The world’s biggest disability and deaf arts festival has won a prestigious annual award, a £10,000 prize, and a huge vote of confidence from regional business leaders.
DaDaFest 2012 has been named as the winner of this year’s Lever Prize, which will also see the festival benefit from a year-long collaboration with the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT).
NWBLT, which judged the award, includes representatives of the region’s 30 largest companies and works to promote the north-west of England.
Previous winners of the Lever Prize have included the Manchester International Festival, the Tate Liverpool modern art gallery, and Manchester’s National Football Museum.
The prize money will be invested in this year’s DaDaFest, the 11th, which will take place mostly in arts venues across Liverpool, from 13 July to 2 September, and will be part of the Cultural Olympiad that is being planned around the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
Ruth Gould, DaDa’s chief executive, said the chance to develop relationships with prominent businesses in the north-west was just as important as winning £10,000.
She said these business relationships might lead to help with the cost of bringing international artists to take part in this year’s festival, or the creation of a permanent artwork that could be placed “somewhere prominent”.
One of the reasons for setting up DaDaFest was that disabled and Deaf artists were not securing mainstream opportunities because of “big misunderstandings” about their abilities, she said, so it was “delightful” that the award showed DaDaFest was now seen as “one of the key cultural drivers” in the region and its artists as part of the “mainstream”.
She said it also showed that DaDa’s “commitment and passion to keep persevering and keep being political about our issues” had paid off.
This year’s festival will include collaborations with leading artists from across the world, including at least 12 European countries.
The theme will be Transactions – Fluid Bodies: Shifting Identities, looking at how disability affects our lives, including the “exchanges that occur between people and technology”, how our sense of identity is “bound up with” our bodies, and how those bodies “are not stable or unchanging through our lives”.
One of the festival’s centrepieces will be Niet Normaal (Dutch for “not normal”), an adaptation of a successful Amsterdam exhibition that asked the question: what is normal and who decides?
The DaDaFest version will include new commissions and a programme of talks and films, which aim to celebrate difference in the year of the Olympics and Paralympics.