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M21 brought disabled artists to Much Wenlock over the May Day weekend

  • Date: 16 May 2012
  • Area: Midlands
A lady painting the mayor

Tanya Raabe painting the Mayor of Much Wenlock. Credit: Richard Foot

People from all over the UK descended on Much Wenlock in Shropshire over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend for a festival of unusual arts events.

The beautiful rural town, which was the home of the late William Penny Brookes who inspired the modern Olympic Games, came alive with a variety of arts events by disabled artists from the UK and also Europe.

Entitled M21: From the Medieval to the 21st Century the project was presented by DASH (Disability Arts in Shropshire) as part of Unlimited, which is the ground-breaking London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad programme that celebrates arts and culture by disabled and deaf artists.

Eight performances - individual artists and groups - took place around the town or in the Priory Hall over the Saturday and Sunday.

The artists were:

Simon Mckeown, from North Yorkshire. He is one of the UK's most experienced digital practitioners and transformed Holy Trinity Church with a crazy mix of technology using outdoor projections, opera singing to an accordion and animated creatures.

Sean Burn, based in the North East, is a writer and performer with a growing international reputation.  He presented Psychosis Belly - absurdist poetry made from sports motivational statements.

The Disabled Avant Garde, from London, is a satirical arts organisation which creates contemporary art.  They performed in costume Wendeville and Manlock based on the London 2012 mascots.

Kontenjer, a not-for-profit organisation based in Croatia, created a film See no evil, hear no evil in which the main actors (one blind the other deaf) were exposed to a series of awkward situations.  They also filmed events over the weekend.

Noemi Lakmaier, from London, was born in Vienna but studied in the UK. She presented 'O' (zero) which consisted of four physically fit men and her own disabled body in a relay race that will render a competitive sport entirely non-competitive.

Alan McLean, from West Bromwich, is a performance artist. He presented Searching for Tony Mustoe. Alan met Tony in a Sheffield Day Centre and they performed at the National Review of Live Art.

Tanya Raabe, a visual artist from Shropshire, has established herself as a pioneering visual artist, painted the Mayor of Much Wenlock, Lesley Durbin. In 2010 Tanya won the Ability Media International Award for her work in the visual arts.

Ann Whitehurst, from Stoke on Trent, presentedTraining to be Me.  She was filmed at a distance as well as in microscopic close up.  She was also in conversation with an assessor and evaluator as part of the performance.

The Wandering Jew, Mike Layward presented The Politics of Confinement, a piece linking the enclosures of the 16th and the 21st century.

Mike Layward, who is also Artistic Director with DASH says: "M21 was an experiment to bring such cutting edge work to Much Wenlock.  It was unknown how it would work and be received. The experiment did work."

Paul Kaynes, West Midlands Creative Programmer, London 2012, who visited the town on the Saturday, commented: "New works were commissioned and created providing opportunities for around disabled artists - both from the UK and Europe.

"DASH brought new and unusual works to a small market town, where local people saw work they wouldn't otherwise have seen.

"People came to Much Wenlock and stayed for one or two nights bringing additional investment into the local economy."