Crow will make the private public in defence of her bed life

A disabled artist will place the government’s welfare cuts under the microscope next month, just as the coalition begins to implement its controversial disability living allowance reforms.

Liz Crow’s highly personal live performance Bedding Out will see her putting her “private bed-oriented life” in the public arena over the course of 48 hours.

The writer-director-activist has to spend much of her life in bed because of her impairment, but says that until now she has always succeeded in keeping that part of herself hidden from view.

During the performance, members of the public will be invited to take part in “bedside conversations” with her as she lies in her bed, so they can discuss the work and its backdrop of welfare reforms and cuts to disability benefits and services.

The event will be streamed live on the internet throughout its 48 hours, allowing those who cannot attend to engage with the project via Twitter.

Crow said: “I wear a public self that is energetic, dynamic and happening, but I am also ill and spend much of life in bed.”

She said that the benefits system forces her and other disabled people to “parade” their private selves in order to justify receiving support.

She added: “For some months, I have lain low for fear of being penalised, but instead of letting fear determine who I am, I’d rather stare it in the face.”

Bedding Out is a way of taking her private self and making it public, she said.

“I want to make a twilight existence visible, but more than that, I want to show that what many people see as contradiction – what they describe as fraud – is only the complexity of real life.”

Bedding Out – which is funded by Arts Council England – is a companion piece to Bedding In, Crow’s performance at last year’s SPILL Festival of Performance in Ipswich.

It is part of a new touring show, People Like You, which also features work by disabled artists Sue Austin and Gini, and which “tackles the subjectivity and perceptions of disability, and the place of disability arts in the wider art sector”.

Bedding Out is at Salisbury Arts Centre and on social media (follow @RGPLizCrow and use #beddingout), from 10-12 April, starting at 2pm. It will be live-streamed on Crow’s website, Roaring Girl Productions. The 40-minute “bedside conversations” will take place both online and at the arts centre on Wednesday 10 April at 2pm and 6pm, on 11 April at 3.15pm, and on Friday 12 April at 10.15am. There will also be a Twitter-only conversation from noon on 11 April. To attend one of the conversations in person, contact Salisbury Arts Centre.

27 March 2013

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

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DPAC protesters call for general strike over cuts

An award-winning disabled artist is to spend three days in bed in front of an audience, in an attempt to portray the contradictions of her impairment, and the government’s “miserable, terrifying, punishing” fitness for work assessment regime.

The writer-director-activist Liz Crow is forced to spend much of her life in bed because of her impairment, but has always managed to keep that part of herself hidden from view.

“I have developed this incredibly stark way of living,” she says, “and what other people see of me in public spaces is not how I am for most of my life. Even the people close to me don’t really know me at the most extreme.”

In Bedding In, she will make her “twilight existence visible”, exposing the part of her life she spends in bed to public scrutiny, and for the first time “parading” this private self in public.

The piece, part of this year’s SPILL Festival of Performance, in Ipswich, is Crow’s response to the government’s harsh benefits reassessment programme.

But rather than lying low for fear of being penalised by the Department for Work and Pensions, she has decided to “stare that fear in the face”.

She is one of the hundreds of thousands of long-time incapacity benefit claimants who have been tested through the government’s reassessment programme, and subjected to the infamous work capability assessment, carried out by the government’s contractor Atos Healthcare.

Even though Crow has used a wheelchair for 26 years, Atos decided that she had no difficulty walking. She was placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG), for those thought able to move towards paid work.

But she knows she cannot make herself available for work, and so – unless she wins her appeal – she has resigned herself to having her benefits taken away because of the inevitable failure to co-operate with the regime.

“The consequences are that I may have no income coming in and don’t know how as a single parent I will care for my child, let alone my home, etc.”

Less than two weeks after her performance ends, she will need to parade her private self again, when she appeals to a tribunal against the decision to place her in the WRAG.

Crow is clear that she wants Bedding In to be about the complexity of her impairment, and not its “tragedy”.

“I live a pretty good life with the complicated set of circumstances that I have got,” she says, “but if I step out of my bed then it is not seen as complexity or contradiction, and in the current benefits system it means you fall through the gaps.”

Each day during the performance at Ipswich Art School Gallery, members of the public will gather around her bed to discuss the work, and its politics. The hope is that Crow will take the “data” from these conversations and use them to further develop the piece.

