Disability event succeeds despite London Pleasure Gardens collapse

Organisers of a disability-themed arts festival which was salvaged at the last minute breathed a sigh of relief after its success.

The Together! 2012 festival had been due to take place at the now defunct London Pleasure Gardens in Silvertown.

The venue’s collapse cast doubt over the viability and scale of the event, planned to coincide with the Paralympics.

But organisers, the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), have thanked Eastside Community Heritage, St John’s Church, and the Stratford Advice Arcade for stepping in to help.

They were able to showcase 20 Newham-based disabled artists, alongside nine international and three UK-based artists between August 29 and September 9.

Artistic director Dr Ju Gosling said: “I have been delighted with the quality of work on show, and with the enthusiastic response from residents and visitors alike.

“We look forward to many more people joining together with us in the autumn to celebrate disability art and culture and learn more about disability rights as part of the Paralympic legacy.”

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The event was cut in size, meaning three exhibitions, six performances and a story-telling workshop with US comedian David Roche took place.

The Advice Arcade became UKDPC House, while performances by Sign Dance Collective, guitarist Benny Prasad, and Bollywood wheelchair dancers Muskaan took place in the St John’s grounds.

Artists and workshop participants were each awarded ‘gold medals’ by Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales.

UKDPC chief executive Jaspal Dhani said: “UKDPC has been proud to host these Disability Arts and to have been part of such a wonderful event.

“We owe a massive thank you to all who have taken part, and especially to the volunteers who have worked tirelessly to ensure that this part of the Together! 2012 Festival went well.”

Further events, including a three-day film festival, poetry cafe, fashion week, conferences, debates and sports taster activities will now take place in Disability History Month.

For more information, visit www.together2012.org.uk or email info@together2012.org.uk