The Museum of Austerity is a mixed reality exhibition that preserves memories of public and private events from the austerity era in the UK.
Museum of Austerity has been produced by the English Touring Theatre and the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio, and devised and directed by critically-acclaimed theatre director Sacha Wares.
Ground-breaking volumetric capture
The exhibition was co-commissioned by BFI London Film Festival – LFF Expanded where it is being premiered this week and combines verbal testimony, original music and ground-breaking volumetric capture that ‘invites audiences to contemplate close-up the human impact of austerity’.
Using recorded interviews with the family members the exhibition tells the stories of ten disabled benefit claimants in the post-2010 austerity decade whose deaths have been linked by Disability News Service (DNS) to the failings of the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Museum of Austerity is supported by CreativeXR, a programme developed by Digital Catapult and Arts Council England and is a Genesis Kickstart Fund project, supported by the Genesis Foundation and is supported using public funding from the Arts Council.
Personal stories of disabled benefit claimants
The exhibition includes a room which focuses on the personal stories of disabled benefit claimants, whose deaths have all previously been linked by Disability News Service (DNS) to flaws in DWP’s assessments, sanctions and safeguarding systems.
Relatives whose voices will be heard at the exhibition have previously spoken to DNS and include Mo Ahmed, the brother of Sophie (Faiza) Ahmed, whose suicide in 2014 exposed flaws in DWP’s safeguarding system; and Gill Thompson, whose brother David Clapson died after being left destitute when his benefits were sanctioned.
Other deaths covered by the exhibition include those of Mark Wood, Moira Drury, Diane Hullah and James Oliver.
It also includes testimony from Imogen Day, Joy Dove and Alison Turner, all three of whom have previously spoken to DNS to highlight DWP’s failings following the deaths of their relatives Philippa Day, Jodey Whiting and Errol Graham.
Dove said: “I need the story told for Jodey’s sake. Jodey’s death changed our lives forever from day one and we as a family have suffered continuing heartache.
“It has broken me. All that keeps me going is to get justice for Jodey and the other families.I want these stories out there. From day one of being told about this theatre project it has given me hope for justice and a hope that we can change the system.”
Experienced and emerging disabled artists
The Museum of Austerity team includes experienced and emerging disabled artists, including leading composer Adrian Lee – who has produced an original score in memory of those who have died – producer Meg Fozzard, assistant director Hana Pascal Keegan, and co-editor and specialist advisor John Pring.
Museum of Austerity is a work-in-progress and will eventually include several rooms that each demonstrate a different element of the personal and public impact of austerity.
The current exhibition, which opened yesterday at LFF Expanded, runs to 17 October and has completely sold out.
About the author – Adrian Murphy
Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.