“It is a political statement,” she says of the performance, “but it is also trying to make visible this kind of internal wrestling that goes on for a lot of us with the benefits stuff.

“Since I got personal assistants 15 years ago I have managed to find a kind of fragile security in my life. I have rarely earned but I have, I hope, contributed.

“Now the benefits thing has kicked in it has all gone. Suddenly I don’t feel I have any security left whatsoever.”

Even if she wins her appeal, she faces the likely prospect of being reassessed again in another year or so, and then again, and again.

“The idea that this is life now: that is just dire. There are hundreds of thousands of us going through this assessment. There is some small comfort that there are a lot of us in it together but it is not much comfort because of the toll it takes.

“I have this tiny amount of time when I am well enough to do stuff and I am looking at that time being taken away.

“It has been really hard to create the life I have got, a reasonable life, and this big system comes along with these politicians who are so extraordinarily removed from a life like mine and they demolish what I have built up.”

The whole process feels, she says, like “punishment”, not assessment, “an endless round of justifying myself and fighting for a grain of security”.

“There are layers and layers of why it is so hard. One of the things is that if you fall through the gaps, for the press it is evidence that you are a scrounger and a fraudster.”

She is among the many disabled activists who believe that this cruel assessment process – and the callous and incompetent way it is carried out by Atos – are responsible for the premature deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of disabled people.

Even if these deaths are not caused by the process, she says, “actually they died among all this shit, their last few months were so miserable and so frightening, and I think that’s unforgivable. To condemn people to a really miserable last few months is diabolical.”

Crow feels there is an affinity between her performance and the direct action protest carried out by members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) at Marble Arch in central London last weekend.

One of the reasons she is so impressed with DPAC’s campaigning work, she says, is that “they have created an incredible visible presence but have found ways for all sorts of people to contribute”, particularly through social media.

She also sees links with her most recent piece of work, Resistance, an award-winning video installation about the Aktion-T4 programme, which led to the targeted killing of as many as 200,000 disabled people, and possibly many more, in Nazi Germany.

She began working on Resistance in 2008, and started thinking about its themes several years earlier, and felt even then that there were contemporary “connections”.

“Those contemporary connections have just got stronger and stronger,” she says. “I am appalled to feel that we are under greater threat now than we have been in all the years I have been involved in activism.”

She points to newspaper reports of alleged disability benefit fraud and the use of language like “shirkers”, “scroungers” and “fakers” to describe disabled people. This kind of propaganda, she says, is “eerily familiar” from descriptions of pre-Holocaust Germany.

The “specifics” of what is happening now are not the same as in Nazi Germany, she adds, but “the values beneath it are, this idea that we are somehow dispensable, more dispensable than others”.

She also points to the Paralympics, which she says “makes the scrounger-fraudster rhetoric stronger, and leads to a backlash”.

There are even similarities between the Paralympic classification system, and the benefits assessment system. Both suit those who have a “bio-mechanical, quantifiable impairment”, rather than less clear and easily-determined impairments.

Would-be Paralympians with “nebulous impairments” fall through the gaps, she says, just as she and many tens of thousands of other disabled people have fallen through the yawning gaps in the benefits system.

Bedding In is part of Disability Arts Online’s Diverse Perspectives project, which is funded by Arts Council England, and is commissioning eight disabled artists to make new artwork that “sparks conversations and debate about the creative case for diversity”.

Bedding In takes place at the Ipswich Art School Gallery from 1-3 November, from 11am to 6pm, as part of the SPILL Festival of Performance in Ipswich.

24 October 2012

Artist will stare “fitness for work” fears in the face with public exposure of her bed life

An award-winning disabled artist is to spend three days in bed in front of an audience, in an attempt to portray the contradictions of her impairment, and the government’s “miserable, terrifying, punishing” fitness for work assessment regime.

The writer-director-activist Liz Crow is forced to spend much of her life in bed because of her impairment, but has always managed to keep that part of herself hidden from view.

“I have developed this incredibly stark way of living,” she says, “and what other people see of me in public spaces is not how I am for most of my life. Even the people close to me don’t really know me at the most extreme.”

In Bedding In, she will make her “twilight existence visible”, exposing the part of her life she spends in bed to public scrutiny, and for the first time “parading” this private self in public.

The piece, part of this year’s SPILL Festival of Performance, in Ipswich, is Crow’s response to the government’s harsh benefits reassessment programme.

