Looking back, what once involved a Zoom call with Rose Sergent was a positive moment for me – and she seemed to enjoy the experience too. We got along well after meeting online, and after I heard more about her interests in disability arts, we spoke out about how we definitely want disabled people to truly exploit their artistic abilities with as much ease as possible.
Although our chat isn’t totally up to date (we spoke about two months ago), it’s certainly still worth reading. The project work she said was yet to be released is now on offer, and I’ll give you the links to all the positive work she speaks of. She’s the head of a zine, has enjoyed collaborative experiences with others, and is happy for artists to share their experiences in many different ways.
It was a pleasure to speak with her. You really shouldn’t stop yourself from learning more about Rose Sergent!
Well, Rose, you managed to catch my eye – but can you tell people who don’t know much about you about your background?
Yeah, sure. So, I am an artist, I create mostly commissioned work and zines, which are DIY magazines for anyone who hasn’t come across the term before. My main project is a project called Drawn Poorly, which I started in 2017. It was a project I made because I was looking for examples of work that really expressed what I was going through to share with my friends and family.
I really wanted to find different ways of communicating that I think my chronic illness, so it kind of started from that – and then amazing artists and amazing writers came together to create a collaborative zine. And since 2017 there have been six copies released. Artists and writers all over the world have got involved with that, which has been incredible. They’re all amazing people!
That sounds great. It’s very good of you to tell people a little bit about your illness or disability. Not everybody’s too comfortable doing that, and it’s understandable, but it’s good of you to pass on a bit of information.
Yeah, it can be really tricky – especially when you’re newly diagnosed. From my own experience, I didn’t know anyone who had Crohn’s disease – which is what I’ve got – and I didn’t really know where to go to find more answers. So, I guess that’s always encouraged me to be more open about it. Hopefully if somebody reads my story in those early stages they think, ‘Oh, I get this, this is what I’m going through.’
Yeah, that’d be great.
Anyway, are there any particular artists who have inspired you with your artwork in the past?
Absolutely. So, there’s an artist called KillrBangzArt. She makes amazing art; she’s just created a series, which are sort of a series of doctor’s appointments she’s had… I really recommend checking Marie’s work out.
But there are loads of artists that have really inspired me: Jackie Hagan as well, who’s a performing artist in Manchester. It was revolutionary when I saw her performing for the first time, as she was showing all the hospital scenes, all the noises and that thing of feeling really validated by having those experiences shared in a different way.
That all sounds cool, thanks for the info. Can I ask, how has life been for you over the past 12 months or so? Has it been much more challenging for you?
It’s been a very interesting time, hasn’t it? In terms of managing conditions, I’ve found it easier to manage my own health by being home-based and having access to the things that I need. That’s been a good thing – but it’s been a really challenging time for disabled people everywhere. Just looking at the news coverage…I find it quite hard to talk about sometimes because it still seems very close and quite raw.
But it’s been amazing to see some of the work that has come out of it. I saw an amazing preview of a show by Hugh Maylon, who’s an amazing performing artist, who created a performance called Life in Suspension. It was amazing watching that last night and seeing his experiences and how he’s interpreted this time. I get a lot of solidarity from those artists who share those experiences.
Okay, thanks for that. Sounds very interesting.
Well, from what I’ve read about you, you’ve been interesting developing yourself as an arts producer, and obviously working with disabled people. I can obviously see what you meant by that now, because you’ve obviously been doing it via Drawn Poorly, while working with a number of others.
But are there any other particular projects or people you’ve been working with recently, or see yourself working with in the near future?
Yeah – I’ve been working with Ellie Page, who I believe you know! It’s amazing. We’ve been working together to support museum projects. Three amazing creatives have come together to create a new project which is going to be announced in the next couple of weeks called The Candid Cancer Collective, andit’s a project funded by Sex With Cancer, who are an amazing organisation and contact in Manchester as well. And this new collective is creating a new zine which is all about taking the inspiration out of cancer, and sharing some really candid experiences of what it’s like to have that experience.
That’s been super exciting. The zine team – as we were calling them before they chose their name – have just been incredible to work with. They’ve just got so many good ideas. So that’s really exciting!
That sounds great! It’s good to know you’re getting involved with work with Ellie. She’s so involved with everything; she’s so active, it’s so impressive.
Yeah, and it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for ages. I’ve been aware of Still Ill and all the amazing work she’s done, so it felt like a real opportunity to co-create something with her.
