Breaking down prejudice

Disabled actor and disability rights campaigner Kate Hood says she hopes events such Ballarat’s recent SNAP Arts & Disability Festival will help to allow people with disabilities to break into the mainstream arts community. 

Diversity casting: Actors' Equity Diversity Committee deputy chair Kate Hood speaks while Lynn Gordon interprets in Auslan.  Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Diversity casting: Actors' Equity Diversity Committee deputy chair Kate Hood speaks while Lynn Gordon interprets in Auslan. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Appreciating the art: Donald Harley takes in the work at the SNAP Arts and Disability Festival at the Mining Exchange on the weekend.  Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Appreciating the art: Donald Harley takes in the work at the SNAP Arts and Disability Festival at the Mining Exchange on the weekend. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Speaking ahead of the performance of her presentation titled Diversity Casting, the deputy chair the Actors' Equity Diversity Committee said festivals such as SNAP were able to break down preconceptions by showing quality art to a mainstream audience.

Taking a look: Helen Watson admires some of the work at the SNAP Arts and Disability Festival, which ran over 10 days .  Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Taking a look: Helen Watson admires some of the work at the SNAP Arts and Disability Festival, which ran over 10 days . Picture: Lachlan Bence.

“The great thing about this is people come to a disability arts festival and see work of quality,” Ms Hood said.

“My great hope is we will see artists with disabilities across the mainstream in the future, because in my ideal world the word disability wouldn't be needed because disability is a part of the human condition.

“I see artists with disabilities as adding dimensions to whatever the play or content is.”

The first of its kind in Victoria, the 10-day event at the Ballarat Mining Exchange featured more than 100 artists across a number of different mediums including painting, sculpture and performing arts. 

Live performances from the likes of KooKoo the BirdGirl and Someone Like Thomas Banks have kept the crowds flowing through the space since November 24. 

The festival comes after organising group Arthur Creative Services received a grant of nearly $50,000 from the Australia Council in May. 

Ms Hood, who has recently been involved with Australian favourite Neighbours, said the time was right for disabled actors and artists to receive a regular place within mainstream media and art, particularly in roles depicting people with disabilities.

“For me the most amazing thing is the mainstream company which shows Neighbours globally has employed a disabled actor to play a disabled person,” Ms Hood said.  

“Usually we have able-bodied actors 'cripping up' to play a disabled person, which to me is the same as blackface.

“I think it's time for people in the industry to call that out.”

Other productions in Victoria focusing on art from the disabled community have included Melbourne’s The Other Film Festival and Horsham’s Awakenings festival. 

As well as presenting art from some of the most talented disabled artists in the country, the festival also focused on presenting open talks to challenge the interplay between leadership and disability and the role of artists with disability in the wider creative community. 

The festival finished on Sunday night with a final performance of Enunciations, which seeks to highlight the life of people with disabilities living in an ableist world.