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Nick Knight | El Anatsui | Mark Titchner | Stephanie Imbeau
Hannah Gourlay | Tony Heaton | Claire Watson

Tony Heaton

Tony Heaton

Tony Heaton has worked as a sculptor since the inception of what became known as disability arts, a movement inextricably linked to the politics of disability.

His performance piece Shaken not Stirred – created from the stacking into a pyramid of 1,760 red charity collecting tins and then destroyed by the hurling into it of a prosthetic leg with a steel toe capped boot for the ‘Block Telethon’ campaign – was part of a seminal moment where disabled activists protested against the televising of Telethon and demanded rights not charity.

Similarly, the assemblage, Great Britain from a Wheelchair – a map of Britain constructed solely from the deconstructed parts of two condemned ex-ministry wheelchairs – has become an enduring image of that time.

Great Britain from a Wheelchair

More recently he was the winner of the Art-Plus-Art in Public Places Award with Zoe Partington-Sollinger and Dada South. This £50,000 award was to create the sculpture Squareinthecircle – carved from five pieces of Portland stone and now situated outside the School of Architecture at Portsmouth University.


Born in 1954 in Preston Lancashire, Tony Heaton graduated from Lancaster University with a BA Honours Degree in Visual Arts and Psychology in 1989.

He works in a multitude of different materials exploring disability and environmental issues, with work featured in Dam, DAiL and Disability Now magazines, the Disability Arts online website and profiled in the From the Edge programme for the BBC (Director David Hevey) and in the video Moving from Within (Director Chris Ledger).

He has exhibited:

  • As a regional finalist in the Unipart Reflections of technology award for original sculpture – Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
  • Unleashed at the Laing City Art Gallery, Newcastle.
  • His solo show Great Britain from a Wheelchair, Diorama Gallery, London.
  • He was commissioned by Manchester City Council in 1997 for the Grey Mare Project.

Grey Mare Project

For ten years from 1997-2007, he was the Director of Holton Lee, a short stay residential centre for disabled people where he led the creation of an infrastructure including the award winning Faith House, an exhibition / gallery space, dedicated artists’ studios and the home of NDACA (the National Disability Arts Collective and Archive).

Sweet Meeting, Carrara, ItalyHe is currently Chief Executive of Shape, a disability led arts organisation and lives and works in London. Deliberately non-prolific, he carves in situ in Portland, Dorset and Carrara in North West Italy.

In a previous life Tony played wheelchair basketball for England.

Tony said: “I wanted to use the structure of the Big 4 as one of four elements that would fuse together to form a new cohesive piece, which would provoke thought and celebrate Channel 4’s involvement and commitment to the Paralympics.

“The figurative element is based on the famous classical Greek marble sculpture Discobolus – the discus thrower – by the Sculptor Myron. This image, evoking the spirit of the Olympics, is interposed with the third element, a circle, which represents the wheel of the international symbol of access. Lastly, the introduction of gold, silver and bronze as the fourth element, considers hierarchy.

Discobolus and international symbol of access

“The subtext of the piece is the assertion that disabled people are almost always the object of scrutiny and curiosity.”

Monument to the Unintended Performer

Monument to the Unintended Performer (Photo: Dave King)

The design was installed on the Big 4, on behalf of Tony Heaton, by FreeState Ltd – working alongside sub-contractors Millimetre Ltd, Atelier One Ltd, Enliten Architectural Lighting Ltd, Syrett Neon International and Dalton Warner Davis LLP – Commercial Property & Town Planning Consultants.

Monument to the Unintended Performer

Monument to the Unintended Performer (Photo: Dave King)

Please click here to view a short film on Channel 4 News about the Channel 4 Paralympic Press Launch and an interview with Tony Heaton.

Tony Heaton’s website is at

Nick Knight | El Anatsui | Mark Titchner | Stephanie Imbeau
Hannah Gourlay | Tony Heaton | Claire Watson


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