Banner image: still from 'plastic flowers' (2021), melissandre varin's 2021 Black History Month commission

Looking at Black History Month through the lens of disability requires attention to certain intersections of experience. Because all of our work is informed by the Social Model of Disability, we know that there is power and liberation to be found when we pay attention to and put effort into removing the barriers that marginalised people face. For whatever reason that somebody is marginalised, and in many cases there is more than one, understanding the structures that generate inequality is the first step to dismantling them. 

It is important to think about our work in this way because it creates space for learning. The organising tactics used by anti-racist campaigners can, for example, be just as useful in fighting the battle against ableism, and vice versa, not least because the battle is often the same. We all benefit from this mutual approach to liberation. 

This is why we feel it is important to mark Black History Month as an organisation. Not just to provide support and creative freedom to a black disabled artist, but also to reaffirm our commitment to an intersectional approach to disability justice and acknowledge the great contributions that have been made to our cause by those with experience of both ableism and racism. 

However, as we know all too well, tokenism is rife across the arts and one-off commissions for marginalised creatives are often designed to serve institutions more than artists themselves. We are also aware that disabled and black artists alike get bored of being pigeon-holed into identity-related themes and conversations. 

So, our approach to Black History Month commissioning is very broad. We invite an artist with whom we have an ongoing, supportive relationship to focus on developing an idea or part of their practice that is authentically meaningful to them and, using the concepts of identity and histories as a starting point, we encourage them to critique and tear up the playbook. 

Browse our current commissions         Check out 2021's BHM commission