Young people working to change perceptions of disability through poetry and performance
In February of this year, we were awarded funding from the BU Fusion Fund to begin work on the ‘Seen But Seldom Heard’ project. ‘Seen but Seldom Heard’ is an innovative ‘arts activism’ project through which young people living with a physical disability (aged 14-19 years) can engage in creative activities designed to encourage them to reflect on their lived experiences and to empower them to challenge societal perceptions of disability through poetry and performance. The performance poetry work which has been supported by professional poets, Liv Torc and Jonny Fluffypunk, also offers the group of budding young poets a ‘voice’ to participate in conversations regarding policies and practices which affect them.
The project has so far resulted in a series of co-produced performances including a Paralympics venue in Weymouth as part of the Cultural Olympiad supporting headline performance poet, John Hegley, and The Bridport Open Book Festival, the largest performance poetry event in the country. The performances were an important way to engage with the general public and positively influence perceptions of disability and we hope to stage similar events during 2013. We have also produced a book of the group’s poetry (the sale of which has paid for an additional 2 poetry workshops at the school) and a full-length documentary will be premiered at BU on the afternoon of December 7th as part of Disability History Month.
There have been a number of beneficiaries from the work. First and foremost the young people who have taken part, together with their peer group at Victoria Education Centre. The project has had such a profound impact upon pupils and staff that the school is raising funds for a ‘poet in residence’ to support future performance poetry activity. In direct response to posting a ‘taster’ of the Seen But Seldom Heard documentary on YouTube (attracting 1,500 views to date from as far afield as Australia, the US and South America), we have received emails and comments from others with direct experience of disability, disability activists, educationalists and care providers thanking and encouraging the young poets and the project team for providing aspiration and positive role models.
In the next phase of the project, which we hope to commence as soon as funding is secured, we also plan to develop a ‘live schools tour’ and audio-visual educational package for use in secondary schools and youth clubs to raise awareness amongst young people of what it is like to live with a physical disability. In addition to public engagement and education activity, we are also disseminating the project outcomes and methodology through seminars and conference presentations during 2013 and journal articles.
A short preview to the full-length documentary can be viewed at: http://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/seen-but-seldom-heard/2012/09/25/documentary-taster/
For more information on the December 7th film screening and to confirm your attendance please visit:
Samples of the group’s poetry can be found at: http://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/seen-but-seldom-heard