Big Society, Disability and Civil Society Research

Website for ESRC research project 'Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society'

Invisible Britain, Sleaford Mods and disability activism

Leave a comment

Invisible Britain [1] is a documentary film currently being screened around the UK, that follows the Nottingham R&B Punk band Sleaford Mods [2] ‘on a tour of the UK in the run up to the 2015 General Election, visiting the neglected, broken down and boarded up parts of the country that many would prefer to ignore’. And for once disabled people are up close, personal and present in film documentary – not as objects of curiosity – but as activists responding to austerity.

Invisible Britain is ‘Part band doc, part look at the state of the nation, the documentary features individuals and communities attempting to find hope among the ruins, against a blistering soundtrack by Sleaford Mods’ [1]. For those who don’t know them, Sleaford Mods are a fantastic politicised band whose music has been keenly taken up by fans of all ages [2]. Glib depictions of the band include John-Copper-Clarke-meets-The-Streets and The-Digital-Sex-Pistols. But they are much more than this. Their music is joyful, funny, angry and political, all in equal measure. Invisible Britain intersperses band footage with stats and stories of the impact of the cuts on working class communities the length and breadth of Britain. This makes for harrowing viewing as we are reminded about the very real impacts of the Bedroom Tax and moves from Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance. The extreme stress caused by these two changes to welfare has been blamed for a number of high profile suicides on the part of disabled people, for examples [3], [4], [5], [6].

But Invisible Britain also gives us grounds for optimism: not least through the representation of disabled activists, set against the visceral soundtracks of Sleaford Mods, as these activists use the film to articulate their views against austerity. Space is given in the film to the input of Disabled People Against the Cuts [7] whose pioneering work ensures that the lives of disabled people are widely acknowledged by the media. Invisible Britain is an important counter-narrative to the usual disability-as-curiosity served up on mainstream TV. Disabled people are at the heart of numerous contemporary campaigns against austerity; not least because disabled people bear the brunt of welfare reforms. And if we want to find alternatives to austerity Britain, then disabled people and their representative organisations are leading the way. In the words of the Sleaford Mods ‘You better think about the future’ [8]: and the future is disability activism.

Dan Goodley, Rebecca Lawthom and Katherine Runswick Cole

[1] http://www.invisiblebritain.com/

[2] https://www.sleafordmods.com/

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/04/20/benefits_disabled-man-nicholas-barker-welfare-reform_n_3121688.html?icid=maing-grid7|uk-bb|dl1|sec3_lnk3%26pLid%3D173371

[4] http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/deadly-bedroom-tax-blundering.html

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jan/10/bedroom-tax-exemptions-stephanie-bottrill

[6] http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/coroners-ground-breaking-verdict-suicide-was-triggered-by-fit-for-work-test/

[7] http://dpac.uk.net/

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcvBMyy8a7c

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s