UK group ‘Drag Syndrome’ has found a new location following the cancellation of a venue in the Grand Rapids, Michigan. The owner of Tanglefoot Building, Peter Meijer, cancelled the event on the grounds of protecting people with down syndrome from being “exploited”.
Meijer announced the cancellation in a letter, stating, “The involvement of individuals whose ability to act of their own volition is unclear raises serious ethical concerns that I cannot reconcile.”
Terrible decision by Peter Meijer; he thinks performers with Downs syndrome can't make their own decisions about how they perform. Tanglefoot is a venue that has banned performers with Downs Syndrome, in 2019! Shame on you @VoteMeijer https://t.co/rEk5OrqkA1
— Mat Fraser (@mat_fraser) August 23, 2019
Drag Syndrome have planned seven weeks of performances as part of Project 1, an arts festival in Michigan, from September 7 to October 8. Date and time have gone unchanged, but the event will now be held at the Wealthy Theatre, a movie and performance space.
Though a new venue has been secured, there is concern over whether there is enough time to ensure the venue accommodates for everyone. DisArt, the advocacy group spearheading the event, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help ensure the new space can meet the various needs of the community.
In an interview with Out, DisArt managing director Jill Vyn said, “What we have learned through experience was that if you balance that the people on stage who have disabilities with a large number of people in the audience with disabilities, it changes from an experience of exploitation to an experience of celebration. We’ve adjusted lots of things specifically at this site to make sure that the disability community was in attendance.”
There are four days till the performance, and the campaign has raised $400 out of its $15,000 goal. The organisers and performers refuse to give in, and it has paid off with a wonderful new stage to perform on.
Drag Syndrome performer Justin Bond responded to the cancellation through a video, saying, “But I think we do have what it takes because we deserve the right to be in drag and to perform.”
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