The Thorny Issue of Privilege

Little did any of us know that this gathering of the disability arts community in Birmingham would be the last for a while. As I travelled from the north the views from the train windows were of flooded fields and broken levees, in a few days’ time the talk will be of social distancing and lockdown.

Anna Berry has been in residence at MAC Birmingham for the last year as part of the Curatorial Commissions programme with DASH – within which I am currently at MIMA. This event marked the culmination of this and accompanied her exhibition Art and Social Change : The Disability Arts Movement.

Sonia Boué wrote a review of the day for Disability Arts Online so I won’t rewrite what you can read here.

I enjoyed being on the panel with Sonia Boué and Trish Wheatley. It was interesting to hear Trish speak as normally she is in the background doing the essential organising and hosting, I would like to hear more from her.

Four people sit in armchairs in front of a large screen. There are two black coffee tables in front of them with glasses and jugs of water on them.
Aidan Moesby, Sonia Boue, Trish Wheatley, Manick Govinda. Photo Ashok kumar.

My chosen subject was Privilege. Unfortunately, this got conflated with access and access rights. I am coming across occasions where people are really trying to be good disability allies, offer opportunities or make a positive difference to the community. However, peoples’ sense of privilege and entitlement within the disability arts community has served to alienate rather than consolidate. This is easier done now we have Twitter and people seem so quick to ire yet so slow to praise.

On a more humorous note, I was in the exhibition taking photographs and a member of the public followed me a little before asking

‘What are you doing?’

Taking photographs of the exhibition’ I said


‘So I can remember what I have seen’ I replied

‘Are you going to go home and copy the ideas?’

I didn’t know how to reply appropriately to that.

I like being on panels. It felt we were just beginning to dig down into a proper discussion when the time was up, as is so often the case at conferences. I also like meeting old friends and those I’ve not seen before. It’s good to be getting new people into the community. I hope when this covid19 is over we can have a get together and celebrate.

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