DigiFest reveals 2020 programme

The first details of the programme for DigiFest 2020 (4-5 September 2020) have been revealed, together with the news that it will be hosted by multi award-winning artist and educator Jackie Hagan.

DigiFest will take place on Friday 4 September and Saturday 5 September this year, and will mark the 50th anniversary of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970), a landmark piece of legislation pioneered by Lord Alf Morris (1928-2012).

From a pop-up TV studio DigiFest 2020 will broadcast short films, discussions, speeches, digital art, music, comedy, song and more in an exciting programme of activity being led by Manchester Histories and its partners. The work is all collaboratively created with organisations and individuals from the disabled community, exploring the legacy of Alf’s Act, celebrating talent and creativity, and prompting conversations and discussion.

Introducing all of these different elements is host Jackie Hagan, who is passionate about class, sexuality, disability and accessibility. She recently starred in and wrote an episode of Crip Tales for BBC Four and BBC America and has been nominated for a National Diversity Award and a Woman of the World Award for effecting lasting social change. 

"As an amputee with a disease no one's heard of I love this project - society doesn’t want to talk about being sick or disabled so this is a place where you can be honest about our lives and champion the often unseen effort and achievement of disabled and sick people,” said Hagan.

The celebration takes its inspiration from the legacy of Lord Alf Morris, who was born in the Ancoats area of Manchester and served as MP for Wythenshawe for over 30 years. Alf led the campaign that would achieve the landmark legislation in 1970, which was the first in the world to recognise the rights of disabled people, and would lay the foundations for the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and the Equality Act (2010).

“I know at the minute, when I say 'politician' most people think dodgy snakes, but Alf Morris was brilliant, he was working class and grew up in Ancoats, and he was basically the first person to say that disabled people should have any rights,” Hagan stated.

Three short films will premiere at DigiFest that explore Alf’s story and have been made in collaboration with independent film-makers Brazen Productions.


As an amputee with a disease no one's heard of I love this project - society doesn’t want to talk about being sick or disabled so this is a place where you can be honest about our lives and champion the often unseen effort and achievement of disabled and sick people
Jackie Hagan

DigiFest 2020 is collaborating with Drake Music, a nationwide charity that uses new technologies and ideas to open up access to music for all. Three young disabled artists Lucy Bale, James Holt, and Olly Hyland (all 18-29) will respond to the themes of the festival, producing new work to form part of the content for the festival. DIY Theatre Company will also produce film work that tells the stories of ‘Following Patient 36’ a performance piece exploring Learning Disability History and the resilience of people with learning disabilities in Salford and Greater Manchester.

Creating a visual impact is some of the artwork resulting from a partnership with Venture Arts.This includes the work of George Parker-Conway, a young artist from Wythenshawe, who is working on a portrait of Alf Morris. George’s visuals will also be appearing throughout the broadcast of DigiFest 2020 and he has worked alongside Manchester design studio Imagine to produce the visual identity and online festival programme.

“The success of what we are hoping to achieve through DigiFest 2020 is thanks to the collaboration of all the organisations, institutions and individuals who have wanted to join in a celebration of the achievements of Lord Alf Morris,” said Karen Shannon, Chief Executive of Manchester Histories. “The challenges faced at this time by disabled people also remind us why the spirit of campaigning continues, and so as well as remembering Alf’s story we’ll be looking forward to the future to ask what’s next.”

Manchester Histories is following a completely new format for the delivery of DigiFest 2020, which has taken some of the ideas that were planned for the abandoned June 2020 Manchester Histories Festival 2020, transforming this content for online access.

DigiFest 2020 will kick off the People’s History Museum’s new series of exhibitions, events and learning sessions exploring the theme of disabled people’s rights and activism in 2022, while Manchester Histories is also collaborating with DaDaFest International Festival, which will begin in late November 2020. DadaFest is an innovative disability and d/Deaf arts organisation based in Liverpool. Working together they will promote both festivals across the North West and nationally.

DigiFest 2020 is collaboration between The University of Manchester and its Disabled Staff Network, the family of the late Lord Morris of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Manchester’s Students’ Union, TUC (Manchester), Manchester City Council and the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People. It is funded by Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Granada Foundation, Wellcome Trust and Historic England.

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