UK Disability History Month

uk-dhmUK Disability History Month (UKDHM) is an annual event creating a platform to focus on the history of our struggle for equality and human rights.

It starts next week, running 22nd Nov – 22nd Dec. So I thought it might be timely to focus on Shoddy’s theme of history and heritage, looking back at disabled people’s lives in the past as well as the history of our movement.

disability-history-month-2016-language-labelsPlus, this year’s theme for UKDHM is Disability and Language, focusing on the language used to describe disabled people and the language disabled people use to express themselves. Shoddy drew on the different meanings of the word “shoddy”, both rejecting and embracing it. We say that disabled people are not shoddy, shabby or inferior, while highlighting the wonders and importance of shoddy as a material.

An early post on this blog by activist-historian Sasha Callaghan considered the representation of disabled people by the Victorians.

I tried to find information (with limited success) about disabled people’s lives in the textile mills of the industrial revolution. Is there more to disabled people’s history during this period than the workhouse and industrial injury and disease? Where are the positive stories?

dpac-bannerIn more recent history, the similarities between DPAC’s campaigns now and the actions in the 1990’s by the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN) against benefit cuts are striking: Benefits Cuts Have Got to Go! We shouted it then and we’re chanting it again now.

DPAC and DAN’s banners featured in a post about how important banners have been throughout the disabled people’s movement, with other examples from the early 20th century.

The Shoddy exhibition was shown at Batley Art Gallery, coinciding with Batley Vintage Day. This event celebrated life, culture and fashion of the 1940s particularly, which was a time of significant changes for disabled people and wider society.

In October Shoddy’s workshop during the Love Arts Festival revealed something of the life of Lorina Bulwer whilst raising lots of questions about how and why she created her incredible embroidered scrolls in the workhouse.

aids-qiltSome of the panels in the UK AIDS Memorial Quilt have similarities to Lorina Bulwer’s work. Both incorporate meaningful fabrics, sourced and reclaimed from old garments. The AIDS Memorial Quilt is being restored and will be on show in London around World Aids Day. The exhibition dates also coincide with UKDHM.

In line with the historic theme of Shoddy, participating artist Katy White’s Kicking Up a Dust examined issues of disability, ill health and women’s roles through her own family history. And Lesley Illingworth’s Story Telling Coat is a historic record and tribute to those people who allegedly died as a result of benefit sanctions or cuts.


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