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Deborah Caulfield's blog - disability arts online
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Reasons to look forward to watching crips swear and lark about on stage next week. / 7 February 2012

Chailey boys with sticks and crutches for guitars, circa 1960

Chailey boys with sticks and crutches for guitars, circa 1960

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The critics loved Reasons To Be Cheerful first time around. The Guardian said: 'The stage gives off a million volts.' Time Out opined: 'Rough, ready and bl**dy brilliant.' Even The Daily Mail managed a compliment: 'It's got a heart of gold.'

Aah, ain't that nice?

So, the Chailey kid came good. Well, nothing unusual in that. I won't mention any names (they might not thank me) but there are quite few of us Chailey kids in and about the (disability) movement.

Ian Dury wasn't an activist. He was an artist, hedonist, hard nut and a rock star. Talented too, but a nightmare to live and work with, if the film Sex & Drugs & Rock &Roll is to be believed. And why shouldn't we believe it?

There's a scene in the film where he goes back to Chailey, around the time he wrote Spasticus Autisticus for the International Year of Disabled People, 1981. I'd left years before, but I'm reliably informed that this visit never actually happened.

Hello to you out there in Normal Land/You may not comprehend my tale or understand.

I don't remember much violence in the film, whereas crip (and crip-on-crip) bashing did happen at Chailey in those days. Dury talked about it and we can assume it affected him, probably not in a pleasant way.

Oi! Cunt face! Who are you looking at?/I'll kick your fucking head off with shit on me boots!

Put that boy in detention!

When I went to see the film, in 2010, I think I secretly hoped I would recognise Chailey Heritage. Of course, it wasn't actually filmed there. The dormitory scenes couldn't possibly have been shot at St Georges because the place was turned into luxury flats more than a decade ago.

I always thought the Blockheads had a great sound, especially Chaz Jankel's piano, but some of Dury's lyrics are pure sexist rubbish:

I offer thee this band of gold/Now do exactly what you are told.

I guess he hated women. Or maybe he was just unconfident.

If I was with a woman I'd make believe I loved her/All the time I would not like her much.

So I prefer the instrumental version of Duff 'em up and Do 'em Over. Not that he didn't manage the occasional insightful social comment:

There ain't half been some clever bastards/lucky bleeders, lucky bleeders.

One thing you can say about Dury is that he was ace at alliteration:

Plaistow Patricia, Plaistow Patricia/Plaistow Patricia, Plaistow Patricia/Go on girl.

Priceless.

Chailey was a grim yet brief chapter in Dury's life; he spent a mere three years there in the early fifties. I was there for eleven years, 1955 - 1966, a big chunk of my childhood. He wrote and talked about it in less than glowing terms. I have yet to find words to adequately describe my loathing for the place.

One day...

reasonstobecheerfulthemusical.co.uk/
Charlie Swinbourne previews Reasons To Be Cheerful

My reviews:
An Instinct for Kindness
. A play about assisted suicide.
A Bigger Picture
. David Hockney at The Royal Academy.
Resistance; Which Way the Future.
Liz Crow's important installation.
Cheltenham Science Festival 2011.
Exploring the Autistic Mind & 3D Thinkers in a 2D World.
Access All Areas 2011
. Live Art Extravanganza
Longcare Survivors
; Biography of a Care Scandal. Review of John Pring's outstanding book.

Keywords: art,autobiography,chailey heritage,disability history,disabled people's movement,discrimination,graeae,history of disabled people,ian dury,music,normality,physical abuse,reasons to be cheerful,special school