A new disabled-led organisation is aiming to make an east London borough an “international centre of excellence” for disability arts and culture.
Together! 2012 began as a free disability arts and human rights festival in the London 2012 host borough of Newham, an event that spread across the Paralympic Games and UK Disability History Month.
But it has now launched as a social enterprise, led by local disabled artists, which will aim to make Newham a centre for disability arts as part of the legacy from London 2012.
Together! 2012 will also campaign for greater access to the arts, and will provide a range of free, grassroots arts and cultural activities for disabled people.
It has already secured support from more than 30 local and national organisations, including Newham council, disabled people’s organisations such as DaDaFest, Cooltan Arts and Disability Arts Online, Channel 4, the University of East London, business, leisure and arts organisations, the Metropolitan police, and the TUC.
Speaking at the organisation’s launch at Newham council’s dockside headquarters this week, Dr Ju Gosling, Together! 2012’s artistic director, said there was a unique opportunity to make the London 2012 “legacy” a reality.
She said that local residents, workers and businesses had a responsibility to ensure this legacy was not simply “a new park, homes and shops”, but that part of east London was “permanently transformed, along with the lives of local people and businesses”.
She said that Newham had the lowest level of engagement with the arts in the UK.
She added: “As part of the Paralympic legacy, it is right that disabled people should be leading a resurgence of interest in arts and culture right across the borough.”
The launch event included a private view of an exhibition put together from the work of 45 disabled artists – both amateur and professional – which Together! 2012 hopes to develop into an annual touring exhibition for UK Disability History Month.
All of the activities that Together! 2012 will be running will be provided to disabled people free at the point of use, and so far include clubs for poetry, art, music, wheelchair dancing, photography and film-making, and visits to galleries and museums.
It aims to offer volunteering and work experience opportunities, as well as internships and creative apprenticeships if it can secure the necessary funding.
Gosling also announced at the launch that the disabled artist Yinka Shonibare, a former Turner Prize nominee, had agreed to be Together! 2012’s patron.
Gosling said: “His patronage reflects the fact that we aim to work to an international standard, and to become an international centre of excellence for disability arts and culture.”