Well, you’re obviously passionate about improving the lives of disabled people. Would you say you’re somebody who might use disability arts to empower disabled people against discrimination in the future?
That’s an interesting question, because I guess all the work I create is about centring the experiences of disabled people. Especially as my role as a producer, it’s definitely looking at how we can make sure that an artist has everything they need to create their work. We remove barriers that are often put in place. In terms of access, and asking questions about what people need to make their work in the most comfortable way and in a way that won’t be detrimental to their health.
That’s how I see my role in that business; centring those experiences and however an artist wants to express their experiences and what they’ve been through. I describe myself as a soft radical, I guess!
A soft radical! I like that. What you do sounds good. Not getting too involved isn’t a bad idea, because it can get to your head at times.
Yeah, I think we can so susceptible when finding help in that way as well. I’m definitely 100% centring those experiences. I’m being the sounding board, looking at what artists need to make their work, and have responses because people haven’t always been treated very well.
Okay. I’m unsure whether you’ve already answered this question… But, have you done any work that helps raise awareness or rebels against our difficulties recently?
Well, when the second lockdown was coming in, there was a lot of general conversation of frustration. But I created a piece then about how a lot of people haven’t left lockdown one. That’s the kind of work I like to create. That was well shared on Twitter and other social media, and I think it’s such as difficult time because people aren’t always aware of the reality of situations for disabled people, especially during this time. It was great to really see that disabled people saw that, and felt they were being seen. It made it clear that as we keep going we need to make sure we support our disabled friends.
I’m happy to hear you were keeping people motivated.
Anyway, I’m looking way into the future now. Do you see yourself continuously helping other artists produce arts, your ongoing passion?
Absolutely! I’ve been in the arts for a long time. I started off as an admin assistant for a company about seven years ago. I’ve worked as a person who has really tried to fit into some really difficult situations in terms of being a chronic person and trying to work in arts. So, I guess, in that way, I’m looking at how I can make things a more enjoyable experience for other artists – a more comfortable experience. You know, using my personal knowledge but also gathering different ways that things can just be more accessible for people is really important to me.
I think there’s been so many instances in the past where things have been asked by disabled artists where it hasn’t worked for them because of their health, and that opportunity has maybe just gone. And I would hate to see that. I would hate to hear that I couldn’t do that because I just wasn’t able to commit to the schedule. I’d love to be part of this conversation, saying, “well, how can we make this schedule work for you? You’re the artist – what do you need to make this happen?” I think that’s super exciting. I think that’s what drives me.
Okay, great. It’s nice to hear you’re on board! I obviously do want us to fight. I’ve been talking a lot about rebellion here – I want to use it to our advantage. I think it’s a talent so many of us have that we need to exploit as much as possible.
It’s such a good tool as well! It’s such a good tool – to express our experiences of what we’re going through and I imagine there are so many answers. I know I have been so burnt out by trying to use the arts, so I really want to help these artists create their work. There are more people, there are more voices, more experiences being shared.
Are there any other particular arts you’re interested in – aside from visual, which you have shown more of a passion for?
Well, my background is in the theatre. That’s kind of where I’ve always worked, so definitely live performance. I also work with artists in lots of different art forms. I’m super interested – I’m willing to learn about photography, poetry – yeah, just everything!
Okay, that’s great. I wish I could learn so much more about that, but memory loss doesn’t help too much with it. So that’s my problem.
But, anyway, my last question is simple enough. When this COVID-19 period comes to an end, although I won’t hold my breath for it, what do you see yourself doing to make yourself joyful at the end of it?
Well, I’m a punk, so the things I’ve been missing are zine fairs, because those are the most wonderful inclusive spaces. I want to go to a gig – be in a crowd again. But I’d love to be at zine fair!
If you’d like to learn more about the work Rose produces, there are various websites you can visit. I recommend heading to her personal website Rosencrantzzz, or the Drawn Poorly website that’s mentioned above. Rose has also been given the opportunity to develop as an arts producer via Jerwood Arts. Its link is provided in the chatter, but just to clarify, now time has passed the Candid Cancer Collective project has a website available too.
I hope you enjoyed learning more about Rose. The next interviewee I have in line to tell you about happens to be Ellie Page, who both Rose and I discussed above. She’s been involved with so much work ever since the first lockdown began. I recommend returning to The Disability Issue to hear more about what she chose to speak about in the future.
Thanks for reading this blog post – take care.