Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Canon Ruth Gould for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
Ruth is the Artistic Director of DaDaFest. A pioneer of the arts, she has worked throughout her career to bring about social change and artistic enrichment, empowering artists and cultural organisations to promote high quality disability and deaf arts from diverse cultural perspectives.
Diagnosed at the age of six with a genetic hearing impairment, and initially facing educational and employment barriers, she was determined to help people who society seemed to have ‘written off’.
Ruth is unequivocal about the transformational potential of the creative sector, saying; “Art saves lives. It can change the attitudes of society and of disabled people. Disabled people are seen either as requiring pity or being inspirational, rather than just going about their daily lives and happening to have a disability, which is why our work is vital. So many times I’ve heard: ‘I’ve never seen someone like you on the stage before.’”
A theatre course inspired her love for communication through movement. After a stint performing and teaching in Australia, she moved back to Liverpool and took on arts management roles as disability awareness was burgeoning under the new Disability Discrimination Act. Only when she came across North West Disability Arts Forum did she equate her deafness with disability.
It was Ruth who would help transform this Forum into DaDaFest (DaDa refers to the initial letters of “disability and deaf arts”). Joining in 2001, she organised a one-off, week-long community arts festival for Liverpool city council to mark international disabled people’s day. It is now a bi-annual event, drawing thousands of visitors, launching the careers of comedian Laurence Clark and actor Liz Carr, and helping Liverpool win its bid to be European Capital of Culture 2008. It has brought about social change through direct action, influence and example and place disabled artists into the spotlight.
Ruth is also on the Board of Michigan based DisArt, an advisory member for both the Granada Foundation and Liverpool City Council Tourism and Culture Select Committee. She became a Deputy Lieutenant for Merseyside in April 2015. Previous board involvements have also been Culture Liverpool (and chair of the creative communities sub group), Bluecoat Arts Centre – vice chair, Contact Theatre and co-opted member of National Museums Liverpool.
As a stimulating and enthusiastic public speaker, Ruth is regularly invited to speak about subjects relating to Disability and Deaf arts at conferences and cultural events across the globe. In Early 2014, Ruth became a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Fellow which has enabled her to visit locations in India, and Malawi, and more to explore how the arts within countries outside the UK can empower and reposition disabled and deaf people in society.” Additionally, she has a Masters in Social Enterprise Management from LJMU.
In 2017, Ruth was awarded an MBE in recognition of this prominent career working within disability and deaf arts.
She continues to subvert accepted norms. She recalls an artist friend who suggested she refer not to her “hearing loss” but her “deafness gain”. What has Gould gained from being deaf? “My job. My life,” she says.
For her sustained, outstanding achievement in developing arts and culture in the arts sector locally, nationally and internationally.it is with great pleasure that I present Ruth Gould for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.