Reginald D Hunter – The Lowry

MANCHESTER Mouth community reporter Sadia Habib talks about comedian Reginald D Hunter ahead of his show at The Lowry on Sunday 23 May 2010.

I feel privileged because I have seen Reg D Hunter six times. Don’t be alarmed! I’m not stalking him! I just find him extremely funny.

To read more of this story visit the culture section of Manchester Mouth’s main website.

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No Idea – Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

MANCHESTER Mouth community reporter Sadia Habib reviews Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence’s ‘No Idea’ – Royal Exchange Theatre.

Two actors – Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence – have ‘no idea’ for a play they would like to write/perform. Let’s go ask the public, they decide.

To read the latest community reviews visit the Culture section of our brand new website.

Filmmaker talks at Salford for LGBT Month

FUNNY: Summerskill is speaking about her film Queens Evidence at Salford Uni

PERFORMER Clare Summerskill will visit University of Salford as part of LGBT History Month.

Stand-up comedienne, actress, writer and singer-songwriter, Summerskill is appearing at the university to mark Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) History Month on 16 February 2010 and to talk about her film ‘Queens Evidence’.

The movie looks at the relationship between the police and the LGBT community over the last 60 to 70 years.

It was made in response to the low reporting levels of the newly introduced hate crimes law, by older LGBT people.

As a writer Summerskill has worked for many years in theatre and for radio and has just had her first book published. ‘We’re the Girls’ is a collection of her comedy monologues, favourite song lyrics and a few short stories.

She has her own professional theatre company, ARTEMIS Theatre Company and also performs an original cocktail of stand-up and comedy songs.

Summerskill, who has been described as “one of the funniest women in the country”, is the twin of Ben Summerskill OBE, chief executive of Stonewall.

LGBT History Month takes place every year in February to celebrate the lives, achievements and histories of LGBT people in the UK. This year’s patron is Welsh rugby star Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas – the first international rugby union player to come out as a gay man.

“We are delighted that Clare can be with us to talk about her film,” Vice-Chancellor Prof Martin Hall, the university’s patron of LGBT History Month, said.

“As a university we are committed to supporting our LGBT colleagues and students. And given our commitment and promise of continued support it is fitting that our university is hosting this important event – at a time when we are seeing a rising level of homophobia in schools and colleges.”

The event – which has been organised by the university’s LGBT Research Network – will be held at the Old Fire Station, Council Chamber, from 5:30pm until 9:00pm.

To find out more contact, Ben Light on 0161 295 5443 or b.light@salford.ac.uk or Steve Pugh on 0161 295 2375 or s.e.pugh@salford.ac.uk.

To book your place, please contact Deborah Woodman on 0161 2952801 or email: d.woodman@salford.ac.uk.

Zion centre hosts open day

By Will Astbury

MANCHESTER’S Zion Arts Centre is hosting a free community open day on Sunday 7 February 2010.

Staff and participants from the centre are putting on a range of free taster workshops including MCing, street dance and music classes.

There will be free refreshments to be had and drama, dance, comedy, music and arts acts to enjoy.

A statement from Zion said: “Come get to know us and what we do more! We want you to get involved and we want to hear your views on the centre and what you want to see done here!

“We want to meet our neighbours and members of the local community so we that we can make Hulme’s creative quarter a place for you!”

Festivities kick off at noon and finish at 4pm so get down the centre, 335 Stretford Road, Hulme, Manchester, M15 5ZA, early and do something productive with your Sunday afternoon.

For more details of all the activities that are going on at Zion visit www.zionarts.com.

MMU discusses disabled role in UK culture

By Will Astbury

MANCHESTER Metropolitan University has staged a conference which discussed the part people with disabilities play in the nation’s culture.

The Present Difference Conference examined ways in which disability is represented in the mainstream media, in books, film and other cultural practices, and considered the role and experience of disabled people as cultural producers and practitioners.

Hosted by the university (MMU), in conjunction with BBC Northwest, the Cornerhouse and the Cultural Disability Studies Research Network, the conference was organised by Dr Lucy Burke, of the Department of English at MMU, as she believes the cultural side of disability and of disabled people’s lives has been largely ignored.

“Much of the study and contemplation of disability has been focussed on social policy, so this is a relatively new area in academic terms,” said Dr Burke.

Present Difference, which ran from 6 to 8 January 2010, brought together writers, artists, filmmakers, broadcasters, academics and disability activists from Ireland, Scotland, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Italy, the USA and Canada.

A number of groundbreaking works were on show including Justin Edgar’s ‘Special People’, Ju Gosling’s ‘Abnormal’, and Sean Burn’s ‘Bastille England’.

Jim Ferris also read poetry and the award winning animations of Canadian filmmaker Shira Avni were shown.

Ex-MMU students contributed too. Former English and creative writing undergraduate Peter Keeley, who has cerebral palsy, pitted acting graduate Paul Henshall with Mark Benton as a ‘disabled character and a homeless character’ in the BBC3 comedy ‘I’m With Stupid’, which was presented to conference attendees.

Speaking to Manchester Mouth about how the conference went, Dr Burke said: “Given the freak weather that hit Manchester the day before the conference, everything went amazingly well.

“Despite the snow and the closure of the university, we managed to run a full programme and the feedback I have received has been fantastic.

“The presentations at the BBC were particularly interesting. The delegates from the USA described the UK as miles ahead in terms of the representation of disability in mainstream programming.”

Dr Burke, whose son Danny was diagnosed with autism when he was just three, explained that she had organised the conference to widen studies into disabilities.

“Disability Studies in the UK is largely confined to sociology and social policy departments, my aim is to widen this focus to include the arts and humanities,” said the doctor, “The cultural side of disability has been neglected in universities.

“Nearly all English degree programmes explore the ways that literary works portray class, gender and ethnic differences, but hardly any of them explore the representation of disability.

“Equally, disability studies in this country has focussed on issues of social policy and social and institutional experiences of discrimination, but hasn’t really focussed a great deal upon the cultural side of things. I want to address both these things.”

Emphasising the need to see people with disabilities as ordinary rather than extraordinary, Dr Burke called on the media to re-examine the way it represents those with disabilities, saying: “The kinds of representations that are available are generally negative.

“Strands like Channel five’s ‘Extraordinary People’ have a lot in common with nineteenth century freak shows in terms of their emphasis upon extreme physical differences (The Girl With No Face, The Tree Man etc). Disability is still often portrayed as some kind of tragedy.

“My aim would be to generate lots of different stories about the experience of disability and to make it ordinary rather than extraordinary, particularly given that the majority of us will experience disability at some point in our lives.”

Looking towards the future, Dr Burke believes that more needs to be done to enhance the educational and social opportunities available to disabled people.

“In my experience, disabled children have to contend with low aspirations and limited opportunities to participate in the kinds of activities available to their peers,” said the doctor, “Lots of people, even teachers at schools, make assumptions about the potential and abilities of disabled kids and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“As far as participation in the arts is concerned, universities and colleges need to do more than just adhere to the reasonable adjustments clause in the Disability Discrimination Act and become far more inclusive and accessible in their practices.

“We need actively to encourage disabled people to develop their skills as artists and performers and for there to be a wide range of roles available to them.”