"Moments like last night remind us why these discussions are so important"

| by Carole McFadden

Tags: Arts and disability Staff blog

The first ever Arts and Disability Festival in Qatar got off to a flying start with six works originally created for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad being selected to focus attention on disabled issues through the arts, and within society more broadly.

The festival coincided with the opening of the This Breathing World exhibition at the Katara Cultural Village, with visual artist Rachel Gadsden escorting HRH Prince Charles, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, the Qatari Minister of Culture and VIP guests around a selection of works from her personal collection. About 25 years ago, Rachel received a Prince's Youth Business Trust Award to start her artistic career and, although this only came to light recently, it proved a great talking point on the day as Rachel proudly wore her silver PYBTA pin badge in Prince Charles’s honour. Rachel spent much of her first 20 years living in the Middle East and, like Prince Charles, is learning Arabic, so they had much to talk about as well as their shared passion for painting.

Rachel summed up the exhibition opening and accompanying programme of workshops for young disabled people as a "truly wonderful" moment in her career. She further commented that: "artistic motivation and belief has always kept driving me forward with ambition and hope, and with the support of organisations like the British Council, Arts Council England, the Princes Youth Business Trust and many others, cultural dialogues do start which have the ability to both affect and change our society, and surrounded by all the young disabled Muslim workshop participants and their parents, moments like last night really do remind us why these discussions are so important."


Next up was Three, a dance theatre performance by awardwinning choreographer Claire Cunningham and video artist Gail Sneddon, in partnership with the National Theatre of Scotland. The company arrived from Scotland in the early hours of Wednesday morning and the technical team moved into position 10 hours later to get the set up ready for the first of two public performances on 22 and 23 March. Claire also joined Rachel Gadsden and Shaikha Hessa bint Khalifa bin Ahmed, a Qatari advocate for disability issues, on a panel discussion on 20 March to talk about their work and the issues facing disabled artists and practitioners in the UK and Qatar.

In addition to Rachel’s exhibition, filmmaker Chris Tally Evans’s Turning Points, artist Sue Austin’s film Creating the Spectacle and animator Joel Simon’s Macropolis were screened throughout the day in venues and outdoor spaces in and around Katara, bringing a rich balance to the programme. The Marc Brew Dance Company travelled to Qatar for the final week of the Festival and closing performances of Marc’s solo piece Remember When and company work Fusional Fragments were performed on 28 and 29 March.


P.S. There's a nice piece about the festival in The Stage, too!

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