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nd the Politics of Visibility

Disability and the Politics of Visibility – Durham Book Festival

When Little Cog approached me about this commission, I jumped at the chance. Not only because of the opportunity to be part of such a prestigious event but also the privilege it felt to be included alongside the other amazing disability artists in the line-up.

Representation Matters

I remember being blown away by Lisette Auton’s, ‘Writing the Missing: A River Cycle’ commission that was shown at the 2020 Durham Book Festival – for the quality of the piece and to hear words that reflected my own disabled lived experiences, at such a mainstream event… and I cannot tell you how emotional and proud and lucky and humbled, I felt, a year later, for my own piece air before Lisette’s latest powerful film commission ‘Writing the Missing: All At Sea’ (which, I insist, you MUST go watch as well).

Disability and the Politics of Visibility

It comes with a complicit understanding and ask, that to be disabled, one is visible. Whether this is because of the body you were born with or what it becomes, to having to advocate and educate ignorance or prejudice daily, whether you feel called to or not.

The piece is a culmination, in words this time, of a lifetime’s worth of trying to claim my space in this world or at least trying to articulate it on my own terms.

I cannot describe how scary it feels to be given the opportunity to do so. I have spent a lifetime trying to educate society about my Dwarfism. Sometimes it’s great. Other times, it leaves you feeling lonely, vulnerable and isolated.

I’m tired of trading on my trauma to gain access to space and place

Earlier in the year, I had this sentence running through my head “I’m tired of trading on my trauma to gain access to space and place.”

When, Little Cog, contacted me and invited me to be part of the commission, what the topic would be, I knew I had found my space for that sentence to live.

I was in a low place with my work at the beginning of 2021, tired of trading on trauma, tired of educating those who have the power to create opportunities and don’t, tired of rallying. Tired of trying to create opportunities for the dwarfism community and feeling like I was getting nowhere on all fronts.

I really questioned whether I should carry on with this work, as I woke up one morning with literally nothing to say.

Truth is, I was burnt out personally and professionally.

Yet, that sentence was there pestering me.

I wrote it down.

Along with more lines.

And then some more.

And when I finally sat down to write the piece, it was written within a couple of hours.

This scared me.

Shouldn’t artistic works be a long drawn out, torturous process?

For this piece, apparently not.

This work was ready to be written

This piece scares me.

Why?

Because, well, it’s a culmination of the rubbish stuff I’ve experienced as a proportionate Dwarf woman that isn’t recognised as a Dwarf – outside of the community and at times within the actual Dwarfism community.

There’s not a lot of spaces or opportunities out there where such lived experiences are platformed, let alone acknowledged, and let’s be honest, usually dismissed.

This piece scares me – because I do not wish to detract from the amazing amount of individuals and organisations that have enabled me along the way (and continue to do so) to get me to this point where I am part of an amazing Book Festival.

People who have made opportunities for people like me to claim space and said, “yes, what you have to say is valid.” (And for which I will be forever grateful).

Use your anger to make and create your own space

I guess, what I’m trying to say, is that crap things can and do happen.

It’s ok to get angry, but always use that anger to make and create to own your own space.

We need more of that as individuals and as a community.

Rest when you are called to.

Come back stronger (even if you’re scared and wobbly) than you ever imagined you could be.

The commissioned work is now available to watch online.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Vici from Little Cog, New Writing North and Durham Book Festival for this commission. It’s been a dream come true.

Lisette Auton’s commissioned films:

Disability and the Politics of Visibility Artists/Writers

Disability and The Politics of Visibility pieces were commissioned by Durham Book Festival 2021

Durham Book Festival, Durham County Council, Arts Council England logos

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