part of the participatory arts scene in the North East that I had no idea existed.
Let’s Discuss Disability at the Thought Foundation
In May, part of the You’re Just Little work was part of the Let’s Discuss Disability exhibition at The Thought Foundation in Birtley. Featuring artists, Kev Howard, Lisette Auton, Deborah Humm and Simon McKeown. I was particularly proud of doing a Q&A session with the TF’s curator Michaela Weatherill to talk about my work when I was too nervous to do an actual talk at the Symposium.
Sunderland Culture – Creative Development Fellowship
Now I very nearly didn’t apply for Sunderland Culture’s inaugural Creative Development Fellowship. It was one of those where I talked myself in and out of it a million times. I really didn’t think I had the right experience to put the application in. Thanks to the encouragement of Laura Brewis and Padma Rao, I decided to give it go and out a proposal together. Thank goodness I did, as it meant that I could run the first podcasting workshop for the Dwarfism community.
The experience has also been a wonderful way to connect with and meet other creatives in Sunderland.
What’s Your Story – Podcasting Workshop for the Dwarfism Community
To coincide with Dwarfism Awareness Month, the first podcasting workshop for the Dwarfism community took place at ChapelFM Arts Centre, in Leeds. The workshop gave me the chance to develop as a participatory practitioner. Personally, it was wonderful to see a part of my dream come to fruition.
It was such a buzz to be back in the studio and the day also helped me to find my confidence again in being able to deliver a workshop. A special thanks to Sammy and Warwick Davis and Rebecca Nuttall for their support on the day and promoting the workshop. Big thanks to ChapelFM for the support to make the event happen and Joanna for joining us on the day.
We had an absolute blast.
Little People UK – 8th Convention
I couldn’t wait to attend the Little People UK convention in Nottingham this year. It was great to catch up with familiar faces and make new friends too. I always wish I could bottle the feeling I get coming away from an event like this. It’s a safe space to be able to talk and laugh about the issues we face.
One of the things that struck me was when we were having the family and friends photographs taken before the banquet on Saturday evening. Families with either a Dwarf partner and an AH husband or wife, dwarf parents and AH kids. I wish I had seen this representation in the mainstream when I was younger.
You’re Just Little – The Exhibition Podcast
Back in 2005, I created a local music podcast as part of my MA in Radio while at the University of Sunderland. I’ve been hankering to do it again ever since, but haven’t had the confidence to do so.
A few false starts here and there, I finally bit the bullet, so to speak, and created 5 podcasts to sit alongside the You’re Just Little exhibition work. The podcasts explore the stories and themes behind the photographs.
A huge thank you to Dr Erin Prictchard for our chat about her contribution to the participatory photos (episode 004).
- Episode 000 – Anger »
- Episode 001 – Accessibility »
- Episode 002 – Independence »
- Episode 003 – Identity »
- Episode 004 – Narrative »
You’re Just Little – The Exhibition
I was absolutely thrilled that the exhibition was shown at ChapeFM throughout Dwarfism Awareness Month in October and Leeds Beckett Student Union’s for Disability History Month this November.
Big thanks to Adrian Sinclair for arranging these showings and making it possible.
As with most years, 2019 has given me a fair few challenges along the way.
Having an element of my work copied
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, yet when it’s by those in your own community, it particularly stings.
I won’t go into details, yet will say, I was incredibly disappointed to see a particular organisation do this, who I once held in such high regard. To not acknowledge my work as the inspiration, then see how they dealt with the ensuing fallout, raised some serious concerns about how we treat each other within the Dwarfism community.
Challenging gatekeepers who enable us to tell our stories
One of the more eye-opening events of the year was being told part of my story was ‘not fitting the narrative”. This was especially traumatic considering it was one of the main aspects of the work and lived experiences I talk about. It made me feel voiceless (again).
The experience highlighted the need for disabled people to be truly in control of telling our stories and for us to be listened to within arts settings. I found this particularly worrying when this happened at a disability-focused event.
finding friends and support in places you least expect to
Those who you think will support your work, won’t and don’t. Others, who are usually vilified, offer the hand of support, gladly. There’s a lesson there to be learnt, especially within the Dwarfism community.
As 2019 draws to a close
As you can see, it’s been a whirlwind of a year. Most of it I’ve spent wondering what to do with myself, whether I’m good enough or if I have the strength and willpower to continue down this creative path.
If anything, 2019 has been about finding my strength, determination and clarity.
The strength to get in the car and drive around the North to develop as a creative practitioner.
To pick battles very carefully. That you’ll find bullies in the most surprising of places. Realising that not all who profess to be righteous will reflect that in their behaviour.
That there are people out there who understand and are gladly willing to help with step-changes.
That clarity isn’t always achieving something, but about knowing where and what you stand for.
That as a creative practitioner, you don’t always need to be doing. That the joy comes more from concentrating on being.