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Interview with Ruth Gould (Artistic Director of DaDaFest) Part 2

Continued from Part 1....

What impact does art and creative opportunities have on young/deaf/disabled people?

I think art, for us all, has an impact. We learn by being creative, all of the games we give our children in their early years –  drawing, dancing, playing – our creativity is inherent, within every single person. In education in the UK we don’t validate the arts after we get to a certain age, we start to concentrate on academia and reading and writing only. The arts are regulated to second place, and then as we grow up we start to see the arts as sort of highbrow. Art is about an intuitive right to express how you feel about life, and to be able to enjoy and engage with other expressions, it can challenge you with a different set of emotional reactions rather than the academic brain. The arts to us are just as important as breathing, eating, drinking – it gives us a quality and the questioning ability in our lives.

Our work is around disability arts and often the messages people have around the arts are not led by disability perspectives or experiences, so our work is very much about readdressing that and allowing people to be artists and influence people, who are non-disabled as well as disabled. An example being ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ which is a film that really broke the mould because they had an actual deaf person playing Hugh Grant’s brother in the film, and it was because they auditioned lots of people but Richard Curtis and the director decided there was a genuine quality about how the deaf person was communicating – Yes, that’s what we’ve be saying for years! It’s not a stereotype, yet we still see people getting awards for playing disabled people. So we need to challenge that and get people to see that disability is everyday – for us, you’re disabled or you’re not disabled yet - if you live long enough, it’s inevitable.


Have you worked with well-known artists or performers?

We’ve seen people become well-known because they’ve worked with us,  Liz Carr debuted at our first festival - you could call her famous now. She had her first workshop with us and she now has a character role in Silent Witness. Laurence Clark is another who has gone on to be really successful. But what I think has been really interesting is we’ve had people who have wanted to come in to the disability arts who have made it outside, people like Tanyalee Davis who’s an American comedienne, who won loads of stand-up awards but wanted to break into the disability world. Dame Evelyn Glennie, two years ago - it was just stunning to work with her. She was interviewed for a documentary called See Hear which was a BBC  programme for deaf people, and she was saying how she sees what we do as world leading, making opportunities where they don’t usually exist, working in the right ethos; how we are approaching stuff. We haven’t really linked with ‘celebrities’ as we don’t want the charity model going “Aw the poor inflicted, look at me helping them”. It’s about empowerment - the bottom line with our work.

What can we expect of DaDaFest this year?

DaDaFest is going to be very different this year. We’re looking at the life of a Liverpool-born man called Edward Rushton (1756–1814) who became an apprentice on the ships at the age of 11. He was really quite an interesting character; a radical thinker. He became a poet, then an activist and he spoke out about loads of injustices around the world.

Rushton is quite an amazing character, so we’re going to be celebrating him through an exhibition, plays, community artwork and seminars, collaborating with the National Museums Liverpool and the Victoria Gallery & Museum, University of Liverpool and the Royal School for the Blind which is the one Rushton set up himself, plus artists joining in online. So that will be an interesting deviation from our usual themes because we’ve never delved into the history of disability before and what disabled and blind people have achieved.

We are also looking at bringing some very exciting artists from around the world for a congress on disability arts and how it works to empower disabled people, so we are talking to arts organisations and artists as far as Cambodia, Brazil and Poland. We’re hoping to work with international musicians, and here at the Bluecoat the gallery space will feature an exhibition curated by an artist called Aaron Williamson. The festival will open on 8thNovember this year.


Where do you hope to see DaDaFest in the future?

Global domination, that’s where we’re going! (laughs) No, we want to keep growing the festival – its international impact is growing – it’s now every two years because of that international corroboration that we are developing. It’s a difficult one because funding is getting cut but our ambitions are really outrageous, it’s going to be tough to keep going but we have a really committed team and board, plus the support of our core funders – but we’ve got to marry those ambitions with reality and to maintain the engagement locally as well as internationally. DaDaFest works because it’s in Liverpool. I’m not sure if any other city would take what we do in the same way so we’ve got to make sure we’re true to the local community, that’s where we’re coming from in the way we do our work.

Want to find out more about DaDaFest? Visit


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Bluecoat is Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, the oldest in the UK. Our landmark building, located in the ...

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