As part of the Qatar-UK Year of Culture, the British Council present a major arts and disability festival, featuring work from the Unlimited season, the largest ever celebration and exploration of disability arts, and a major element within the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The programme of live performance, visual arts and film created by leading British Deaf and disabled artists will also be accompanied by talks and workshops.

  • Photo: Hamish Roberts
  • Marc Brew Company featuring Evelyn Glennie. Photo: Irven Lewis.

The British Council, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Arts & Heritage in Qatar, is presenting the first ever Arts & Disability Festival in the Middle East. The festival features an exciting programme of live performances, exhibitions, installations, films and workshops. A series of talks accompany the programme with the purpose of raising issues around the status of disabled and Deaf artists, and the creative and professional barriers they face. The talks also highlight issues of accessibility for both artists and audiences. 

The Arts and Disability Festival features a selection of works from Unlimited, a celebration of work produced by deaf and disabled artists that was held at the Southbank Centre in London last year, to coincide with the London 2012 Paralympic Games. New works were commissioned to encourage Deaf and disabled artists to push their artistic boundaries, as the Paralympic athletes pushed their sporting boundaries. The UK is recognised as the world leader in disability arts and maintains a strong commitment to its ongoing development across all art forms. The Arts & Disability Festival will draw on this expertise to provide an unprecedented platform to engage with local audiences in Qatar. 

Qatar–UK 2013 Year of Culture aims to be a catalyst for an increase in bilateral relations between Qatar and the UK, and a platform on which to build new long-term partnerships between our cultural institutions. Hosted by Katara Cultural Village, the Festival is one of the highlights of Qatar UK 2013, a year of events to celebrate and develop the partnership between Qatar and the United Kingdom in the arts, culture, education, sport and science.

Carole McFadden, British Council Theatre & Dance Adviser reports from the Arts & Disability festival in Qatar:

"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 Prince's 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 is Three, a dance theatre performance by award winning 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 move 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 joins 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 are being 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 has another week to wait before they travel to Qatar for the final week of the Festival and closing performances of Marc’s solo piece Remember When and company work Fusional Fragments on 28 and 29 March."

Read a blog from Rachel Gadsden on the Disability Arts Online website


  • Doha, Qatar

    15th Mar 2013 - 30th Mar 2013

    Katara Cultural Village

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