Sunday, February 07, 2016

Grey Eyes Made Glittery.

I went to London on Wednesday for the opening of 'Reframing The Myth', hosted at The Guardian offices and created by Central Illustration working with Graeae Theatre (pronounced 'Grey Eye’).

Graeae is a theatre company made up of people with all kinds of disabilities, created to 'break down barriers, challenge preconceptions and place disabled artists centre stage'. It champions accessibility - for both performers and audience - and provides a platform for new generations of deaf and disabled talent through the creation of trail-blazing theatre, at home and abroad. Their founder and Artistic Director Jenny Sealey wrote and produced the 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony, and was awarded an MBE in 2009.

So, quite a lot to live up to then!

The brief invited a selection of artists to respond to material supplied by our subject - mine was 24-year-old Jacqui - all of whom were Graeae theatre members - in any way we wanted, whether that was focussing on their history, or achievements, interests, lives, thoughts, inspirations, physicality...or any combination thereof.

Jacqui is a poet which gave me plenty of potential material, seeing as I like to work with words, but in the end it was the ambitious and aspirational little girl at the very beginning of her story that caught my imagination, and created a piece which didn’t need any words!

The broken glass bubble is a reference to something she said in her interview, and once decided upon as a central feature, lent the whole thing its magical look!

Here’s what I said about it in my recorded interview (recorded so that the people of Graeae with sight problems could listen in on our ramblings too!)

“The thing that had the most impact on me were these two things: the photograph of Jacqui as a tiny little girl, an unfeasibly huge smile on her face, and her defiant line ‘we don’t all live in a bubble in the forest you know’, referring to the way people assume she knows ALL the other disabled people.

Jacqui was a little girl who wanted to be an astronaut, then a vet, then a Power Ranger...then a Ninja Turtle.

This is a picture of the spirit of the Jacqui I saw, that aspirational, excited little girl reaching for whatever she wants to do, without fear. Those very toys of her childhood - examples of super human ability and physical powers - marvel up at Jacqui as she flies around in her own vast sky, aided by the stars, having bust out of ‘the bubble’ while leaving her beloved sparkly purple wheelchair - her first as a little girl - safe on the ground. The animals she would have looked after if she had chosen Vet Jacqui are looking up too.

Her forest is a fantasy one where the trees are purple and pink, and the grass is lime, and the moon suggests the space-helmet of an astronaut framing her face.

She is wearing the dress she has on in the picture she supplied of herself as a small girl; I liked its collar, and fact that it is too big for her - she makes reference to her feet staying tiny, and her clothes being too big. In this picture, the world can hardly contain her!"

The collection is currently on show at The Guardian heaquarters at Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, just behind Kings Cross and very close to the House of Illustration.

No, you’ve got it all wrong, this is ELDERFLOWER WATER.

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