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New Disabled Artists Manifesto Launched

Published: 23 Sep 2020

Vince Laws 'Fit for Work' collage
Vince-Laws, Fit-For-Work! comic book page spread, 2020.

A new manifesto calling for radical change in the arts will be launched on Thursday 8 October. Not Going Back to Normal has been created following an open call out to disabled artists. Published as a website and a book, the project combines visual art, poetry, manifestos and more and includes contributions from 47 contemporary disabled artists living in Scotland.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the world suddenly became interested in isolation, exclusion, and distance communication – issues which disabled people have experienced long before the pandemic. As the country locked down, disabled artists in Scotland were asked to re-imagine what ‘normal’ might look like in a radically accessible arts world.

Artists Harry Josephine Giles and Sasha Saben Callaghan have brought together contributions of art and ideas which show what the arts in Scotland could and should be like for disabled artists in the post-pandemic era. Harry Josephine Giles and Sasha Saben Callaghan said:

“The representation of disabled people in the creative industries is woefully small, and in some areas the numbers are falling. Report after report claims to identify the problem and yet disabled artists remain underpaid, outside, and stuck at the bottom of the stairs.

Not Going Back to Normal is a provocation about how things are and an idea for how things could be. This gallery manifesto gathers disabled artists in their diversity, rage, and imagination to call out the institutional ableism in the Scottish arts and picture a future in which disabled artists are central.

Our artists have responded to these questions in many ways. Some have written full-blown point-by-point policy manifestos for arts funders. Some have written pleas from the heart to understand disabled conditions. Some have reflected with joy on the creative and access possibilities of lockdown. Some just chose to share art about the richness of their disabled lives. And some called out the terms of our questions in the first place. We’d like you to enjoy, think about and be provoked by all these works, and what they represent together.”

Not Going Back to Normal will be launched initially as a digital platform at a special online event on Thursday 8 October 2020. A print version of Not Going Back to Normal will be produced later this year.


  • Not Going Back to Normal was commissioned by a consortium of visual art organisations working together to address barriers faced by disabled artists in Scotland, made up of; Arika, Artlink, CCA, Collective (project producers), DCA, Glasgow School of Art Exhibitions, Project Ability, Scottish Sculpture Workshop.
  • The project is funded by Creative Scotland and Engage but is independently managed and curated.
  • Sasha Saben Callaghan is a writer and digital artist, living on the east coast of Scotland. She was a winner of the 2016 ‘A Public Space’ Emerging Writer Fellowship and the 2019 Pen to Paper Awards. Her illustrations have featured in a wide range of journals and magazines. Sasha’s lived experience of disability and impairment is a major influence on her work. instagram.com/sashasaben
  • Harry Josephine Giles is a writer and performer from Orkney who lives in Leith. Their latest book is The Games from Out-Spoken Press, shortlisted for the 2019 Saltire Prize for Best Collection. They are studying for a PhD at Stirling, co-direct the performance platform Anatomy, are now touring the poetry-music-video show Drone. Harry Josephine is trans and autistic. harryjosephine.com
  • Not Going Back to Normal will be available online from 6pm on Thursday 8 October 2020: notgoingbacktonormal.com
  • A live online event to mark the launch, featuring Harry Josephine Giles, Sasha Saben Callaghan, and artists who have contributed to the manifesto, will be hosted by Collective 6pm on Thursday 8 October 2020. Tickets are free but advance booking is essential.