Our View event, image by Sarah Playforth
The Our View event in London at the end of October was an opportunity for all of Our View to take part in shaping the legacy of Accentuate.
This “think tank” style event had a media focus. With the Paralympics rapidly approaching and the public demonstrations about government cuts to benefits and services ensures the coverage of disabled people in mainstream media is high.
Not all of this is progressive, and the media still has a tendency to revert to stereotypes, portraying disabled people as either brave heroes or fraudulent scroungers.
This depiction has a huge influence over the general public’s knowledge of disability and attitudes towards disabled people, so exploring and attempting to influence the relationship between the media and disability could be an important step towards Accentuate enabling a cultural shift.
The event kicked of with three keynote speakers:
Maggie Woolley spoke about being one of the original presenters on the BBC’s See Hear program and how as a Deaf person, her consumption of media has changed radically over 30 years. As a result of advances in technology and legislation, with subtitling now routinely available, her TV choice is extended beyond watching Coronation Street or signed programs at 2am in the morning. With Deaf people now leading the creation of output for TV, a real shift in the production of media is beginning.
Andrew Dickson, theatre critic from the Guardian gave us an insight into working in the mainstream press and the debate about how a broadsheet newspaper’s arts section should cover disability arts. If it’s good and would appeal to their readership- surely they would know about it? Or do they? Andrew spoke positively about the Guardian’s desire to broaden its networks and the opportunities it creates for new voices to break into journalism.
Allan Sutherland shared with us his varied experiences of working as a journalist and scriptwriter. He spoke about the changes in commissioning which he felt has made some involved in TV and radio less willing to support the unknown or risky. Allan is also to be a guest speaker at the event: The Representation of Disabled People in an Age of Austerity. This demonstrates that there is a real sense that these issues need discussion across a broader context.
These presentations gave much food for thought and informed the discussions in the next section of the afternoon. This was an opportunity for Our View members to break into smaller groups to explore ideas around what might the stereotypes be, how these generalisations may have been arrived at and what can be done to dispel some of these.
For a more in-depth account of the event, please see http://www.accentuate-se.org.uk/our-view-blog
Accentuate has always looked at new and different ways of doing things and this will be no exception. Moving forwards we will be developing relationships within the media, with Our View members leading and shaping this process. We are aiming high, we want to raise the profile of disabled people and enable progressive discussions so we can be a driving force behind creating a shift. We also want to make sure that these discussions aren’t going over old ground but provide a fresh insight. Our View is aiming to produce a symposium and publication in 2012 exploring this complex subject in more depth.