I’m sick of seeing people like me misrepresented, says disabled performer Jackie Hagan.
Amputee poet and performer Jackie Hagan lost her leg, but not her sense of humour. She regularly posts pictures of her right leg stump, decorated to look like celebrities, on social media. It’s typical of her ability to laugh at herself and her resilience to the slings and arrows life.
The Liverpool-born writer, who describes herself as a working class, queer, disabled poet, performer and theatre maker, produces hard-hitting work edged with humour, outrage and compassion. She is a voice for the marginalised and misrepresented.
Her new show, This is Not a Safe Space, is coming to the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield on Friday, March 30, as part of A Festival, a showcase for the unusual, unexpected and relevant. The work was based on interviews with more than 80 people from the margins of society, examining the impact of benefit cuts on the disabled and people with mental health problems.
Poet and performer Jackie Hagan, coming to the Lawrence Batley Theatre
Jackie was commissioned to produce the piece by Unlimited, a programme that aims to promote work by disabled artists to new audiences and shift perceptions of those with disabilities. She says: “I wrote this show because I’m sick of seeing people like me misrepresented on rubbish shows like Benefits Street and ignored by theatre. I’m sick of people thinking we all just need to try a bit harder and stop spending our time drinking lager and watching our massive tellies.
“I grew up on a council estate. I’ve got one leg and I’m bipolar. I know you have to take the mickey out of things to get by. This show says we’re important, there’s tonnes of us and we’re not victims, saints or sinners. We’re people.”
Jackie lost her leg nearly five years ago after suffering from blood clots and life-threatening infections. But even before she became a member of the disabled community she knew what it was to feel outcast and ‘broken’.
In her show she weaves together the stories of other ‘broken’ people, using home-made puppetry, poetry, stand-up comedy and anecdotes, but is not looking for sympathy. She wants audiences to sit up, take notice and care, but not keel over with empathy fatigue. Her stories portray well-rounded lives, full of spiky humour and resilience.
This is Not a Safe Place, currently on a national tour, offers about as unusual a theatre experience as it’s possible to have, promising thought-provoking entertainment at a time when Government austerity is devastating the lives of so many. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, half of all people living in poverty are disabled or live with a disabled person. And, as Jackie knows to her cost, disability can strike at any time and, often, in the most unexpected of ways.
Tickets for the show, at 8.30pm, at £8 and £12 from thelbt.org.uk or 01484 430528.