A Disabled Artists Manifesto: Call for art and ideas

Engage Scotland is delighted to be supporting an independently managed and curated commission to produce a provocation about the exclusion of disabled artists in the visual arts and gallery sector.

Not Going Back to Normal is a project by Sasha Saben Callaghan and Harry Josephine Giles, commissioned collectively by Arika, Artlink, CCACollectiveDCAGlasgow School of Art ExhibitionsProject Ability and the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, and funded by Creative Scotland and Engage Scotland.

Here the artists set out their approach to creating A Disabled Artists Manifesto:  

How many times have you heard the words “when things go back to normal”? 

Before COVID-19, disabled artists were already routinely excluded from visual arts and galleries, were already often failed by the arts and cultural sector. No one has to tell us the reasons why – poverty, prejudice, stairs, forms, noisy parties, austerity, tickboxes — we all know. Same old, same old. Normal was already no use to us, and we were never normal. 

We were commissioned by a group of Scottish visual art organisations to produce a provocation about the exclusion of disabled artists. Now, at a time when all of our adjustments are suddenly reasonable, the world is experiencing just a fraction of our normal, and everyone else is suddenly interested in isolation, vulnerability and distance communication, we want to hand that provocation over to you. 

Because we’re not going back to normal. The world is changing, so let’s remake it with our ideas. If we want an artistic revolution, this is our chance.  

Help us write a radical manifesto for and by disabled artists. Show us what you want the arts in Scotland to be like for disabled artists and audiences. Tell us what you’re pissed off about. Give us your demands. Make us a picture of a radically accessible arts world. We’re taking your demands to the bosses.

Submission close 29 June 2020. For full details on how to submit your art or ideas, see the Not Going Back to Normal website.

About the artists

This project is curated by two disabled artists.

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 


This project is supported by a group of Scottish visual arts organisations working on improving disability access and inclusion. They are: Arika, Artlink, CCA, CollectiveDCAGlasgow School of Art ExhibitionsProject Ability and the Scottish Sculpture Workshop


This project is funded by Creative Scotland and Engage, but is independently managed and curated. 

This project is part of Engage and Engage Scotland’s ongoing programme of work to break down barriers to access to contemporary art and the visual arts and gallery sector for disabled people.