Fred Batale established Disability Arts Project Uganda, and is currently working with 32 degrees East Ugandan Arts Trust. Fred was one of our International placement holders in 2016. Fred shares his thoughts with us with us on his experience.
I decided to apply for the Unlimited placement because it is an international opportunity, which could bring my work into a wider arena. I wanted to be able to share my experiences and achievements outside of Uganda.I wanted to learn more from working with artists, curators and art administrators, both disabled and non-disabled, from a different cultural setting. I wanted to apply this knowledge to the Ugandan disability arts scene and beyond.
During my time in the UK, I attended Tramway’s Unlimited festival and saw a range of performances, talks and symposiums which gave me a chance to interact with the artists, audiences and arts organisers to learn more about the arts scene. I also attended meetings with the funders of the Unlimited programme and other leading arts organisations to learn how they operate and are structured. I was able to tour two different galleries and art venues, which was inspiring.
The placement opportunity provided me with a platform to meet artists, arts administrators, disability art lovers and activists to potentially collaborate with in developing different projects for the development of disability arts in Uganda. I also got an opportunity to learn more about how Unlimited Festivals are run, which gave me ideas to work with on a disability festival in Uganda which I had always wanted to establish but had little knowledge on how to work with people with disabilities, audiences, different venues and how to brand the idea.
My stand out memories were the performances and their accessibility in comparison with the Ugandan art scene. I found Liz Carr’s Assisted Suicide: The Musical very powerful, I liked it. I compared the situations it discussed with the current climate in Uganda where people are committing suicide on tall buildings and I wonder whether it is an issue attached to a lack of platforms to freely express their challenges.
I got an opportunity to meet different art funders like Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and British Council where I learnt different fundraising techniques and idea pitching to different potential funders, and I also got a chance to inform them about my work in Uganda , which gave my work an international reach and recognition.
I also learnt how to work with different organisations as partners from different countries to develop the Ugandan disability art scene and fundraise for it together. Unlimited’s project manager Clara also showed me how to use different planning tools and office admin systems.
Sokny Onn and I are in discussions of how we can collaborate as the participants of the Unlimited International Placement Programme for 2016, so that our working relationship doesn’t stop only at meeting in London but instead Epic Arts Cambodia and Disability Arts Project Uganda mutually help each other.
I am also in touch with different Unlimited Festival participants to advise me on how I can successfully start disability theatre art at Disability Art Project Uganda, the idea I got from participating in the Unlimited placement. In my project,I have been focusing on using visual art to advocate for disability rights, economic and social change, but I now plan to use theatre as well to reach a wider audience. After my placement I realised how disability-led arts organisations and festivals organisation are using different art forms together.
I am going to act on this by introducing performance into my project. This is starting with the connection I got from my placement with Unlimited; I am now collaborating with Pamoja a dance company in Nairobi Kenya which Sho from Stopgap connected me with, this process has already started.
I would like to establish a Disability Arts Festival in Uganda starting next year with workshops leading to the main festival, which will happen in 2018. I am going to collaborate with different companies I met in UK to achieve this. I am still writing and researching about this concept.
I really appreciate the arrangements done by the Unlimited team and other partners for me to meet different arts stakeholders in UK and I believe I will use what I have learnt to do more here in Uganda.
I just want to thank all the above organisations for the support accorded to me and for making my placement possible. It has been valuable and beneficial to me and to the Ugandan disabled community at large.