Stage more disability shows, says festival boss

Disabled performers hang in the air during street performance
Disabled performers are central to the Unity Festival, which was founded in 2008 [Oliver Crawford]

More needs to be done to showcase disabled performers’ work, according to the organisers of one of Europe's largest disability arts events.

The Unity Festival, which was started by Welsh theatre company Hijinx in 2008, runs in Cardiff until Sunday.

Unity and Hijinx artistic director Ben Pettitt-Wade said it was launched because of the difficulties facing disabled artists getting work.

He said things had improved, but added: “There is always room for more opportunity.”

Fernanda Amaral, the director of Brazilian dance company Dance without Frontiers, called the festival important.

“This festival brings together performers with and without disabilities, audience members with and without access needs,” she said.

“And we all have something important to share.”

Ms Amaral has brought a work named Fresta Poética to the event, which is performed on the street.

She said: “We use canes because half our company has visual impairments.”

The use of crutches can turn disability into a “superpower”, she said.

“The ‘grand jete’, the high jump in ballet, is performed with crutches and the dancer is suspended in the air,” Ms Amaral said.

Dancers performing with crutches
Brazilian artists dance with crutches in a show named Fresta Poética [Dance Without Frontiers ]

“Which wouldn’t happen, of course, if they were dancing without crutches. It’s showing disabilities in a positive way.”

Mr Pettitt-Wade said having international acts was important.

“Our festival opens its doors to artists from all over the world and promotes Wales as the welcoming nation it is,” he said.

Cardiff theatre company Stammermouth has a show about obsessive-compulsive disorder and unwanted thoughts called “Choo Choo!”.

Its writer Nye Russell-Thompson, who also appears in the work, called the festival “brilliant and necessary”.

The festival has also visited Bangor and Llanelli.