But rather than lying low for fear of being penalised by the Department for Work and Pensions, she has decided to “stare that fear in the face”.

She is one of the hundreds of thousands of long-time incapacity benefit claimants who have been tested through the government’s reassessment programme, and subjected to the infamous work capability assessment, carried out by the government’s contractor Atos Healthcare.

Even though Crow has used a wheelchair for 26 years, Atos decided that she had no difficulty walking. She was placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG), for those thought able to move towards paid work.

But she knows she cannot make herself available for work, and so – unless she wins her appeal – she has resigned herself to having her benefits taken away because of the inevitable failure to co-operate with the regime.

“The consequences are that I may have no income coming in and don’t know how as a single parent I will care for my child, let alone my home, etc.”

Less than two weeks after her performance ends, she will need to parade her private self again, when she appeals to a tribunal against the decision to place her in the WRAG.

Crow is clear that she wants Bedding In to be about the complexity of her impairment, and not its “tragedy”.
“I live a pretty good life with the complicated set of circumstances that I have got,” she says, “but if I step out of my bed then it is not seen as complexity or contradiction, and in the current benefits system it means you fall through the gaps.”

Each day during the performance at Ipswich Art School Gallery, members of the public will gather around her bed to discuss the work, and its politics. The hope is that Crow will take the “data” from these conversations and use them to further develop the piece.

“It is a political statement,” she says of the performance, “but it is also trying to make visible this kind of internal wrestling that goes on for a lot of us with the benefits stuff.

“Since I got personal assistants 15 years ago I have managed to find a kind of fragile security in my life. I have rarely earned but I have, I hope, contributed.

“Now the benefits thing has kicked in it has all gone. Suddenly I don’t feel I have any security left whatsoever.”
Even if she wins her appeal, she faces the likely prospect of being reassessed again in another year or so, and then again, and again.

“The idea that this is life now: that is just dire. There are hundreds of thousands of us going through this assessment. There is some small comfort that there are a lot of us in it together but it is not much comfort because of the toll it takes.

“I have this tiny amount of time when I am well enough to do stuff and I am looking at that time being taken away.

“It has been really hard to create the life I have got, a reasonable life, and this big system comes along with these politicians who are so extraordinarily removed from a life like mine and they demolish what I have built up.”

The whole process feels, she says, like “punishment”, not assessment, “an endless round of justifying myself and fighting for a grain of security”.

“There are layers and layers of why it is so hard. One of the things is that if you fall through the gaps, for the press it is evidence that you are a scrounger and a fraudster.”

She is among the many disabled activists who believe that this cruel assessment process – and the callous and incompetent way it is carried out by Atos – are responsible for the premature deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of disabled people.

Even if these deaths are not caused by the process, she says, “actually they died among all this shit, their last few months were so miserable and so frightening, and I think that’s unforgivable. To condemn people to a really miserable last few months is diabolical.”

Crow feels there is an affinity between her performance and the direct action protest carried out by members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) at Marble Arch in central London last weekend.

One of the reasons she is so impressed with DPAC’s campaigning work, she says, is that “they have created an incredible visible presence but have found ways for all sorts of people to contribute”, particularly through social media.

She also sees links with her most recent piece of work, Resistance, an award-winning video installation about the Aktion-T4 programme, which led to the targeted killing of as many as 200,000 disabled people, and possibly many more, in Nazi Germany.

She began working on Resistance in 2008, and started thinking about its themes several years earlier, and felt even then that there were contemporary “connections”.

“Those contemporary connections have just got stronger and stronger,” she says. “I am appalled to feel that we are under greater threat now than we have been in all the years I have been involved in activism.”

She points to newspaper reports of alleged disability benefit fraud and the use of language like “shirkers”, “scroungers” and “fakers” to describe disabled people. This kind of propaganda, she says, is “eerily familiar” from descriptions of pre-Holocaust Germany.

The “specifics” of what is happening now are not the same as in Nazi Germany, she adds, but “the values beneath it are, this idea that we are somehow dispensable, more dispensable than others”.

She also points to the Paralympics, which she says “makes the scrounger-fraudster rhetoric stronger, and leads to a backlash”.

There are even similarities between the Paralympic classification system, and the benefits assessment system. Both suit those who have a “bio-mechanical, quantifiable impairment”, rather than less clear and easily-determined impairments.

