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Goldsmiths' Official Student Magazine

Extraordinary Bodies – ‘What am I worth?’

22 September 2017
Dora Hemming talks circus tricks with Extraordinary Bodies and diversity in the arts

What is your body worth?

Google reckons I could probably sell a kidney for £75,000; is that an indication of my worth?

Personally, I am able to use my body and brain to work in a job for a minimum wage of £7.05 an hour. Is that a better gauge?

Extraordinary Bodies are a professional circus company. They are a collaboration between Diverse City and Cirque Bijou . The group is made up of both disabled and non-disabled artists. One artist of note is Jamie Beddard who has cerebral palsy, and who also performed in the National’s Threepenny Opera.

Their practice has a sharp focus on diversity in the arts, as they aim to increase awareness of D/deaf and disabled artists and want them to be able to work equally with non-disabled artists throughout the country.

Using their own words, ‘What am I worth?’, the project Extraordinary Bodies are currently working on, wants ‘to understand how people see their own value and how they would like their worth recognised in society.’ To help them appreciate and learn how people feel they have been collecting stories from all over the country, while simultaneously sharing their circus and music skills. The stories they have heard are from people who they believe ‘create their own sense of worth, despite a culture that devalues them.’

On that note, here is EB’s handy guide for referring to disability (show it to your friends!):

Basic language guide
disabled handicapped, crippled, invalided
disabled people the disabled, people with disabilities
has … (an impairment) suffers from…, victim of …
non-disabled able bodied, normal, healthy
learning disabled* mentally disabled, retarded, backward
wheelchair user wheelchair bound, confined to a wheelchair, in a wheelchair
Deaf the deaf
Deaf sign language user, BSL user deaf and dumb, deaf mute
blind or partially sighted people, visually impaired people (VIP) the blind
mental health service user / survivor mentally ill, insane, mad, crazy
has cerebral palsy spastic
person of short stature dwarf, midget


Their seventh stop – out of ten places –  is right on Goldsmiths’ doorstep: Theatre Peckham. And, in my work assisting Theatre Peckham I had the opportunity to get involved with the three-day workshop EB hosted, which facilitated a Special Educational Needs school from Camberwell.

Theatre Peckham is an excellent space to work in and we were able to get a taste of acrobalance (a type of acrobatic art in which two people assist each other balancing in the air with only their hands and arms as support) and also hula hooping led by Helen Orford.

By the third session, participants had built their confidence and were able to take part in aerial work such as swings and trapeze, and build large multi-person pyramid shapes out of their bodies. Alongside this we developed our writing skills together with exercises that produced some beautiful poems and stories. The Extraordinary Bodies team also took polaroid pictures that depicted a scene representing a time when we felt happy and valued. This meant they had plethora of pictures to reference of real human stories of value and worth.

It was a wonderful experience meeting the students and artists and hearing everybody’s stories. I also had a wild ride balancing in the air and making up my own ridiculous hula hoop tricks. Funded by Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence, summer 2018 will see Extraordinary Bodies tour the ‘What am I worth?’ show around the country. There will be live music, BSL interpretation and audio description. It is definitely one to look out for!

Words, Dora Hemming

Find Extraordinary Bodies here on Twitter @Ex_Bodies,

  • 27 September 2017 at 11:37 am

    Superb article liked it especially the Basic Language guide some people really need it. Thanks for sharing.