> > > > Achievement: Simon McKeown and Ruth Gould in conversation Easy Read
Simon McKeown at DADA Fest

Simon McKeown and Ruth Gould

Ruth Gould, who is the director of Dadafest in Liverpool, talks to the artist Simon McKeown about achieving things.

RUTH said: I’m part of DaDa – Disability and Deaf Arts – in Liverpool and we run DadaFest - a disability and Deaf arts festival.

We started the festival in 1984 and it has got bigger and bigger each year. Last year, 2010, we had over 65,000 people come to our festival.

We met Simon a few years ago, and last year he was an artist for DadaFest.

SIMON said: I am an artist but I have also worked making computer games, and doing computer graphics for television.

I worked in computer games and television for a long time before I decided to go back to being an artist myself.

a cartoon showing Simon making art from his hospital bed

At the beginning...

RUTH said: We are going to talk about achieving things but before we do I want to ask Simon why he is an artist?

SIMON said: I started doing art when I was in hospital for 3 months at a time. Art is a very good thing to do when you can't walk or move. When you are stuck in a space, with only a table in front of you for 3 months or a month or 5 weeks or whatever, you kind of have to focus on small things. Drawing is as good as anything to do.

RUTH said: Was there a person that got you thinking about being an artist?

SIMON said: My art teacher. He told me that I had some good ideas but I was lazy. He told me to get on with it!

RUTH said: Your teachers said you should do a degree in art?

SIMON said: I was poor at school. I would be off for 3 or 4 months at a time so missed loads. It was also a rubbish school as well.

My teacher said I was good at art and should take it on and do more.

a cartoon showing the move from computers to disability arts

Disability Arts

RUTH said: You came to disability arts in a different way. You worked in computers and television and then decided to make your own work.

Lots of us are disabled people who find we can't get into the arts because of the barriers we experience, but you were good at it.

So what was it that made you move into disability art work.

SIMON said: I was bored!

They might be good projects, but they are controlled by other people. I just thought I should get on and do something bigger.It was meeting people along the way that made that happen.

RUTH said: So you didn't do it in on your own?

SIMON said: No.

RUTH said: Do you want to tell us the names of the people who helped you?

SIMON said: One person who was very important to me was Paul Darke. He worked at West Midlands Disability Arts Forum. He pushed me to do some good work. So I did a little thing - and then did nothing more for 8 years!

RUTH said: Why?

SIMON said: I didn't have the confidence. I still felt alone. I don't feel like that now.

simon's work projected in Leeds

Wanting to do things big

RUTH said: You have people behind you now. Is that because of Sync?

SIMON said: Sync and other people have been very important.

I made a piece that I thought would be in a gallery once... then it was shown on the side of a building and last year it was shown in 17 countries on the same day.

Lots of people have supported it and me. That's where the Sync thing comes into play – it has given me confidence and contacts.

RUTH said: What is the biggest thing you have achieved?

SIMON said: The one I just talked about - Motion Disabled - lots of people are involved.

RUTH said: Last year Simon won the DaDa Artist of the Year Award last year, too – well done.

What's your secret?

SIMON said: I don't worry about what I do.

I think if you do a good job of it, that’s as much as you can do. I try not to worry. I do the best job I can.

Yes, I want to work on a big scale, I have a big vision. I know I can do it so I just get on with it!

a question mark and its shadow

People ask questions...

JO VERRENT said: How do you want people to think about your work?

SIMON said: 20 years ago people were racist. It was horrible. I want to be part of stopping people thinking and saying horrid things about disabled people.

I can do this through my work.

ANOTHER PERSON said: What new work did you make last year for DADA Fest?

SIMON said: I did an animation called 'All for Clare', that starred Clare Cunningham.

I also used Clare and put her in Motion Disabled too.

RUTH said: We made history on that day - showing the project in 17 countries on the same day. It was just amazing.

The animation ‘All for Clare’ was made for the BBC Big Screens. The BBC reckon 2.9 million people a day see those screens. It was very, very successful; the BBC love it and want to talk to us about doing more.

To find out more about Simon McKeown...


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