Hidden Herstories

St. George’s Hall Heritage Centre, St. George’s Place
12th November – 3rd December 2010

Reviewed by Tom Bottle

“I’m going to see a girl in Scotland, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll come back and take you out on a date”. Stories; you can’t beat them. Another. “Receiving an MBE was very exciting. I spent months planning the outfit, absolutely bloody months. Prince Charles said to me, ‘Is this to mark your retirement?’ and I really felt like saying, ‘I’m only forty-four you b…….,this is the best I look!’” Hidden Herstories is the lives of twenty-eight deaf and disabled women told with hilarious and moving honesty in a thirty minute video, exhibition, and impressive tree artwork, that has managed to make plywood look desirably cool.

Stories are great but stories told well are unforgettable; “I had something wrong with my feet so they gave me what me mum called Florence boots, ‘cos I looked like Florence from The Magic Roundabout”. I once had a job asking people about their experiences with a sidekick writing down what they said. Only he changed it to what he thought they meant; not much different but enough to take away the magic of what they were saying. These women were interviewed by their peers, trained in interview techniques by the Disabled Women’s Art Project (DWAP), and it shows. If you’re going to tell your story, tell it right.

“People’s stories don’t get heard, and the way people are presented it’s as if they are a bit tragic”, says Natalie Markham from the DWAP, “but people are resilient. It’s about showing that and not some medical professionals view on what people can do or achieve”.

Hidden Herstories captures the untold history of deaf and disabled women around the themes of love, work, childhood, dreams, school, being a mum, and where you live. The quotes made it for me. One more?

“We were all in love with the Liverpool footballers. We did that awful thing of writing to them and saying, ‘We are poor blind girls, can we come and meet you’”.

We all do daft things, and that’s just one of the ways we connect.

And the fella who went to Scotland? He came back, took her on that date, fell in love, and they tied the knot. Happy endings, eh? Not the Hollywood guff, real ones.

Hidden Herstories, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, will be touring in a library near you.

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Comment left by Les Scaife on 28th November, 2010 at 11:55
It's wonderfull to hear about REAL stories with a mixture of humour and human tragedy. The same stories can be interpreted in differnt ways depending on who is recording them. Hidden Herstories are the real thing and have an impact on what disabled people need in their life. Hope commissioners of services take note.