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Conversation Series - December 2023

The Centre for Disability Studies is excited to invite people at the University of Leeds, who are connected to CDS, and anybody who is a friend from outside of the University to join this upcoming Conversation Series seminar:

‘I’m a seed that’s been kept in a dark hole for so long and it’s now time for it to become a tree!’: cultivating counter-narratives of disability through the arts with Dr Gareth M. Thomas.

Date: Friday 8th December 2023
Time: 11:00 - 13:30 GMT
Location: University of Leeds campus and online via Zoom.

If you would like to register to attend this event, or have any access requirements that you would like to discuss, please contact

Event Description

"Despite policies designed to improve the lives of adults with learning disabilities, they remain at the margins of UK society and are assumed, perpetuated by popular representations, to be living a life of isolation, tragedy, and exclusion. But what possibilities are there for learning-disabled adults – frequently spoken for by proxies or excluded from research altogether – to counter such narratives? In this talk, I discuss the early findings of an ethnographic study at multiple sites, specifically a theatre company and dance and drag groups run by/with/for people with learning disabilities. Drawing on this data, I explore how learning-disabled adults confront dominant oppressive narratives and articulate their lives in more affirmative terms. Through the arts, I show how they can resist assumptions of vulnerability, passivity, and isolation, and highlight their own creativity, resistance, vigour, and interdependence. In so doing, I discuss how adults with learning disabilities cultivate positive, public accounts of their lives that re-story what it means to live with disability. I conclude with some short reflections on the next steps of the project."

Presenter Biography

Gareth M. Thomas is a Reader in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University, UK. He is a sociologist interested in disability, health/illness, medicine, and reproduction. Thomas’ primary empirical focus in recent years is people’s experiences, perceptions, and representations of disability (e.g. disabled people; parents of disabled children; healthcare professionals) in different spaces and spheres (e.g. prenatal screening; popular media; the arts). Gareth's handle on X (formerly Twitter) is @gmt_88.


In Person (University of Leeds campus) -

The in-person event will take place in a seminar room which is flat floored with level access.

Please wear a face mask, if this is possible for you, in the interests of reducing the risk of infection within our community. Disposable FFP2 masks will be made available.

Please do not attend in-person if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or any other infectious illness – if you feel well enough to do so, you are welcome to switch to online attendance. This event will not be recorded.

Accessible directions and further information about the location will be circulated to in-person attendees prior to the event but if you have any questions regarding accessibility in the meantime, please email as soon as possible. 

Online (via Zoom) –

An invite link and passcode will be sent to you by the morning of the event. Auto generated captions will be available and we will be using hybrid equipment to facilitate the event and improve the experience for online attendees. This event will not be recorded.

If you need to make us aware of any access requirements, please contact as soon as possible.