Now that euphoria of the Paralympics, and the more subdued excitement of Unlimited, have gone away, I'm looking back and trying to see it all for what it was.
What was it?
Did Channel 4 achieve the predicted paroxysmic shift in society's attitude to disability? Or was it ephemera on a grand scale, a blip in which disability became temporarily interesting?
Winning is a transitory state. Disability is (usually) permanent. Medals, I’m guessing, can’t be exchanged for goods or services.
Not that it wasn’t fun, even for me, a mere spectator.
I spent one very happy weekend stationed at the Royal Festival Hall trundling around with my laptop, scooting from Unlimited gig to Unlimited gig, screeching to momentary pitstops to blog my reflections and beam them back to DAO base.
Then it was back to cleaning the toilet and boiling beetroot.
The build-up to the Paralympics has begun, with nightly programmes on Channel 4. It’s extremely exciting.
So I’m quietly reflecting on the business of disabled people doing sport, and feeling rather in awe but mostly baffled and untouched.
So much rushing about.
At school (Chailey Heritage) no one did sport. It was ‘games’, occasionally football and rounders, but always a lot of cricket. School (boys) against Masters and so on. People being bowled over with their legs caught between two stumps, before the wicket.
All played in slow motion.
The Heritage Magazine of 1958 said of the Sports Days in 1956, 57 and 58: ‘each event provided us with the usual good fun and friendly rivalry.’
I used to enjoy running and skipping about. It made a pleasant change from lying flat on my back, which I’d done for most of the first eight years of my life. Being ‘up and about’ (a medical term for not dead) was great. Then suddenly physical fun was forbidden, on health grounds. ‘No games!’ they said.
So I had to endure the heat and boredom of watching games lessons and spectating at sports events, where the rules were unfathomable and the scores irrelevant. I didn’t care who won. They could keep their stupid shields and cups.
One year they asked me to keep score for Sports Day. I had no idea what was going on out in the field, but I was good at writing the names and numbers on the board.
About 25 years ago I started swimming, not seriously, but properly, mainly so I could take my two small children. It required huge mental effort to overcome self consciousness. I persuaded myself I looked alright, though I knew I didn’t. It was a case of ‘what the hell.'
Swimming is a big part of my life now. I'm at the pool at least twice a week. I don’t count lengths. I swim for an hour, slowly.
Then I go home and have my dinner, or maybe a cheese sandwich.
I was visiting Heart n Soul, a creative company that nurtures, supports and works with learning disabled artists. Together they make music, theatre, dance, visual art, digital art, films and clubs.
My mission was to get to the heart and soul of the enigma that is Dean Rodney Singers, who have been commissioned for Unlimited, a project celebrating disability, arts, culture and sport, as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
Heart n Soul
After a warm welcome from Sandra (Communications Officer), I met with Mark (Chief Executive/Artistic Director) who filled me in on all the detail. I asked about Heart n Soul.
‘Heart n Soul is a place of self-expression,’ Mark told me. ‘We’re not about labelling and we don’t tell people what to do.’
Heart n Soul works with talented and creative disabled and non disabled people, trying new ways of doing things. It’s about opening up creative paths for, by and with people who have a passion for making music, dance, or other art form.
When I met Dean he was rehearsing with his creative and dance mentors Adele and Mel. They were making film clips using an iPad, the cool technological tool at the core this epic enterprise.
Dean is a young man with energy and autism. He got involved with Heart n Soul when he was 14, taking to performing like a natural.
In 2005 he started his own band, Fish Police. The group is made up of Dean (rapper, co-songwriter), Matthew Howe (guitar) and Charles Stuart (keyboards, co-songwriter, background vocals).
Big music fans, their key musical influences range from Kraftwerk and Daft Punk to Bob Marley and Will Smith. They fuse all this with their passion for computer games, cartoons, fast food and Japanese culture to create their own distinctive sound.
Fish Police will be releasing an album in the summer 2012.
Dean Rodney Singers
In 2010, Dean wrote a song called the Dean Rodney Singers. It was about a mission – getting disabled and non-disabled artists from around the world to work together.
Dean Rodney Singers is Dean's personal vision, a mighty one that continues to evolve: 72 (seventy-two) performers from 7 (seven) countries - China, Japan, Brazil, Germany, Croatia, South Africa and UK. Together they will produce 21 (twenty-one) songs with videos. All of this on iPads.
Team Dean is, as I write, busy composing, curating, creating and sharing all manner of beats, bars, moves, grooves and images to inspire and get everyone started. All of it generated on an iPad using a whole range of amazing apps.
The songs will be written, composed, improvised and played by the band itself, using the best web technology they can get hold of.
The audience can be part of this too, watching and listening online, as it is being created, and contributing to it if they choose. Dean’s song MIMI will soon be available for remix.
The project’s finale will be an interactive sound and visual installation at the London Festival, 1 to 9 September 2012. This will be another chance for audiences to enter and be part of Dean’s world. They’ll be able to take get involved with the music, videos and images created, make their own track or appear in a video.
Keep up with Dean Rodney Singers here:
DRS Website www.deanrodneysingers.com
DRS YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/DeanRodneySingers?feature=watch
DRS SoundCloud Page http://soundcloud.com/the-dean-rodney-singers