Able2Do Anything: Music & Arts

Disabled artists rebel against benefit cuts

Mow's Artwork

Take a look at the image above. At first glance you may be puzzled what Mow is trying to replicate by a bunch of shopping receipts and a mailbag crafted from her own clothes.

Mow, by the way, is a disabled artist who has used her most recent masterpiece as a stand against the DWP - Department for Work and Pensions’ ‘shoddy’ service they provide for documenting vital information about disabled people.

The artist used to be a social worker before she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder – since doctors identified her mental health condition Mow has been out of work. To claim disability allowance she was asked to send her financial information to the DWP, but her data was ‘lost’ in the system.

The mailbag in the picture represents how disabled people have to ‘air their dirty laundry in public’. According to Mow, “You go from a working member of society doing ‘the right thing’ to being this passive ‘benefit claimant’ tarred with the brush of being a sponger,”

The thirty-two year-old from Huddersfield added: “You go from a working member of society doing ‘the right thing’ to being this passive ‘benefit claimant’ tarred with the brush of being a sponger,”

She’s one of the nineteen artists taking part in a new exhibition this week in Leeds which gives disabled people the opportunity to express their concerns over how they are being treated under the government rulings.

The Shoddy Exhibition is being launched by Gill Crawshaw who said: “We’re seeing sustained attacks on disabled people’s rights to live with dignity and without fear of harassment – all from a government hell bent on removing any sense of security or stability,”

Leigh Illingworth is another artist taking part in the event, her piece of work is a “story-telling coat”. The ‘fashionable’ statement appears positive – words such as ‘intuitive’ and ‘brave’ are embroiled across the front, but look deeper and you’ll see a list of disabled people who have died as a result of the welfare cuts.

Illingworth, 58, has fibromyalgia she has over twenty years’ artistic experience – this is the first time she has crafted a protest piece of art. Leigh said: “The political system of recent years against disabled people, and the increase in vilification by the media, has made me more political. I’ve seen how it’s affected the lives of disabled people, the unfairness of it all.”

Visitors to ‘Shoddy’ will also have the chance to see ‘The Maze of Life’ created by forty-seven year-old Vickie Orton. The artist, who lives with multiple sclerosis , designed the artwork to show two sides to the benefit system.

One half reflects the obstacles disabled people face applying for their benefits…corridors which lead to frustrating dead ends. The other side highlights the positive contributions people with disabilities give to society with bright sparkles.

Shoddy runs at Live Art Bistro, Leeds between 7 – 16 April.

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