Disability History Scotland asks if the welfare state has a future

Never ones to dodge a difficult question, Disability History Scotland grapple with one of the most contentious issues of our time at their annual conference on Saturday (30 November).  This year it takes place in Edinburgh’s City Chambers, a good setting for hot political topics such as the future of the welfare state.

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With an opening speech by our very own Leith Open Space member, Councillor Nick Gardner, it promises to be a stimulating day. And with a programme running from 2pm to 10pm there is time for fun as well as energetic debate.  The evening’s entertainment gives the floor to music, theatre and poetry after a meal provided by Leith’s Punjabi Junction.

The conference has particular significance in the year that Disability History Scotland has won £60,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to uncover forgotten stories of the Great War.  Altogether Now – The First World War, a Catalyst for Social Change is an ambitious project we will hear much more about, a collaboration bringing together community history, drama and an animated film which will be launched during Disability History Month a year from now. The hard work is already underway, as a regular flow of emails indicates – our friend George Lamb a leading force in DHS is also a member of Leith Open Space.

All this is an incredible achievement for a small Leith-based charity which was formed by a radical group of disabled people in 2011.  Saturday’s event in the City Chambers is their third annual conference and is likely to present  their characteristically robust and often humorous look at what life is like for disabled people. The evening line-up includes Robert Softly Gale with a scene from his one man play “If these spasms could Speak” and Freeloadin Frank  “Unemployable singer/songwriter”.

History explains how social attitudes to physical impairment began to change as two million disabled soldiers returned from the First World War. But the conference is also concerned with the present and future of welfare in a time of austerity and newly conflicting social attitudes.  Workshops will tackle the very meaning and purpose of welfare, what welfare might be like in an independent Scotland and how a progressive welfare system could enable disabled people to live independent lives.

Speakers include Adrian Sinfield, Robin McAlpine and Sue Kelly. Visit Disability History Scotland for more information about the conference and how to book a place.

Expect to hear much more about Altogether Now.  And look for Disability History Scotland on Twitter once the Lord Provost Donald Wilson has launched the first tweet on their behalf on Saturday.

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