Would-be Paralympians with “nebulous impairments” fall through the gaps, she says, just as she and many tens of thousands of other disabled people have fallen through the yawning gaps in the benefits system.

Bedding In is part of Disability Arts Online’s Diverse Perspectives project, which is funded by Arts Council England, and is commissioning eight disabled artists to make new artwork that “sparks conversations and debate about the creative case for diversity”.

Bedding In takes place at the Ipswich Art School Gallery from 1-3 November, from 11am to 6pm, as part of the SPILL Festival of Performance in Ipswich.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Cathedral theft ends Gloucester’s Resistance

A disabled film-maker’s award-winning video installation about the killing of hundreds of thousands of disabled people in Nazi Germany has had to end its run in Gloucester Cathedral, after a vital piece of equipment was stolen.

Liz Crow’s Resistance: which way the future? has received critical and popular acclaim in the UK, Ireland and at the renowned Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

The installation was approaching the end of its six-week run in the cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral when the projector was stolen.

Crow believes the thief used benches and chairs provided to make the installation more accessible to reach the £500 projector, which was insured.

Crow said the theft was “sickening” but she was “not taking it personally”, and added: “I don’t imagine it had anything to do with the location or the content (of the installation). I suspect it was just opportunistic.”

Although the run at the medieval cathedral was forced to end early, Crow’s team has been able to source a new projector in time for the installation to open next week at the University of Bedfordshire’s students’ union (18 November to 15 December).

She said: “In the spirit of Resistance, we are back out there.”

The Aktion-T4 programme is believed to have led to the targeted killing of as many as 200,000 disabled people, and possibly many more, and became the blueprint for the “Final Solution”, through which the Nazis hoped to wipe out Jews, gay people and other minority groups.

Crow’s film-based installation explores the values that allowed T4 to happen but also shows how some disabled people found the courage to resist.

It also draws close parallels with issues that challenge disabled people’s right to exist today, such as the campaign to legalise assisted suicide, the rise in disability hate crime, and increased pre-natal screening and abortion.

Even though the installation has now been shown in eight UK venues, in Dublin, and in Washington, DC, Crow is still seeking the first venue willing to host it in London.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Letter appeals to Miller over bill’s ‘anti-disabled people’ measures

Disabled activists, academics and politicians have appealed to a government minister to abandon measures in the welfare reform bill that are “anti-disabled people”.

The open letter to Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, was signed by MPs, MSPs, members of the Welsh assembly, peers, and more than 50 academics.

Leading disabled figures to sign the letter included Professors Peter Beresford and Colin Barnes, actor Mat Fraser, film-maker Liz Crow, campaigner Anne Novis, and the activists behind the Where’s the Benefit? blog.

The letter was put together by the campaigning disabled people’s blog The Broken of Britain and was published in The Guardian the day before the bill’s second reading in the Commons.

The letter says the bill would “punish disabled people, and especially those with fluctuating and hidden conditions”, and pointed to the planned one-year time limit on people who claim the “contributory” form of employment and support allowance.

It also criticises the cuts and reforms to disability living allowance (DLA), and calls for the DLA reforms and “other ‘anti-disability’ provisions that will place extra pressure on social care and social services” to be removed from the bill.

The letter’s publication came as Kaliya Franklin, co-founder of The Broken of Britain, released an artistic photograph of herself lying naked on a wintry beach in front of her wheelchair, as part of the group’s Left Out In The Cold awareness-raising campaign.

She said: “I was absolutely frozen when I took my clothes off for the photo shoot, but it was nothing like as cold as I and other disabled people will be if the government removes our essential benefits.”

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said it was “committed to supporting disabled people” and enabling those who can work to do so “by providing the specialist help they need to move into sustainable employment”.

He said the DLA reforms would “ensure it works in the way it should and that disabled people who really need it can rely on the £12bn we spend on it for years to come”.

Meanwhile, the Commons public accounts committee has told the DWP to do more to cut the cost of errors in the benefits system.

The committee said staff and customer mistakes led to £2.2 billion in benefits being overpaid and £1.3 billion being underpaid to claimants in 2009-10.

Margaret Hodge MP, the committee’s chair, said the DWP was focusing on its own losses due to error and fraud rather than “underpayments to poor people who depend on the benefits to which they’re entitled”.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com