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Art fans from around the globe last week arrived in Liverpool for the world’s biggest festival dedicated to showcasing the work of deaf and disabled artists

DaDaFest, now celebrating its tenth year, is a two-week arts festival that aims to put the work of deaf and disabled artists in the mainstream. This year DaDaFest is challenging the thoughts of its audiences with the theme of ‘Objects of curiosity and desire’. The festival will feature works in theatre, visual art, dance, performance art, workshops, talks, conferences and film by 100 artists from the UK, and from as far away as Uganda and India. Dazed spoke to founder and Chief Executive of DaDaFest, Ruth Gould.

Dazed Digital: How did DaDaFest come about?
Ruth Gould:
The start of DaDaFest came about as a few things came together. Liverpool city had approached us [Deaf and Disability Arts] with the offer of some funding to celebrate International Disabled Peoples Day on 3rd December 2001 as part of its bid to become European Capital of Culture for 2008. We had been delivering training and skills courses and still finding it hard to get the artists known outside the disability community. We used this opportunity to programme a week long festival that celebrated both Deaf and Disability cultures by programming out artists in mainstream venues. Initially the venues would not programme such work for a variety of reasons, mostly as they didn’t think there would be any audiences. We demonstrated that there was an audience and that the work of the artists was strong and vibrant – taking people into a different place as to how they experienced the arts.

DD: How has the festival grown in its ten-year life?
Ruth Gould:
Since the festival started we have delivered a festival every year and the work has become better and more impacting nationally and now internationally. We are so proud to be celebrating 10 years and firmly placed as a festival of excellence that reaches all people – as we firmly promote that disability is an issue that affect us all – especially as we live long enough – so lets no be afraid to explore how our bodies limitations can shape the way we create and consume the arts!

DD: How has the festival helped deaf and disabled artists?
Ruth Gould:
This year I undertook research into the affects of the festival on disabled and deaf artists, an outstanding 75% responded saying that it had helped them to become employed or self employed as artists, increased their profile and helped them to continue working in the sector. I know this festival changes lives for people, disabled, deaf, non-disabled and hearing alike. It is a way of viewing and exploring our humanity, our vulnerability and our amazing ability to adapt our lives no matter how we live.

Text by Emma Gaffney

DaDaFest is running until December 3 in locations throughout Liverpool. For the festival’s full programme visit the DaDaFest website