Unique exhibition exploring life and disability opens on South Bank

UR_ExhibitLondoners invited to come along, take part and be showcased alongside the stars

An art exhibition with a difference launched on London’s South Bank last night. Postcards From The Edges is an attempt to capture the lives, views and creativity of ordinary disabled people on blank postcards. Hundreds of ordinary disabled people have taken part and were exhibited alongside the work of famous Londoners like Oscar winner Emma Thompson or Olympian Sally Gunnell. Many disabled participants travelled from afar for the launch event, travelling from places as varied as Brixton and Brighton, Cumbria and Camden.

What makes Postcards From The Edges even more different is that it involves the visitor interactively. As well as sections collecting postcards on themes such as “Life”, “Challenges”, “People” and “Dreams”, there is a DIY section where visitors can make their own cards. During the launch event, more than 20 postcards were created, tackling subjects such as racism, depression and human dignity. Visitors have until 5pm on Sunday 15th to drop in and add their own voice to the conversation, with postcards and art materials provided on site.

Eight months ago disability charity United Response launched Postcards From The Edges, asking disabled people and anyone who cares about disability “what do you want to tell the world?”. Hundreds of people answered the call and sent in poems, photographs, digital art, paintings and even knitted postcards. Paralympians including Hannah Cockroft and Sarah Storey are also exhibited – this is fitting as the exhibition was created in part to pick up the baton from the Paralympics, making sure that the new visibility disabled people had won was not lost.

Sports massage therapist Sue Kent, whose arms are shorter as a result of Thalidomide, sent in two postcards, both of which were showcased on the night. She travelled from Wales and spoke at the event. She said “Often when charities speak out on disability issues, they have very definite ideas about what they want disabled people to say. What I loved about this project was that there were no leading questions, just a blank space to express yourself. It meant nobody else’s preconceptions were forced on disabled people, they were completely free to express themselves as they want. They were given their voice and that’s very powerful.”

Journalist and newsreader Martyn Lewis was the host for the event, which attracted over a hundred guests. “It’s the variety of the postcards that impresses me,” he said on the night. “There are heartbreaking postcards alongside very funny ones, exploring a huge range of topics. Many people really took a risk in taking part, sharing personal and painful insights into their lives. Others invested a huge amount of time and creativity. All of them have made the exhibition that much richer and more powerful, that much more likely to change a few minds and win a few hearts.”

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Manchester-based professional artist Valerie Kerry travelled from Manchester for the grand opening. Valerie, who has abdominal pain and lymphoedema in both legs following a radical treatment for cancer, expressed her joy at seeing her postcard on display at the event, Valerie added: “I wanted to share my thoughts about children who live on the streets in Brazil, who I feel are both visible and invisible to passers-by. But after writing so much poetry and creating art for a long time I never knew how to share my thoughts with the public. This project gave me a much bigger platform. I’ve also made friends with a lot of other disabled artists through the project, so it’s fostering a real creative community.”

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. The postcards have come from across the UK and even as far afield as Baltimore in the US.

Su Sayer CBE, United Response’s founder and chief executive, said: “The exhibition offers a kaleidoscope of different experiences and viewpoints. Some postcards are very moving, some are funny and others are simply beautiful, but the overall experience is eye opening and inspiring.”

Exhibition dates and further key findings found by United Response can be found below.

Exhibition dates

  • London, Bankside Gallery – 10-15 September
  • Gateshead, Sage – 1-4 October
  • Bristol, Grant Bradley Gallery – 10-15 October
  • Liverpool, Camp and Furnace – 5-10 November

Find out more about United Response at www.unitedresponse.org.uk

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