Who’s who: Disability Arts Online

A screenshot taken from DAO's website

The Latest in the Who’s Who at Unlimited series, our good friends and partners, Disability Arts Online (DAO)

Unlimited’s media partner Disability Arts Online (DAO) is the lead online media outlet and community hub for the Disability Arts movement. DAO’s vision is to achieve widespread appreciation for the richness and diversity of disability arts and culture, so an ideal media ally to spread the word about Unlimited’s work. As well as nurturing and showcasing talent, DAO provides information and creates opportunities for disabled artists. With many guest bloggers and critics, DAO is continually sparking intelligent debate to support the development of the disability arts sector.

Dao’s editor Colin Hambrook set the journal up initially as a channel on Arts Council England’s website in 2002, turning it into an independent journal in 2004. His aim has been to develop a platform dedicated to work by disabled artists, which discusses artistic process whilst reflecting on issues faced by artists working within the sector. Dao’s ethos is underpinned by a Social Model perspective acknowledging Disability Arts as a force for social change.

Colin is a disabled artist who has produced a variety of web and print based publications over the last 20 years or so. These include DAIL (Disability Arts In London) Magazine, Arts Council Combined Arts Unit publication: Digitising Disability, Channel 4s Access All Areas website and Dada-News. He has been guest editor / writer for a variety of projects and organisations including Rachel Gadsden’s Unlimited Global Alchemy, LinkUpArts, Poetry Express, Open University ‘Diverse Perspectives in Mental Health, Architecture Inside Out, Accentuate and Tate Britain.

Trish Wheatley is DAO’s Director. Trish has worked in the disability arts sector for a decade, starting her career at Holton Lee curating and managing the disability arts programme. She then moved into freelance project management and producing in 2009 and joined DAO in 2011. Trish co-produced Sue Austin’s 2012 Unlimited commission, ‘Creating the Spectacle!’ and continues to collaborate with Sue through their company ‘We Are Freewheeling Limited’.

They are joined by sub-editor Joe Turnbull, trainee producer Alice Holland and an eclectic selection of board members: Director of the Craft Potters Association of Great Britain and visual artist Michelle Molyneux, Shape Arts CEO and sculptor Tony Heaton, Senior Lecturer at the University of Northumbria Dr Colin Cameron, academic, writer and editor Dr Emmeline Burdett, and freelance theatre maker Simon Startin.

DAO is committed to reporting on all of Unlimited’s activities and publicising the artists and their work. In 2014 the site reviewed every performance and exhibition at Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival, and regularly published news on the commissions’ developments. Following the announcement of the second round commissions, DAO has been publishing in-depth interviews with all the artists and providing a space for them to blog about their work. There were a number of DAO writers at the Edinburgh Fringe this year who documented Unlimited’s activities. All the performances, talks and Summerhall exhibition were reviewed or discussed, highlighting the success of Unlimited’s presence at the festival. DAO has also, on occasion, been a critical voice, providing an informative but balanced overview of the programme.

Colin Hambrook commented on the partnership: “Dao is delighted to be working with Unlimited to spread the word about this important initiative. Unlimited’s aims and values concur with those of Dao, working to support the development of work by disabled artists within the UK cultural sector. Dao’s brief is to interview the artists, review the shows, comment on the work as it progresses; and, where possible, to commission copy for other online magazines and press in order to facilitate the reach of Unlimited to new audiences. In the process we hope to emphasise the value of access, above and beyond its importance to individual impairment groups and to shift perceptions of disabled people.”

As we go into 2016, DAO will continue to be a key partner promoting Unlimited’s work and the supported artists. It is also an exciting time of development for the online journal with a brand new website being launched in the Spring. With two Unlimited festivals in the pipeline, very busy touring schedules, and potentially more exciting announcements coming up, there will certainly be a lot to talk about.

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