My eyes are resting on the middle distance. I am trying to go back in my memory about the wheres and whens and the who and the why. This is not where I should have been, or thought I’d be more precisely. But I do know how I got here. I got here with the good fortune of meeting some amazing people along the way, who took the time to listen, to see me, to explain, to answer the naïve questions, to hold my hand, to pick me up, to point me on my way and wait for me when I had need to repeat or deepen the learning.
I got here through the patience, tolerance, kindness, generosity, care and love of so many people. I got here despite the myriad of rejections (which still come), despite being difficult to be around at times, despite of the naysayers and despite of the endemic, pernicious, ableist systematic barriers of the cultural landscape. I say I got here like I am done, I’m not, there is still far to go and the road ahead is long and not without its struggles, I am resting. Pausing. Reflecting. Thinking of the where I’ve been and where I may be going.
When in 2005 I met Vici Wreford-Sinnott at Arcadea, I didn’t even know what disability arts was let alone identify as disabled or an artist. It was the beginning of my recovery as an individual and it gave me meaning again. The first steps were shaky and uncertain. I wish I remembered meeting Vici for the first time and able to recount some amazing story worthy of a raconteur, but sadly I don’t remember any of those times that I can’t piece together through notes and photos. But I know meeting Vici was pivotal. I showed in the Mimosa Festival in 2006, gained some semblance of a disabled community in the north east. I showed some work at the Mushroom Works and spoke to Jeff Armstrong. I didn’t know it but we would be in each-others orbits for the not enough years which were left to come.
I was lucky to be selected for a development residency at Waygood/Harkers. I had a massive studio and I filled it with ‘stuff’ and played and made. After 6 months I had an exhibition and had to clear up and leave. It gave me a glimpse of a possible future and I am forever grateful for that. This lead to working with the Art House in Wakefield in one of its’ many incarnations and I worked with Anne Cunningham which lead to my working with Kerry Harker, who I still work with today. Back in 2011 Colin Hambrook from Disability Arts Online was a saviour at a doomed event in New Zealand which fostered an ongoing personal and professional relationship. Within all this I met Alisdair Cameron, head of Launchpad, now ReCoCo. Whilst not involved in disability arts directly he is the glue which held many of my projects together and remains a great advocate of the arts and mental health. We worked together on the Mind the Gap exhibition at Discovery and delivered training for TWAM. Most long term was with Tess Denman Cleaver on a theatre project with the early intervention in psychosis team for 4 years.
As things come full circle and people weave in and out of each others lives I re met Vici initially through ARC Stockton, and no modern recounting of Disability Arts would be complete without Vici but also Annabel Turpin who has done so much for the sector but who has also supported me so much in recent years. Important to mention is also the impact which Disability Arts Online is having in the region now working with artists to develop practice.
There is still so much left to achieve to become an equal accessible world. It has moved on and changed a lot for the better since the early 2000’s. The conversations are more nuanced, we can talk of Access Riders, Crip Time, Neurodiversity and not just about the physical quick wins of ramps. But still, so far to go. I won’t be going on alone. I walk with those who have helped me here and I will meet more along the way. None of us get by without the help of others, I hope I offer mine where I can. I am grateful to all those who have and continue to give so generously in so many ways to support me in what I do.
More from Aidan here at his websiter: https://aidanmoesby.co.uk
This article is from our Writings page where you can find other writings by disabled artists