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Integration of disabled people into the performing arts continues to be a hot topic these days. It’s like a badge of courage we might have won at school, something our mothers proudly stitched onto our jackets, wearing it over our hearts to show an organisational’s professional and political credentials.

Many arts projects view the prospect of complete integration up as a kind of holy grail of achievement, distinguishing them from other projects using the language of segregation, inclusion, participation and joining in. In this next series of posts, I want to consider those assertions closely and to see whether the badge of courage we think is stitched onto our jackets is more like those temporary children’s tattoos which wash off in the rain.

I want to look at the differences between integrated performance and assimilated performance. And I want to ask whether our desire to get people to join us and join in to our artistic endeavours is getting in the way of the more radical desire to join up a disability arts aesthetics to a wider critical pedagogy discourse. A discourse which relocates and nurtures the power of production in the hearts of those who are more frequently on the receiving end of the powers of cultural producers (artists and educators) who have their own artistic vision and agendas to promote: however benign and well intended those visions might be.

This will involve revisiting the puppet question, a proposal I developed in 2000 and 2008 and which asks of performances, performers and audiences:

Who in this performance could be replaced by puppets?

(Extract from works on Cultural Leadership)