Watch the video of Jenny Sealey’s talk at TEDxExeter 2015.
Scroll down the page for biographical information and news.
Video and Live blogging
Jenny became deaf (with speech) at aged 7. Her mother said she could do whatever she wanted. Her careers officer said she could become a librarian! With Graeae, she works with some extraordinary deaf and disabled artists. She is showing a video of some of them as she continues to speak.
Disabled people are dependent on Access to Work and the Independent Living Fund. The first is one of the government’s best kept secrets. It helps disabled people into the workforce, so they can fulfil roles with equality, and come off benefits and pay taxes. The latter does what it says. But in 2012 Esther McVey announced out of the blue that it will be closed and passed to local authorities in June 2015. The pot is £23m, and per person the cost of £346 compares very favourably with the cost of care in residential homes [several thousand]. Jenny argues the closure breaches human rights.
When working on the Paralympics Opening Ceremony, Stephen Hawking said don’t look at your toes, look at the stars. He and many other deaf and disabled people (Beethoven, Roosevelt, Frida Kahlo) have contributed enormously to civilisation. They needed and received support. Jenny is running through a list of people who are struggling with accessing government support so they can fulfil their potential.
For example, a graduate in business studies had Access to Work for 6 hours a day, then when moved to another job was only given 3 hours a week, and had to leave the job… which also means that two signers lost their employment too.
Disability does not occur because someone has done something wrong. Yet disabled people are vilified and in some countries treated as beggars. It amazes some that there are disabled people on the stage. Many decisions seem to be the result of lack of empathy and understanding. For example, how do blind people use tablets with smooth screens? The Paralympics were glorious. Following it, Channel 4 asked Jenny to put some of her people forward to Undateables, which she found sickening.
So Jenny asks us to familiarise ourselves with Access to Work, and with the issues, and help disabled people in their efforts to give their great contributions to society.
Jenny Sealey co-directed the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony alongside Bradley Hemmings (GDIF).
She has been Artistic Director and CEO of Graeae since 1997 and has pioneered a new theatrical language, coining the term “Aesthetics of Access”; the creative integration of sign language and audio description within performance.
Recent theatre credits for Graeae include: The Threepenny Opera (co-directed with Peter Rowe, co-produced with the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich, Nottingham Playhouse, Birmingham Rep and West Yorkshire Playhouse); Limbless Knight (GDIF); Belonging (co-produced with Circo Crescer e Viver); Reasons To Be Cheerful (2010 co-produced with the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich and Theatre Royal Stratford East and the 2012 national tour co-produced with the New Wolsey Ipswich); Blasted; Whiter than Snow (co-produced with Birmingham Rep); Peeling and Bent.
Additionally, Jenny has directed work, run workshops and masterclasses and given presentations internationally in Japan, India, Bangladesh and Brazil.
In 2009, Jenny was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Honours and became the Artistic Advisor for the Unlimited 2012 Festival before taking on the Paralympics Opening Ceremony. Jenny has been awarded the Liberty Human Rights Arts Award, is an honorary Doctor of Drama at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and at Middlesex University and is a Fellow of the Central School of Speech and Drama and Rose Bruford College.
News about Jenny Sealey
TEDxExeter’s Twitter account is the place to go for the latest news about our previous and upcoming speakers and performers. And here are a few bonus snippets.
Tomorrow, Karima Bennoune is giving the Edward Said memorial lecture at Warwick University. Her first report as UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights was recently released; click on “LATEST REPORT”.
Jenny Sealey’s theatre company Graeae and the Central Illustration Agency (CIA!) recently collaborated on a wide-ranging exhibition at The Guardian. “Reframing the Myth” celebrated 35 years of placing Deaf and disabled artists centre stage.
Deeyah Khan and Manwar Ali (Abu Muntasir) both featured in this BBC interview about the lure of ISIS. Deeyah Khan wrote in the HuffPost last June about how “We Must Tackle Extremism Without Compromising Freedom of Speech”.
Carmel McConnell was awarded her MBE on 19 February for services to school food. A slide from her TEDxExeter talk was featured at the TED conference in Vancouver, as Jay Herratti celebrated ideas coming through TEDx events around the world with a particular focus on food.
Patrick Holden was featured in a Guardian article about urban farming and equality.
And finally… Last week, Mike Dickson released a new book! “Our Generous Gene” is “A call to action illustrated with stories from ordinary people who are, to their surprise, already changing the world and seeing small actions ripple outwards for good… For a future of happiness and meaning we just need to develop the naturing, caring instincts we are born with and focus on creating a world, not acquiring it.”
We’ve had a number of articles in Exeter Living and the Express and Echo this spring, about some of our speakers in the run up to TEDxExeter 2015 and reporting on the event. You can download the pdfs here:
- It’s All Talk, Exeter Living, Issue 174, Spring 2015, pp.42-44
- Gallery: TEDxExeter conference inspires people around the world, Express and Echo, 26 April 2015
- TEDxExeter speaker Jenny Sealey challenges perceptions of disability (at Stephens Scown dinner), Express and Echo, 23 April 2015
- Sold out TEDxExeter to stream live (featuring Matthew Owen), Express and Echo, 18 April 2015
- Beth to give her all at TEDxExeter talk, Express and Echo, 7 April 2015
- TEDxExeter to examine why 500,000 children go to school too hungry to learn, Express and Echo, 3 April 2015