Learning wing to showcase history of Disability Arts Movement


Date: 8th Apr 2019

The National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA) will open the first physical location of its kind dedicated to Britain’s disability arts movement at Buckinghamshire New University on Thursday 2 May.

More than 3,500 pieces of artwork inspired by the disability arts movement will be available to the public for the very first time in a learning wing in the University’s library at its campus in High Wycombe.NDACA logo

A portrait by disability artist Tanya Raabe-Webber of sculptor and artist Tony Heaton, who conceived the concept of the archive and will speak at the launch, will be added to the NDACA repository at the opening event, which takes place from 5pm-7pm.

Mr Heaton said: “This learning wing is the realisation of a dream I had more than 30 years ago, to collect the unique heritage, and demonstrate the power, of the disability arts movement. One that fought barriers, helped change the law and made great culture about those struggles. I am delighted to help launch the NDACA learning wing to the world.”

Delivered by disability-led arts organisation Shape Arts, the million-pound legacy project is funded primarily by the National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund, with further funding from Arts Council England and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The launch marks the culmination of a three-year research project led by Project Director and Shape CEO, David Hevey, and coordinated by Archivist Alex Cowan.

The new learning space is designed to be inclusive, with hydraulic desks for wheelchair users, computers to access the digital collection, and original artefacts from the Disability Arts Movement. It includes an analogue timeline featuring publications and pieces inspired by the archive, a quiet room for study, and a chill-out space.Great Britain from a Wheelchair, by Tony Heaton OBE

The archive highlights the story of the disability arts movement, one of the world’s most important political protest campaigns which began in Britain in the 1970s and led to the eventual passing of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act. The archive is an ever-evolving record of the major cultural contribution made by the movement and the body of work it inspired.

Mr Cowan said: “During the last three years I’ve worked with significant figures in the disability arts movement to identify standout material from their huge personal collections, and the result is the NDACA learning zone. I am proud to have been able to participate in a cultural movement that has shaped British art, society and politics and to have played my part in highlighting disabled people’s long struggle for individual and collective recognition.”

Mr Hevey added: “The NDACA wing is full of character, a space in which you can feel the power of the disability protest movement. It challenged society, achieved great social change and inspired a remarkable body of creative work, and we’re delighted to launch the new learning zone in partnership with Bucks New University.”

Professor Nick Braisby, Vice-Chancellor of Bucks New University, said: “We are proud to host the NDACA wing which represents the significant importance of the disability arts movement and all that it achieved. We look forward to welcoming researchers to the University, and giving our students and staff access to the archive which will inform our curriculum and teaching across our course portfolio.”

The opening of the NDACA learning wing follows the launch of the archive’s digital arm at the House of Lords in June 2018 and other NDACA locations. The National Lottery Heritage Fund supported the project with funding totalling £853,600.

Image: Great Britain from a Wheelchair, by Tony Heaton OBE, will be displayed in the learning wing.

About the National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, it inspires, leads and resources the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Visit: www.heritagefund.org.uk. Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund


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