Together! 2012 was founded in March 2013 by locally based disabled artists, with the support of the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC). We aim to make Newham – which in 2012 had the lowest percentage of residents engaging with the arts in the UK — into an international centre of excellence for Disability Arts, as part of the Paralympic cultural Legacy.
Together! 2012 was formed in response to popular demand from participants in UKDPC’s Together! festival in 2012. Led by volunteers, Together! 2012 provided a focus for local residents and visitors, particularly disabled people and carers, to engage with the Paralympics and Disability History Month through a free programme of disabled-led arts activities. Newham was the main Paralympic Host Borough, and a higher proportion of disabled people call it home than any other Host Borough. With a huge building programme of new ‘lifetime’ homes, many more disabled people are expected to move into the borough over the next decade. There will also be many existing residents who acquire impairments through ageing, accidents and illness. At the same time, most of the services where disabled people accessed the arts prior to 2012, such as the Greenhill Centre and the Day Opportunities programme, have closed.
Together! 2012 CIC now provides a free year-round programme of arts activities for disabled people and their companions, and free disabled-led events, exhibitions and performances for everyone, led by Artistic Director and international artist Dr Ju Gosling aka ju90. We are an inclusive organisation, based on the ‘Social Model of Disability’, and bring together artists and art lovers with physical and sensory impairments, learning difficulties, long-term health conditions and mental health difficulties from all age-groups and cultural backgrounds. The majority of our team are still volunteers.
Our regular activities include weekly poetry and art workshops; monthly music and poetry evenings; and a day-long film workshop each month. Each summer we run an enhanced programme of workshops and performances, and in the winter we run a month-long festival for Disability History Month. We operate on a ‘pop-up’ basis, using more than twenty venues across the borough to date. We are continuing to expand our offer and our reach.
Together! 2012 CIC is wholly dependent on our own efforts to raise funds, but by the end of 2015 we had already raised over £125,000. Seed funding for the year-round programme has come from London Borough of Newham, People’s Health Trust, Community Foundation and Royal Docks Trust; events and festivals have been funded by Arts Council England with the support of Trinity Buoy Wharf, Channel 4, Countryside Properties, Davenport Venue and Event Management and London Borough of Newham. We have also been supported by the London Legacy Development Corporation to programme tents at the 2014 and 2015 Liberty Festivals for National Paralympic Day, and commissioned by them to install twelve giant percussion instruments made from recycled construction materials and found objects into Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the February 2015 half-term.
Our motto is: “Together we can change our world!”