Week 9: Art and activism #107days

We start with an apology that Week 9 is having its first blog on a Friday! An all time delayed performance, even for us, however that’s partly because we’ve been out on the campaign trail this week and doing ‘art and activism’ rather than writing about it! Before you delve in to this post we’d like to remind you that Live at LICA have their Family and Community Day tomorrow (Sat 23 May) so pop along to see the #JusticeforLB artwork, join the pop-up picnic and survey the quilt in all it’s majesty. For now, Sara has blogged about the brilliance that was Monday:

On Monday, as many of you will know, the Sparrowhawk Art exhibition took place at the Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University as part of their Open 2015 event. Parcels of #JusticeforLB art were sent up north over the past few weeks to create both an exhibition and a political space. Richard Smith, the gallery curator, described what underpins Open 2015;

‘We feel an art centre should be communal and tell us who we are and who we want to be; if not a social movement, it should at least provide a deeper awareness and sense of place. It should have a design that can situate all disciplines together in the search for knowledge and understanding and have at its core the unique process and language of art, which is able to articulate things that cannot be expressed otherwise. During OPEN 2015 we’ll start this journey, exploring what an art centre could be and what it should do’

Sparrowhawk Art was clearly in the right space.

One thing I particularly loved was the way in which the exhibition was created during the exhibition. It started at 10am and we pitched up everything was pretty much on the floor or in boxes (other than the quilt that was being displayed for the month). We became gallery helpers, sticking up the remarkable pictures of the Justice flag at Glastonbury, guillotining a copy of Jeremy Hunt’s letter, thinking of ways of displaying the Justice cardboard (but deftly reinforced) bus and, for Janet Read, doing some on the spot stitching repairs to the quilt.

It was amazing.

Late morning there was wondrous excitement as the Guardian online gallery was shared. So moving, so stunning, so remarkable that the artwork has been created spontaneously and created with love and care.

This also stood out among the gallery team. They were accommodating, sensitive and handled every item with respect. Later, during the panel, Chris Hatton reflected on how unusual this was to witness. Learning disabled people are not typically afforded such respect.

The panel

At 3pm, the panel convened, chaired by Chris Hatton and consisting of Graham Shellard (My Life My Choice), George Julian (#JusticeforLB), Janet Read (Chief Quilter), Dominic Slowie (NHS England) and Imogen Tyler (University of Lancaster).

Dominic (via a video link) described how “the pain, anger and frustration has been reborn into something that’s captured the minds and hearts of people” and how the campaign has grasped practical projects that can make a difference. George emphasised how the campaign is about everyone and how it’s demonstrated that people do care. Graham said that My Life My Choice “knew what it was like to be someone with a learning disability and have something happen to you”. He talked about some of the activities he’s involved in and announced that LB had been made an honorary DJ at Sting Radio. Janet described the campaign as a choir without constraint; people lending an ear and pitching in together. “A talented, unconditioned choir of excellence!” She described how the quilt not only records the terrible things that happened to LB but also his life and his personality. Finally, Imogen talked movingly and powerfully about her cousin Rachel who loved cherry coke and cheesy wotsits. She ended by talking about an event at Inclusion Scotland where George Lamb announced “We are the revolting subjects and we are here to revolt”.

The discussion involved powerful stories from ‘just two mums’ as the founders of Unique Kidz and Co described themselves, as well as reflections about the role of social work.

It was powerful, moving, emotional and pretty humbling (not sure of the right word here) to listen to this, surrounded by LB’s artwork. I think Imogen summed it up perfectly.

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Thank you to Chris Hatton for organising so seamlessly, and to LICA for hosting with generosity and welcome.

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Day 97: Jack’s Cats for Justice #107days

Today was adopted by Gina and Jack. Gina Aylward, is Assistant Social Work Practice Learning Co-ordinator and a member of the Centre for Disability Research(CeDR) at Lancaster University. She had this to say about why they are supporting #107days and #JusticeforLB:

I had seen pictures of Connor advertising a seminar event being presented by Chris Hatton. This led me to some further website reading, and then attending his seminar Laughing Boy versus the Zombie Institutions: Closing the new institutions for people with learning disabilities [Day 49].

