The Marketplace and I: Commercial experiences of disability explored through art

The Marketplace and I

The Marketplace and I aims to shatter the ability-disability dichotomy and dominance of ableism that permeates UK and global societies. Through artworks, it seeks to transform positively the lives of persons with disability and those close to them.

Approximately seven million people of working age are registered as having a disability in the UK and hold an estimated spending power (‘the purple pound’) of around £249 bn. Yet, the UK’s failure to appropriately cater to them sees monthly loses of £163m for restaurants, pubs and clubs, £267m for high street shops, and a mammoth £501m for supermarkets.

The reason for this is society follows a structure of ableism, privileging the able-bodied over persons with disabilities. This creates a stigma against disability, and a permeating belief that persons with disabilities are not valuable, and are unable to contribute to society.

Throughout 2019, Dr Leighanne Higgins asked consumers across the UK living with disability to create a personal artwork individually representing their commercial experiences in marketplace settings. The Marketplace and I was born.

The project, funded by The Marketing Trust, culminated in an art exhibition of nine collections, representing a range of disabilities including sensory, cognitive, physical, and both hidden and visible disabilities. The collections represent a multitude of commercial experiences ranging from access to theme parks, shops, and healthcare services, to public and company perceptions of disability. The artworks include song, dance, poetry, photography, painting, installations and sculpture.

Take a look at some of the artwork from the Marketplace & I, and allow Dr Leighanne Higgins to guide you through her work.

The Marketplace and I


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Everything displayed here is so powerful and I love reading the different stories. It’s made me think how often do I look down, how often do I see a person in a wheelchair, how often do I acknowledge people in wheelchairs and people who differ from the “norm” – whatever that is? The truth is rarely, you have opened my eyes to something here.

A quote from The Storey Exhibition, 2019.

I was totally ambushed by the exhibit. I walked into it curious to see - nothing more. I found myself with tears running down my face. Extraordinary. Powerful. It described my life with my profoundly brain-damaged son. This is raw, but it is also real, and people should maybe know this.

A quote from The Gregson Exhibition, 2022.

The exhibition was so moving, we just had to stop and have a hug and cry together after the tour, because it was so emotional, beautiful, eye-opening and thought-provoking - it's touched our souls.

A quote from The Fringe Exhibition, 2022.

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