Symposium – Brave, Poor (and invisible): The gatekeepers of past and future cities

20 Oct 2017

Exact time tbc

Festival of the Future City

Venue to be confirmed.

impressionistic image shows silhouetted people against blue skyscrapers

If you come to this symposium expecting traditional power-point presentations and panel debates you will be in for a surprise; instead experience creative happenings, visits by robots and an opportunity to be part of a Cultural Animation installation work.

They will be performing a work in progress which uncovers the defiant voice of Fanny Fust, a young heiress with severe learning disabilities who lived in Bristol in the 18th C who was abducted by a fortune hunter, and whose case made legal history in establishing a precedent for the care of vulnerable individuals.

This symposium brings together academics and communities to expose and explore the often absent voices of disabled people in our collective history as well as our future planning.

During our research to support a new exhibition at MShed ‘Brave Poor Things’ we have discovered how challenging it is to hear the voices of the disabled people as many of the records are written from the perspective of Founders and Trustees.  This symposium will show the crucial role creative interpretation has played in giving disabled people a voice in reclaiming this history.

The mission of Ada Vachell, Founder and ‘gatekeeper’ of the Guild of the Brave Poor Things was to ‘save people’, however the boys from the Guild just wanted to enjoy their life like other boys in the city.  Could their rather dubious motto ‘Happy In Our Lot’ actually be redefined and reclaimed for the future, to rebel against the continuous drive to ‘cure’ or ‘eradicate’ disability/people.

Learning from the past to imagine future cities

We will also ask the wider ethical questions as to whether technological progress offers us both a utopian and dystopian future and what are the methods we can adopt to ensure disabled people are the gatekeepers of their own futures?

We will explore who has been historically and currently disregarded, left out, or silenced and how can we make sure through our ‘collabatory’ when thinking about future cities, that these voices are not lost or overlooked in planning and design, or in the way people are valued.  We will consider how we can create/make space which connects and is occupied not by the “them and us” but by the ‘we’.

Kidnapped by fortune hunters

Openstorytellers are a company of storytellers who have learning and communication disabilities.  They explore stories about characters with disabilities, in history and legend. Their aims are: to reclaim the history of disability in society; to challenge stereotypes (like the “silly” or “village idiot”) and to develop understanding of the links between past and present issues confronting people with disabilities. They will be performing a work in progress which uncovers the defiant voice of Fanny Fust, a young heiress with severe learning disabilities who lived in Bristol in the C18th who was abducted by a fortune hunter, and whose case made legal history in establishing a precedent for the care of vulnerable individuals.

Robotics, utopias and dystopias

We will explore how new technologies can help disabled people to be ‘present’ and ‘visible’ experiencing and interacting with environments they might otherwise not have access to. We will also ask the wider ethical questions as to whether technological progress offers us both a utopian and dystopian future and what are the methods we can adopt to ensure disabled people are the gatekeepers of their own futures?