David Hevey, NDACA Project Director.

Digital is the great game changer of our age. It brings the past to us so fast, now, that what is passed need not be so. Younger people can access, for instance, the 1970s, as if they are today, and feel they are living them for real now, as others lived them for real then.

And, working on NDACA which is an HLF-funded heritage-story with large digital elements, we the Project Team are aware of how The Past Is Back: how nostalgia, yesterday, what-we-were, all feeds what we want to be in England and the UK now and in the coming future.  

Digital delivering the past so easily means, also, that heritage is becoming a sexy beast: the more diverse-in-digital heritage stories there are, the more new audiences will come to the show.  

And projects like NDACA – the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive – is proving that there are audiences for culture and heritage stories which appear non-mainstream, but which are, in fact, diverse perspectives on the mainstream: our launch got .37 million online hits, our digitising roadshow got 200,000, and so on. We will easily reach audiences in the millions. Against which, say, a BBC4 documentary might only reach 30,000 hits.  

So digital and the past is where it's at. What is less comfortable is the speed through which one’s own personal stories can suddenly come back to haunt you. When the Project Team were travelling around, taking in fantastic images to showcase in the NDACA sites when we go live in 2017-18, we found some profound and some embarrassing evidence of some of our unruly pasts. Three examples from myself as Project Director, and Tony Heaton OBE as NDACA founder and Shape Chief Executive, show what we found.

The first is a cartoon poking fun at me. At the time, I was both amused and a tad annoyed: the clear implication being that David Hevey was flash! (I thought of myself as profound and above such issues as money!) It was in the boxes pledged by Joe Cribb about his brother, Steve Cribb: Steve Cribb was a doyen of the Disability Arts Movement, a great artist and, in particular, a pioneer of digital-story. The cartoon makes me personally laugh, but the main point is that Steve Cribb is a fantastic artist-collection for NDACA.

Cartoon strip of David Hevey.

The second image (below) is equally embarrassing, and was found in the archive of Elspeth Morrison. Again, it's Hevey bringing culture into disrepute. I think it was me taking images of a Rights Demonstration, but whom the photographer is, I don’t know (apologies for its use outside of copyright clearance!). I look terrible, but, again, it's funny. Whether it's finally, ultimately, relevant to the NDACA Story will be decided by the Acquisitions Group, but I doubt it will pass our acquisitions policy test!

Black and white archived photo of David Hevey.

The third and final us-in-our-story and from the past, is of Tony Heaton. It’s the last image of Tony before he became disabled. Interestingly, to use interpretation, Tony would say that his life hugely improved when he became disabled. Like others, he argues it gave him focus, drive, and a notion that he'd better get on with fighting for justice, than live the ‘socially dead’ life expected for so many disabled people in the past (and, it can be argued, increasingly again in this new age).

So, the image below of Tony is, on the one hand, a simple snap.  On the other, it’s a profound beginning-image of Tony’s journey into becoming a leading light in the Disability Arts Movement.

Image of Tony Heaton balancing upside down on a gate.

Alas, the two of me are less profound but do speak of my journey, too, as a media professional working in changing-representation and other media drive. Or maybe not! Maybe they just show a carefree previous existence. Like the Tony image, it's all open to interpretation.

But it's all, equally, with us now, which is the great gift of digital, of heritage, and of the growing interest in the past, brought to us at speed by digital.

David Hevey.  NDACA Project Director.  February 2016.

Banner image: Photograph of Tony Heaton.


Arts Council Logo

Joseph Rowntree Foundation Logo