Dozens of MPs and disabled artists from across the country met in the House of Commons last night for a special pop-up exhibition of disability arts project, “Postcards From The Edges”. The exhibition was organised to mark the passing of the crucial Care Bill through Parliament and to launch the book of the project. Shadow disability spokesperson Kate Green MP spoke at the event, along with 3 disabled artists.
The exhibition was hosted by Dame Anne Begg MP and showcased some of the most eye-catching artwork sent to the project over the last year. Early in 2013, United Response asked disabled people “what do you want to tell the world?”, inviting them to respond on a blank postcard, using words or images. More than 800 people took part, sending artwork, poetry, stories, collages or powerful messages that add up to a snapshot of disability and life in the 21st century. Many postcards reflect issues which the Care Bill tackles – such as support, isolation and finances.
Shadow disability spokesperson Kate Green MP said: “It’s high time we celebrated everybody’s role in our society. The contribution of every disabled person is important in our word. It’s fantastic to see these postcards which show disabled people speaking out for themselves. That’s never been needed more because there is a very unpleasant environment out there, a hostile rhetoric that disabled people are undeserving, scroungers or not contributing.”
As well MPs, many ordinary people with mental health needs or disabilities who took part in the project came along. Three of them formed a panel and discussed the reasons they took part. This included Sue Kent from Swansea, Yvonne J Foster from Brighton and Wrexham-based Nathan Davies, who suffers from Friedreich’s ataxia and uses a wheelchair. Nathan spoke about how taking part boosted his confidence.
Nathan said: “Postcards From The Edges has given me a voice which lets me express my thoughts and tell everyone what I feel and think. Since making my first postcard I have gone on to create 19 postcards in total, which is giving me the confidence to express myself even more. The postcards project is more than just an arts venture, it allows disabled people to be heard and have a voice like everyone else.”
The event marks the climax of this first phase of Postcards From The Edges. The exhibition has already toured the UK with thousands of people flocking to four shows from Bristol to Gateshead – with the online version of the gallery attracting over 10,000 views. The Daily Mirror called the exhibitions “fascinating and moving.”
Kate Green MP continued: “Disabled people are our colleagues, friends, mums and dads, the individual who looks after your kids or the person who cheers you up at the end of the day. One of the lovely things about this fantastic postcards exhibition is that it celebrates all those other roles disabled people play. It’s a beautiful and happy exhibition and I’m delighted to be here.”
Dame Anne Begg MP, who hosted and spoke at the event, said: “The postcards project challenges people’s perceptions and ideas of disability. Many people still believe they don’t need to understand or recognize disabled people. But a disability can strike anyone at anytime of their life – and that’s why it’s so important to be aware of disabled peoples opinions and views. This project is helping to confront these ideas and gives disabled people a greater voice.
United Response hopes the project will challenge stereotypes and prejudice by exploring the everyday lives of disabled people; their hopes and fears, the challenges they face, and their achievements. Postcards have come from a huge array of people including older people with mental health needs, the mothers of children with autism, hearing impaired artists and many, many more.
There is still time for other artists to be featured on the website which continues to receive new postcards every day. Postcards can be created on the website, sent in the post or uploaded. For further information about Postcards From The Edges, United Response and how to upload or send your own postcard, please visit: www.unitedresponse.org.uk/postcards-from-the-edges
United Response is a community based charity, working in many localities across England and Wales. We are a top 100 national charity with a turnover of over £69 million, working with more than 2,500 people at around 330 locations across England and Wales. We employ approximately 3,500 people and regularly win awards for our innovative, high quality range of services. To find out more about United Response’s work go to www.unitedresponse.org.uk