Disabled arts festival brings Newham Together!

Aliens performance by Act Up

Aliens performance by Act Up - Credit: Archant

Aliens took over Stratford Shopping Centre yesterday – but it wasn’t the start of an invasion.

ACT UP Together! Festival

ACT UP Together! Festival - Credit: Archant

Instead, the intergalactic tourists were played by disabled actors mimicking the way that able people sometimes treat them, as part of Together! Disability History Month, which celebrates all kinds of art created by disabled people.

One actor in Aliens, Sterre Ploeger, says “awww” at able-bodied shoppers – reflecting how people often react to her.

The 25-year-old actor and teacher is part of inclusive theatre company Act Up! Newham, which is also staging a play based on its own experiences of disability called Outside The Box.

Speaking using Signalong, a system related to sign language, Sterre explained why she finds the annual festival so rewarding.

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“Performing with Together! is good. It makes me happy. I like being in shows. I like meeting people and working with other people,” she said.

This certainly ties in with the spirit of collaboration that the festival’s artistic director Ju Gosling hopes to foster.

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Ju has lived and worked in Canning Town for 30 years, and sees Together! as a way to carry on the Paralympic legacy.

“We began as a project just for London 2012 – we all felt that local disabled people should have an opportunity to get involved,” she said. “What we found was that people wanted us to continue, which we hadn’t anticipated.

“Most people think that London was the best Paralympics ever and we should be very proud.”

Now the festival has become a fixture on Newham’s cultural calendar.

“This particular festival is very special because in the past we have brought national and international artists into Newham – but now we are really putting the spotlight on local artists,” Ju added.

“This is the time to say ‘look at the homegrown talent that we have got on out doorstep’.”

The varied programme runs until Friday, December 16 and all events are held at step-free venues, and with, the exception of the pantomime, are free. To find out more visit together2012.org.uk.

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