I used to be a keen photographer. Those were the days. I spent hours recording the exploits of the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network. I built up a treasure trove of images. Most of which were on old film, pre-dawn of the digital camera. Circumstances resulted in tragedy and now all those negs are gone.
But every now and then a pic pops up on social media and i love to see it. Some images mean more to me than others. I found a secret stash today and chose to recapture this image;
The work is by Dennis Queen, one of the most out activists in our movement, a friend and like my old negatives a treasure. I can’t remember why she did it or why she sent it to me but she did. It was sometime during the early days of facebook when techie dinosaurs still ruled the bandwidths. We immediately set up a facebook group called We All Shot Pudsey Bear which we continue to administer and to grow to this day.
We are often met with curiosity. Why? Surely Pudsey is a good thing? Sadly the little yellow bastard as another friend calls him as a history. Some parts of which are quite funny. Some are more dastardly.
1) Most seriously, consistent with many a telethon Children In Need has portrayed disabled people in a negative light.
2) Charity is seen to patronise. You can still witness this on the One Show where Matt Baker who some see as a bit of a dick head (or so i’m told) grovels and grinds out bravery tales wherein our new crippled heroes do epic things like ride a bike.
3) It remains our perception that Pudsey came to fame during a time of civil rights upheaval. We wanted rights and all Pudsey offered was charity. You could hear the activist cry of Rights not Charity everywhere in those dark distant days.
4) Charity also has a convoluted story. Leonard Cheshire, Scope, and other such stalwarts of segregation had an interest in keeping disabled people apart from society. Locked away in care homes and never seen again. Significantly Paul Hunt was seen to spur on the civil rights struggle from a Cheshire Home where he created a Consumer Group called the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS).
5) Children In Need and the charities it supports have been accused of being only in it for the money. CEO’s, Administrators and celebrities like, the witty or was it the witless Terry Wogan, were seen to being doing very nicely out of it thank you. The beeb have been asked about what happens to the money – why Children In Need seems to keep one hell of a lot of the year on year on record breaking pot to themselves.
6) The problem with the respect afforded to charities is they get asked to pronounce on how our lives should be. We talk of self advocacy. We talk about being the experts in our own lives. We demand nothing about us without us.
7) Two current examples of the mess this results in. First the unholy scramble of charities to get involved in government schemes focussed on work at the costs of benefits to disabled people. We get sanctioned. They get paid. We starve, they get bread. We die, they live. Pretty inequitable don’t you think.
8) We work towards independent living, Independent lifestyles. Increasingly there is more talk of a return to institutions. Whilst the private sector will take a fair bite of this cherry it is a fair be that charities will re-open halls, dormitories and old flesh wounds.
So, i’m starting reframing my history and the history of others with someone else’s image. It means a lot to me and its been a pleasure to share it.