Disability Sport And Art Festival 2013

rubbishDuring a twelve-month period that has included both the London Olympic and Paralympic games, it cannot be said that there is not a significant effort to remove the enduring, ignorance-fuelled stigma that surrounds disability. The Disability Sport and Arts Festival joins together countless organisations with the similar aspiration of removing this unfathomable prejudice. The festival celebrates the diverse range of activities that are available to Cambridge’s disabled residents, and appeals equally to the non-disabled, attempting to bridge any gap between the two sectors that may exist. As a part of the ongoing DSAF, the Cambridge Film Consortium screened a series of short films that, each in their own way, reflect the themes and ambitions of the festival.

Ranging from the insightful and poignant to the enjoyably barmy, the films all explore in some way or another what it means to be disabled. Some therapeutically express frustrations and limitations; others are short, amusing pieces made just for fun. Their common ground, however, is that they each feel cathartic in some way. The screening begins with an astute introduction from the chairman of CLASP (Community Link for Arts and Sport), Mark Taylor. Given that the festival is the result of a partnership between the City Council and CLASP, he is certainly qualified to speak on its behalf. His allusions to the prejudices that still exist, and the work that is required to reverse these, hold great relevance – but his overall message is of positivity for the breakthrough year that has passed.

… it cannot be said that there is not a significant effort to remove the enduring, ignorance-fuelled stigma that surrounds disability.

The films themselves begin with Cambridgeshire Mencap’s take on the ‘Harlem Shake’ Youtube craze. The younger members of the audience appreciate the reference, and it is made all the more amusing by the fact that a fair proportion of the older generation is not entirely familiar with the craze. The animation on I WAS RUBBISH, AT EVERYTHING is simple but effective, tracking the story of Olympian, Al Oerter, who won four consecutive gold medals in the discus. The physical comedy of NUMBER 10, a Laurel and Hardy-esque black and white comedy, is a particular highlight of the screening. A number of poignant films follow, including a moving account of a young senior citizen trying to regain some sense of normality in VICKY’S STORY, and an interview with former Norwich City footballer, Darren Eadie, about the stresses and strains of being a professional athlete, and his own story of his mental health problems.

The common ground of the films, is that they each feel cathartic in some way.

The insights are put on hold briefly for another two pieces from Cambridgeshire Mencap, created as part of the Befriendingworks Film Project. The two rap videos that follow are, as with HARLEM SHAKE, a respite from films exploring the darker issues surrounding disability. The obvious enjoyment taken in their production is infectious. IRRATIONALITY and DON’T JUDGE return the audience to the screening’s poignant message, both carefully exploring mental health issues and their devastating effects. THIS IS MARK and DANCEMOVES @ FLACK end the event on a more upbeat note, giving powerful messages of recovery and hope in which any viewer may take comfort.

One of the main aims of the screening, as explained by Michelle Lord (one of the event’s curators), was to blow out the water the preconception that representations of disability are unimaginative, or lacking inspiration. It is safe to say that the event as a whole certainly delivers on that promise, ensuring that the effort to challenge negative perceptions of disability continues in 2013 as strongly as it did in 2012.