Disabled artists in protest exhibition over Grayson Perry’s Leeds visit

Gill Crawshaw at the Inkwell Arts Space, in Potternewton Lane, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.
Gill Crawshaw at the Inkwell Arts Space, in Potternewton Lane, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.
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Disabled artists have organised a protest exhibition after it emerged wheelchair users will be unable to access a display of Grayson Perry artwork in Leeds later this month.

Turner Prize-winning Perry, who is also famed for cross-dressing, will have a series of contemporary tapestries displayed in the South Wing of Temple Newsam House, in east Leeds, in his exhibition ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ from August 23 to December 7 but the main exhibition space is accessible only by stairs.



In reaction a group of eight local artists, who have a range of disabilities, will launch their own ‘The Reality of Small Differences’ exhibition at two accessible art spaces in north Leeds on the same weekend.

Gill Crawshaw, who is active in local arts and lives in Chapel Allerton, began organising the exhibition two months ago after learning of the access issues during an information session for volunteers offering to work at the house’s Perry exhibit.

“It think it’s an appalling and discriminatory decision,” she said. “We want to make a point, and this is an really good opportunity to make that point.

“People might think things have got better for disabled people but in lots of ways some things haven’t improved.”

She added: “Our exhibition is saying ‘look, this is what disabled people and our allies can do in a very short time’. They shouldn’t be excluding us.”

Work from The Reality of Small Differences exhibition will open at Union 105, in Chapeltown, and at Inkwell Arts, in Chapel Allerton, from August 23 onwards.

It is largely based on textile art, linking closely to the exhibition of bold tapestries by Perry, and includes a range of techniques including knitted, printed and stitched artwork.

A Leeds City Council spokesman conceded the level of accessibility at the Perry exhibition is “not what we would wish it to be”, adding that one tapestry will be on show in a fully accessible area and a virtual tour and interactive downloadable app has been created.

He said: “Leeds Museums and Galleries will continue to strive to do all we can to ensure exhibitions and works can be enjoyed by as many people as possible, irrespective of their personal circumstances.”

The spokesman added that a stair climber has also recently been purchased by the council to aid people with limited mobility attempting the house’s stairs.

Visit www.inkwellarts.org.uk or www.eaststreetarts.org.uk for details on The Reality of Small Differences exhibition.


Grayson Perry’s ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ exhibition will showcase six contemporary tapestries.

All created during the BAFTA-winning Channel 4 documentary series ‘All in the Best Possible Taste’, the works will be on show in the UK for the last time when they are hung at Temple Newsam House before they go on an international tour supported by the British Council. The Vanity of Small Differences tells a story of twenty-first century social mobility. Entry is free with normal house admission.

Visit www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries.

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

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