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Disabled Artists Scoop Arts Funding Awards

Nine disabled artists from Northern Ireland have been announced as recipients of the iDA (Individual Disabled/Deaf Artists) scheme, a dedicated arts funding stream which allows them to develop their professional artistic careers.

Managed by the Arts & Disability Forum (ADF), awards under the iDA scheme have been made annually to deaf and disabled artists working in a range of artforms.

The bursaries, which are supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, will allow each artist to produce new creative work or receive professional mentoring. The 2015 artists include 5 visual artists, 2 dance artists and 2 musicians. The artists have impairments ranging from physical disability, visual impairment, mental ill health and learning difficulty.

Chris Ledger, Chief Executive, Arts and Disability Forum, commented; “Disabled and deaf people can have fruitful and successful careers in the arts and the grant scheme recognises this and supports artists to develop work of extremely high artistic merit. The scheme is open to artists in all artforms and with all types of disability including unseen conditions such as diabetes, dyslexia, epilepsy and mental health conditions.”

Fionnuala Walsh, Head of Participatory Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “Congratulations to the new recipients of the iDA scheme. These grants are given in recognition of the artists’ work to date and to provide them with the necessary support to take their careers to the next level. The Arts Council is pleased to support this important programme, which encourages the production of new work and addresses the need for disabled and deaf artists to have on-going training and skills development within the sector.”

Through the ADF’s support, disabled artists have developed unique artwork of extremely high artistic quality, some progressing to a level where they have received international recognition. The iDA scheme’s purpose is to identify, encourage and nurture individual talent amongst disabled practitioners. This is the last scheme to be managed by the ADF as for 2015-16 the fund will transfer to Arts Council management.

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The Arts & Disability Forum presents:

A is for Activism

an exhibition of campaign imagery from Brian Hilton
at the ADF Gallery, Royal Avenue, Belfast

Launch: Friday 13th March, 5-7pm

The ADF's launch for 'A is for Activism' was serendipitously timed for Northern Ireland's day of action and, despite the public transport strike, the launch drew people out to share a glass in this exhibition of disability campaign imagery. The exhibition shows the power of the arts to create social change - and highlights disabled people's perspective on Welfare Reform. NI's politicians are closer to disability issues than the English MPs - this is about what has happened in England and is a timely reminder of what could happen in NI.

Drawing on a long tradition of photomontage, from John Heartfield to Peter Kennard, 'A is for Activism' by Brian Hilton focusses on use of the arts as a tool to create socially motivated campaign images.This show reflects a year of campaigning on disability issues and represents the voice of the disability movement in England, where Welfare Reform has had a devastating effect. The pieces shown highlight concerns about tortuous assessment processes for benefits, the need for support to live rather than assistance to die, and the end of the Independent Living Fund.

Artist Brian Hilton says: “Services and benefits are being slashed or scrapped, whilst assisted suicide legislation creeps ever closer to becoming a reality. As a disabled person with high support needs, support like the ILF enables me and other disabled people to live with choice and dignity in the community rather than locked away in a nursing home. I am not an artist, and I am unsure whether these images constitute art. However, I have design skills, imagination, the resourcefulness of a magpie and a passion for a campaign that I care deeply about. The images in this exhibition are just small elements of a wider grassroots response to what is happening.”

Chris Ledger, CEO of the Arts & Disability Forum says: “Whether it's art or not – and personally I’d say yes, it is - the images in this exhibition have successfully drawn attention to the cause of disabled and deaf people and we are proud to present them. Sometimes only the arts can communicate the big messages! This show is particularly relevant at a time when the ADF's membership and audiences are fearful of the changes to come as Northern Ireland takes on Welfare Reform.”

The exhibition is on view at the Arts & Disability Forum, on the wheelchair-accessible Ground Floor of Cathedral Quarter Workspaces, at 109-113 Royal Avenue in Belfast(Belfast Telegraph end, opposite the Mace shop). The gallery is open to the public from 18th March until 23 April, from 11am to 3pm, Tuesday to Friday. BSL and audio description are available provided visitors make requests in advance.

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