Events I went to in November #3: Re-imagining Toilets

The last event I went to in November was “Re-Imagining Toilets: Adventures into the Design of the Public Loo”, the closing event for the fabulous “Around the Toilet” project masterminded by the possibly even more fabulous Jenny Slater, one of my favourite people in Disability Studies. I will say a bit less about this one than I did about the others, because there are some excellent reports from the event on the “Around the Toilet” blog and on the independent local news website Mancunian Matters, as well as a collection of tweets from the event on Storify.

“Around the Toilet”* was a project using arts and workshops to research “the toilet as a place of exclusion and belonging”, bringing together people from disabled, queer and trans communities to talk about both material and symbolic dimensions of toilets and the barriers to public participation created by lack of or inequality in access to them. One of the great things about this project was its engagement with social media, in particular Twitter (using the hashtag #cctoilettalk) – this made it very easy for anyone to link in any toilet-related stories, photos or humour to the project (I don’t use my Twitter account as much as I could or perhaps should, but in the last few months, apart from a bit of live-tweeting from events when I had enough phone battery, I think posting things to #cctoilettalk has been the main thing I’ve used it for!).

*I can’t help thinking they missed a trick by not calling it “On the Toilet”… 😉

One of my main reasons for going to this event was that an amazing concentration of my friends and comrades are involved in it – Jenny, Morag Rose of the Loiterers Resistance Movement, Jess Bradley and Loz Webb of Action for Trans Health, Gemma Nash and Kirsty Liddiard to name a few (apologies to anyone I have left out!). Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, which I am an executive board member of, was also a partner organisation in the earlier stages of the project. I think this event probably featured more of my friends in one place at one time than anything else I went to in 2015! While this event wasn’t really directly relevant to my PhD, I did also get to meet a couple of people who had interesting perspectives on the topic that I hadn’t encountered before, and hopefully I will have further conversations with them.

There were several things going on at the same time in different rooms, so I didn’t see or take part in everything at the event, but I did see great presentations from Gemma about disabled parents and toilet access, from Morag about the cultural geography of toilets in Manchester, from Jess about why toilets are a trans health issue, and from a group of architecture students at Sheffield Hallam University about the installation – usable as a public information exhibit, a performance space or even a game – that they were commissioned to create as part of the project. There was also a screen printing and T-shirt making project, some toilet-themed films (which I didn’t see), a very tasty buffet and, at the end, a fantastic performance by Loz and Jess (wearing another of their many hats as the Queer of the Unknown performance collective), which involved powerful poetry, visual puns, people being wrapped in toilet paper, and at the end an amazing piece of audience participation in which people were called up to “play the parts” of the various things needed to make a toilet accessible, from the toilet bowl itself to walls, sanitary bins, grab bars and the probably most challenging part to play of “gender neutrality”!

I’ll close this with some photos (my first attempt to embed photos into a WordPress post, so I hope this works):

Gemma Nash presenting

Gemma Nash presenting

Gemma and Morag with some artwork made by young disabled people from <a href=Venture Arts in one of the project workshops” width=”1536″ height=”2048″ />

Gemma and Morag with some artwork made by young disabled people from Venture Arts in one of the project workshops

Part of the installation made by the architecture students

Part of the installation made by the architecture students

Live Twitter feed projected on the wall!

Live Twitter feed projected on the wall!

The T-shirt I made in the screen printing workshop

The T-shirt I made in the screen printing workshop

Queer of the Unknown performance

Queer of the Unknown performance

Queer of the Unknown performance

The finale of the performance, with everyone “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”…)” width=”2048″ height=”1536″ />

The finale of the performance, with everyone “playing the part” of parts of the ideal accessible toilet (I couldn’t help thinking of the “rude mechanicals” in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”…)

(apologies for photos not having “proper” image descriptions, I’m hopefully going to add these later, but am posting this now because I have to rush out…)

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