Nothing About Us Without Us Disabled People’s Activism: Past, Present and Future

A photo of a fabric artwork with the text 'disabled people fight back' 'powerless-ness = pain' 'nothing about us without us' and a picture of people protesting for disability rights

Euan's Guide Ambassador, Tina, visited the People's History Museum in Manchester to see Nothing About Us Without Us Disabled People's Activism. Here, she tells us about her trip.

I was blown away when I recently visited the Nothing About Us Without Us Disabled People’s Activism: Past, Present and Future exhibition, which is on at the People’s History Museum in Manchester until Monday 16 October 2023. So often disabled people’s life experiences are absent from museums and galleries, however, this exhibition has been curated by people who have lived experience of disability, and it explores the ongoing history of disabled activism in our own words and images. The exhibition is very powerful, as although there are some distressing times, it highlights the resilience, ingenuity and creativity disabled people have deployed to challenging ableism, injustice and inequality, and it highlights the hard-fought for successes and achievements of our community. It is an exhibition where our community is seen, heard, represented and celebrated.

Although hard to choose, I have picked five items as a taster, which showcase this exhibition. I hope it will encourage some of you to visit the exhibition in person.

An image of a material with an image of a protest on it with text 'disabled people fight back' 'equality' 'powerless-ness = pain' 'nothing about us without us'

Disabled People Fight Back Banner by Ed Hall (2015)

Nothing About Us Without Us is the name of the exhibition, and is a term often used in disabled activism to covey that disabled people need to be involved in the decision-making process about issues that impact on our lives. This huge banner has a powerful message referring to the impact of austerity on our disabled community.

A photo of a red charity collection bucket with white label and black and red text 'help the normals'

Help the Normals collection can by Dolly Sen (2012)

Dolly inverted the idea and challenged the idea that disabled people are objects of charity and pity. She created a charity collection can for the Normals, to see how non-disabled people feel being placed in that position.

A photo of hanging piece of fabric art with lots of patchwork images sewn together against a white wall with other art just in shot

Justice for Laughing Boy Quilt by Janet Read, Jean Draper, Margaret Taylor and Janis Firminger (2014)

This quilt was made in memory of Connor Sparrowhawk, also known as Laughing Boy. Connor had epilepsy, autism and learning difficulties. In 1913, aged only eighteen-years-old, he had a seizure and drowned in a hospital bath. The inquest concluded that neglect had contributed to his death.

The quilt has been loving made from hundreds of hand-made patches. The next photo is a close-up of the quilt and highlights some of the fine details in the individual embroidery.

A close up picture of the previous hanging fabric art to show the images up close, including buses, hearts, and other colourful depictions

A fabric sewn artwork with two men wearing coats and trousers one with a pointed hat

Sampler by Lorina Bulwer (late 1800s)

Lorina hand-stitched this small, square sampler while she was staying in Great Yarmouth Workhouse in the late nineteenth century. The sampler depicts two men and text. It can be seen as Lorina’s protest against her imprisonment.

A framed comic picture or cover with the text 'The adventures of Super-Crip' and an illustration of a superhero with a woman and two children to their right and a man to the left

The Adventures of Super-Crip poster by Laurence Clark and Andrew Tunney (2012)

Super-Crip has the power to choose his impairment based on the crisis he has to deal. The poster challenging inspirational porn and the stereotype that disabled people become super heroes just by overcoming their adversity.

If you would like to find out more about this fascinating and very accessible museum, please check out my five star Euan’s Guide review.

Visitors’ Information

Nothing About Us Without Us Disabled People’s Activism: Past, Present and Future exhibition is on until Monday 16 October 2023.

Address:  People's History Museum, Left Bank, Manchester M3 3ER

Telephone Number:  0161 838 9190


Tags: guest blog, Ambassadors, ambassador network, 2023, exhibitions, manchester, culture, art


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