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“what a joy it is to hear the music”
the writers festival, the importance of community + the privilege of hope (even in teeny tiny amounts)
This past weekend was the annual Verb Readers and Writers Festival. I was involved in two events, both of which were imagined and organised by Crip the Lit, a disabled writers collective based in Wellington.
The events went great: one featured four authors sharing fiction pieces that were based around radically imagining a world in which everyone thrives and then a collaborative radical imagination session with the audience; and one featured six authors reading letters they had written to disabled characters or people from history. I was really proud of the pieces I wrote (I’m hoping they will be published and shareable some time soon) and of the events in general. But what was even bigger was the feeling of community I was enveloped in.
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This is my third Crip the Lit X Verb event, but this was the first year I felt really connected and like I really belonged. Probably because I have those two years behind me as reassurance. Because I know the people better. Because I helped imagine and mold these events in a way I haven’t in previous years. Because I was so proud of the silly little pieces I wrote for and shared at these events. And because of all of that, that feeling of connection is stretching into the week ahead.
Our events were planned not just with disabled writers and artists in mind but with a disabled audience too. How is the physical access to the venue? The seating? The sound system? The lighting? Where can the sign language interpreter stand? How can we talk about audience participation without making people really anxious? It sounds like a lot to consider but it wasn’t. It was natural and intuitive and actually quite simple. 👀 And that in itself was refreshing.
One of my favourite things about theses events is how inherently political they are. Nothing is off topic. In the pieces shared, we talked about politicians, billionaires, the wealth tax, feminism, eugenics, gender roles, being trans and more. In the radical imagination session (which encouraged audience submissions for the future they would like to see), the audience talked about animal rights, gender equality, the genocide in Gaza, free healthcare, Winston Peters and more.
It felt so endearing and radicalising and empowering to be in a room with people who all felt the same. Who were funny and creative and desperate and empathetic and willing to share. It’s so validating and hopeful to grieve and imagine with my community.
I felt this again when the next day I went to Shaneel Lal’s event on their book One of Them (buy here!) and the onslaught of violent homophobic, transphobic and racist hate they receive consistently and constantly. And still, the room was filled with laughter and speechless awe and radical, defiant hope. Almost electric with it.
‘Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.’ So I say to queers and allies: what a joy it is to hear the music.
- Shaneel Lal
I am so thankful for communities of marginalised people coming together. I am so thankful for disabled people and queer people and indigenous people and immigrants who makes our world better. For everyone.
The chance to come together with so many like-minded people has reignited fight within me. And it sparked a small bit of hope. That is a huge privilege, to have felt hope recently in any capacity. And I will do with that what I can.
But for now, I am grateful for Crip the Lit, the Verb Readers and Writers Festival, Shaneel Lal, artists everywhere, all my friends, everyone who came out to support the arts and everyone fighting the good fight. I’m here with you.
Thanks for being here. See you next week.
Donate to support those in Gaza here.