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Yorkshire Dance celebrates Fly The Flag

Tue 25 June 2019
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Fly the Flag is an initiative led by Fuel Theatre which marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Specifically, arts organisations across the UK will be focusing on Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states the following:

‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits’

Arts organisations and human rights charities have been invited to Fly The Flag for human rights on 24 – 30 June 2019, and there are many events taking place throughout the UK to support the initiative. Artist Ai Weiwei has designed a flag to celebrate this moment.

A key ethos at Yorkshire Dance is the notion that everyone, regardless of background, has a right to experience high quality dance. With this in mind, this week, we asked Yorkshire Dance staff members about their own personal responses to Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here are just some of their responses:

• Art brings people together and makes us think more critically about ourselves and our society. The arts are a way for people to express themselves and just have fun! Plus the arts have proven to boost physical and mental health, as well as reducing isolation, not to mention the cultural heritage steeped in some art forms that could be lost if they are not protected and people do have the right to participate.

• The right to access, participate and enjoy cultural activity brings so many different people together. It provides a space to share stories, exchange understanding and discover a wealth of art and culture. For me, it is this shared experience that is so important. The feeling of togetherness, which can often come from attending cultural activity, reminds me what it means to be human.

I grew up in a multicultural school in a deprived area of Peterborough that really valued the arts and gave every child access to music, drama, dance and visual art. There was a complete sense of art being for everyone and a recognition of how transformative and enriching access to the arts can be. It never occurred to me how lucky I was that this was my childhood. I grew up with the passionate belief that every person has the right to experience the arts and I feel incredibly protective of this today, in a society where the arts subjects are squeezed out of education and often viewed as a luxury rather than a basic human right.

10 years ago my brother was diagnosed with psychotic episodes. All of us are susceptible to developing mental health issues throughout our lives but it’s even more prevalent in people, like my brother, who are on the autistic spectrum. The world for someone with this combination of conditions can be challenging: loud noises are disturbing and busy places can cause paranoia and anxiety.

When we were young as a family we saved up to go to the theatre and regularly went to the many free galleries and museums. But over the last 10 years so many of these cultural experiences have closed off for my brother. The number of people in these spaces means going to an exhibition, a gig or a performance is stressful. My brother lives on benefits and so access to the library has become vitally important. To say he’s ‘well read’ is an understatement – he’s one of the rare people you meet who can actually talk to you about Nietzsche or War and Peace. Occasionally when he’s in a good place (and when I know the venue is small and friendly) I take him to gigs or exhibitions. Last year we saw Goat Girl and he talked about it solidly for 6 months in the lead up.

For me Fly the Flag is about keeping the arts accessible – making sure people who cannot afford to pay can still access free libraries, galleries and museums. But more than that we all have a responsibility to improve our cultural spaces to make them more welcoming. As audiences we need to respect our fellow audience members’ right to feel safe while they enjoy a show. As venues we should ensure our spaces are accessible for everyone.

I grew up in a deprived part of Leeds, and saw first-hand the enriching, uplifting and life changing possibilities of the arts. The arts are an extraordinary and empowering way for anyone, regardless of their background, to express their individuality and humanity.

Find out more about Fly The Flag here

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