The Stories are a growing collection of image galleries told through our catalogue of 3,000 deposits.

Uncover the history of the Disability Arts Movement by learning about key themes and perspectives collected by NDACA. Go to the Archivist’s Corner and learn about specific deposits, explore photographs of disability rights protests and discover some of those great depositors who are no longer with us.

1970s

1972

Paul Hunt, a disabled resident at Cheshire Homes, writes a letter calling for a united struggle by disabled people against all the barriers they faced. The letter was published in The Guardian and had a wide-reaching impact on disabled people in the UK.

1970s

1974

The Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) is founded by Vic Finkelstein, Paul Hunt and other disabled people and their allies. The UPIAS went on to formulate the basic principles of the Social Model of Disability, which describes disability as a form of social oppression about barriers.

1970s

1976

Shape Arts is founded by the dancer Gina Levete. By the end of the decade, Shape had launched projects in schools, prisons, colleges, and art centres across London and the rest of the UK, forming direct links between artists and isolated groups of people.

1970s

1977

Basic Theatre Company is founded by Ray Harrison Graham.

1980s

1980

Graeae Theatre Company is founded by Nabil Shaban and Richard Tomlinson. Graeae’s key philosophy was to create a theatre company would be controlled and managed by disabled people. This was a direct response to the lack of opportunities for disabled people to receive training as actors or obtain professional work.

1980s

1981

Artsline is founded, a disability-led organisation that aimed to promote access for disabled people to arts and entertainment venues.

1980s

1981

The United Nation’s First International Year of Disabled People, which called for a plan of action on how to achieve equality for disabled people. That same year, the singer and activist Ian Drury released his song ‘Spasticus Autisticus’, which criticised the UN for patronising disabled people.

1980s

1981

The British Council of Organisations of Disabled People (BCODP) is founded, the first time national organisations of disabled people came together to form a co-ordinating body.

1980s

1982

Strathcona Theatre Company is established, working to create physical-theatre pieces with disabled actors.

1980s

1983

The first Covent Garden Day of Disabled Artists is held, organised by Geof Armstrong, who was then working at Shape Arts. There are subsequent Covent Garden festivals in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990.

1980s

1984

Arts Integrated Merseyside is founded as part of the Shape network. It established one of the first disability-led Arts Forums, and in 1986 broke away from Shape as the North West Disability Arts Forum.

1980s

1986

In November, the first issue of Disability Arts in London (DAIL) Magazine is published, first written by Sian Vasey, Michael Hempstead, Pat Place, Claire Wheeler, and Rudi Breakwell-Bos.

1980s

1986

In September, London Disability Arts Forum (LDAF) is founded, following the ‘Disability – Our Arts, Our Culture’ conference which was planned and executed by disabled people. The principles formulated by Vic Finkelstein and others were that disability rights should have a cultural ‘wing’ and that art should join the struggle for rights.

1980s

1987

Stemming from 1986 workshops at the Mulberry Day Centre, Heart ‘N’ Soul is founded.

1980s

1989

In July, New Breed Theatre Company is founded in Manchester. They go on to tour nationally between 1990 and 1996, developing a reputation for experimental theatre informed by the lives of disabled people.

1990s

1990

In July, the first Block Telethon protest demonstrates against the ITV Charity Telethon broadcast which positioned disabled people as pitiful receivers of charity.

1990s

1990

In May, the Tragic But Brave Roadshow is set up, a travelling disability arts cabaret show. Regular performers include Johnny Crescendo, Wanda Barbara, Ian Stanton and Allan Sutherland.

1990s

1990

February holds the first session of The Workhouse Cabaret, a Graeae Writer’s project. The desire is to create accessible provision for disabled people to learn to write drama.

1990s

1991

In April, the first edition of the Disability Arts Magazine is published.

1990s

1991

In November, Survivor’s Poetry is founded, a poetry workshop for survivors of the mental health system.

1990s

1991

In March, Mike Oliver publishes The Politics of Disablement.

1990s

1992

The Liberty, Equality, Disability – Images of a Movement poster series is launched – which is widely credited with changing negative charity advertising around disabled people.

1990s

1992

The second Block Telethon protest is organised by the Direct Action Network, with some 2,000 protesters on London’s South Bank wearing t-shrits with the slogan ‘Piss on Pity’.

1990s

1993

Between November and December, LDAF releases its first exhibition, How We Like It.

1990s

1994

Ian Macrae becomes the BBC Editor for the Community & Disability Programmes Unit, and oversees a number of radical films and television series including From The Edge, Over The Edge and The Disabled Century (produced and directed by David Hevey).

1990s

1997

In September, the first Independence Festival is held in Manchester, featuring performances by disabled artists including Julie McNamara, Mat Fraser and Johnny Crescendo.

1990s

1998

In December, the disabled singer and activist Ian Stanton dies.

1990s

1998

In March, LDAF launched Postal Strike!, a set of postcards produced by many disabled artists.

2000s

2001

The first DaDaFest is held by the North West Disability Arts Forum.

2000s

2002

In August, Degenerate, a festival within the Edinburgh festival, showcases the best of disability arts.

2000s

2002

In February, Holton Lee holds the DA21 Disability Arts Conference, with many speakers, artists, and workshops.

2000s

2003

Dada-South is set up to develop the careers of disabled artists across the South East and West of England.

2000s

2004

In October, Mat Fraser performs in Thalidomide! A Musical, which he co-wrote, and tours the musical in 2005 and 2006.

2000s

2005

On the 11th of August, Adam Reynolds dies days before his art installation at the Tate Modern. In 2007, Shape will launch the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary.

2000s

2006

The Liberty Festival, London’s disability rights festival, celebrates 20 years of LDAF with performances from many disabled artists.

2000s

2007

‘Here and Now’ is launched in the South East in 2007. This was the largest Disability Art public art installation delivered with the University of Portsmouth.

2010s

2012

The first Unlimited Festival at the SouthBank Centre is launched, delivered by Shape Arts and Artsadmin.

2010s

2012

The Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony Is watched by an average of  7.7 million people on Channel 4, making it one of the biggest TV audiences in Channel 4’s history.

2010s

2015

The National Disability Arts Collection and Archive is awarded £1-million funding by Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Joseph Rowntree Foundation to preserve the heritage of the Disability Arts Movement.

2010s

2016

Shape Arts and Arts Admin receive funding to produce Unlimited International, a programme that will tour the works of disabled artists around Japan, Australia and Brazil.

2010s

2017

Following sell-out shows in the UK, Liz Carr’s Assisted Suicide: The Musical tours to Australia. The show was first produced by Unlimited and is based on Liz Carr’s opposition to assisted suicide.

  • 70s
  • 80s
  • 90s
  • 00s
  • 10s

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