I went to a posh arts do the other week. I had a badge with my name on it, and underneath my name it said 'Artist'. This is because its what I do for a living. If people worked for an organisation - for a living - they had either their job title and the organisation's name on their badge, or if they didn't have a particular title, just the organisation's name. The director's badges said 'Director'.
Well, you would, wouldn't you?
You knew you were at an important do because the food included things like sun-dried tomatos and a cheese whose name I can't spell. I ate it anyway.
Talking of cheese, there was one encounter during an otherwise pleasant evening that made me feel rather fed up.
During 'networking' time - between arrival and the main event, it's fairly common to approach someone and get chatting. I was chatting to a someone I knew, someone switched on to disability arts, arts and disability and all that jazz, when some guy came up and introduced himself. But only to her. At the earliest opportunity, she introduced him to me. He said;
And looked up.
And picked up where he left off with her.
It doesn't help at these things everybody else is standing up and I'm sitting down. Looking up makes my neck sore. It means eye level is more difficult to establish in close up situations, especially if the standing person trying to network with the standing person you are networking with doesn't seem to ever look down, in your direction.
I wondered if he had a sore neck too.
My friend decided to try drawing me into the conversation again. She told him we'd worked together and that I was an artist.
It got me a look down. He said;
"Are you trained to work as an artist?"
He looked up again.
And that was pretty much that.
It seems to me disabled people still have a long journey ahead of them in the arts when some people clearly don't think we are capable of working at a professional level. I'd like people to think if they met me at a function where we all have our job titles on our badges, that they might assume that when mine says 'artist', its not a hobby. It's as bad as bloody Access to Work.
I memorised the name on his badge for future reference. Maybe one day I'll get to 'not look down' at him.
(The name would have stuck, too, if I hadn't stayed up so late observing a bet on who was going to leave the bar first to go to bed!!! You know who you are!)