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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Disabled performers link up
Mat Fraser
UK performer Mat Fraser backs the idea
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By Anita Kazmierczak
in Adelaide, Australia
line

A new international body has been set up to provide a voice for artists with a disability across the globe.

The International Guild of Disabled Artists and Performers had its inaurgural conference in Adelaide, South Australia, as part of the High Beam Festival 2002.

Initiated by New Zealand writer, comedian and activist Philip Patson, the guild has been set up to promote and foster disability arts and culture on a world scale.

"There was a lack of an organisation that was run for disabled artists, by disabled artists," says Patson.

"A lot of organisations are run by non-disabled people and particularly in the intellectual disability area, I think there's a need to be saying what is disability art about and what is the difference between disabled people's expression of disability, and non-disabled people's expression of disability in an artistic form."

'Appreciate the art'

Phil Patson
New Zealander Phil Patson is behind the guild
The International Guild of Disabled Artists and Performers has three main aims. Firstly, to develop audiences of disabled and non-disabled people who are wanting to see the art.

"Rather than non-disabled people coming along for a 'gawk', it's time for us as humanity to move on, get over the staring, and appreciate the art for what it is," says Patson.

The guild will also foster the role of non-disabled people in disability arts and culture, giving them a resource to create maximum potential for disabled people to express themselves.

Mentoring up-and-coming and professional artists by other disabled artists is also key on the new guild's agenda.

'Basket-weaving'

UK actor and comedian Mat Fraser, in Adelaide to perform his show Sealboy: Freak as part of the High Beam Festival, is enthusiastic about the guild's potential.

"This is not about day centre basket-weaving, this is about professional performers who want to play on a level playing field - wheelchair accessible, of course," says Fraser.

"And if black performers, women performers and gay performers have all got their own international guild, which quite rightly they should have, then it's almost insulting that we haven't got one, so I think it's fantastic."

"I'm going to be a very keen member and I will encourage all my peers in Britain to become members, so it'll be strong and then grow.

"We will cross-fertilise and all become international artists able to play each other's territories, it can only be a wholly positive thing."

See also:

01 May 02 | TV and Radio
Broadcasters' pledge to disabled
12 Mar 02 | Europe
Olympic website targets disabled
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