Having worked with people with disabilities in community and residential settings for many years, the website and presentation by Chris struck chords in me of sorrow/anger/frustration, as to how this young person‘s path led to his untimely and avoidable death. It is not always easy to identify resources and support for people with complex needs, but everyone should be able to access a basic safe and safe environment, even when their way forward may be unclear.

On a personal level, Connor’s story has resonances for me as I also live with a unique and creative dude. My son is passionate about nature and the environment.

Gina, and her son Jack, decided that they wanted to support #JusticeforLB. Here’s what they decided:

My son and I have talked about the #JusticeforLB campaign, and both of us fully support it. As he is still of school age, he raises money for the things he believes in by making small cats out of recycled materials.

Day97Cat

Each cat takes approximately 2-3 hours to make, and is a valuable addition to any household. They can also make great gifts! We aim to raise money for the campaign by selling the hand made charity cats. An individual cat costs £3, or 2 kittens for £3.

On Saturday a number of us joined Gina, Jack and Rob to celebrate the end of the exhibition Systema Naturæ: A History of In-animate Nature by Rob Williams and Jack Aylward-Williams at The Gallery Exhibition Rooms, Atlas Works, Carlisle. The exhibition was an opportunity to view their prodigious collection of specimens drawn from numerous pedestrian expeditions in Britain and abroad.

Day97_2

You now have the opportunity to own a piece of Jack’s art by purchasing one of his Cats for LB. You can buy them for a minimum donation of £3 and you are welcome to pay more if you’d like to make a greater donation to LB’s Fighting Fund.

If you wish to order a cat then you can do so in one of three ways:

  1. Pay by bank transfer into the LB Fighting Fund account: Sort code 08-92-99 Account No. 65698046 and then email Hannah with your order
  2. Pay by Paypal by transferring funds to LB’s Fighting Fund account: LBFightingFund@gmail.com and then email Hannah with your order
  3. Buy cats for cash in person from Gina Aylward or Hannah Morgan.

If you are buying online (Options 1 or 2) please can you include your Surname and the word Cat in your transfer details, so that we can match your purchase to your email. When emailing please include ‘Cat’ in the subject line and if you are ordering more than one please state the number in the email.

Day 59: Time and Place #107days

Day 59 was adopted by Janis Firminger, Margaret Taylor and Janet Read. This is why they are supporting #JusticeforLB and #107days:

We wanted to adopt Day 59 because like many others, we feel angry and sad about LB’s death, the manner of his dying and the truly terrible grief that his family have experienced as a result. Sara’s writing makes us want to really see Connor, to understand what a remarkable person he was and to appreciate how he enriched the lives of those close to him. Her blog and the responses of others have also laid bare the myriad ways that the lives of learning disabled people and their families are blighted by carelessness, neglect and disregard, by the limitations placed upon them by others and by assumptions about how little they have a right to expect and hope for.

The social media activity has also revealed a different world, however: one that is altogether more inspiring and is populated by people who do not accept these tawdry taken-for-granted ideas. The blog posts, tweets and the rest capture a lot of love, affection, fury, sharp insights, analysis, good politics, protest, brilliant stories and decent humanity all unified around LB’s story and the determination to get justice for him and for others with learning disabilities.

Day59T&P

Janis, Margaret and Janet are all currently exhibiting their work at their Time and Place exhibition.

Day 59 is part way though our textile exhibition, Time and Place 2014, in London and one of the pieces in it was made in memory of Connor.

We are also in the process of making LB’s Justice Quilt as a way of celebrating a remarkable life and raising awareness for the Justice for LB campaign. We are asking people to contribute by making a small patch to be sewn into the quilt (see below). We have a vision of a large, strong, colourful, quite disorderly quilt that reflects the mood of the contributions people have been making through social media activity. We hope that our adopted day will encourage more people to make a patch for the quilt. If you’d like to get involved please see how here.

Day59Patches