This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit disabilityarts.online.

Disability Arts Online

> > Richard Downes

Write A Poem for Me

Richard Downes gives you the opportunity to represent yourselves at a festival, talk about yourself, talk about our people, make a poem by simply adding lines. Are you up for it? Can you do it? Will you do it?

According to Jim Morrison, with an echo and a roar, 'Out here in the perimeter we are stoned immaculate'.

I am curating a festival starting 1st September and I want to be as inclusive as i can be. So i want you all to put a line down to show what we are, who we are, why we are, whatever are.

I think Jim was commenting on the fate of young rock n rollers who had a different take on the society that they lived around but were largely excluded from because of their age, their energy, their proclivities, foibles, hair, haristyles. clothes sense, preferences whatsoever . I think stoned immaculate was his description of this.

An idea about the disability movement is we are so diverse and different from one another that we cannot meet, we don't know how to talk to each other and we don't know how to coalesce around a shared idea. Whilst I don't necessarily agree with this myself and have seen plenty of evidence to the contrary this poem which will also be sourced thorugh facebook, is an opportunity to meet, talk, share and to develop ideas.

Imagine we are 'out here in the perimeter', what else are we? what else can we be, who are we, why are we, whatever, we...... are you ready..... can you put down a line.... what goes next......, please add to this

Out here in the perimeter we......

Posted by Rich Downes, 31 January 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 3 February 2012

The Queen Is Dead The Song Lives On

The last great Blues Shouter from that holy relic, Chess Records, has up and died. She could rock, she could roll she knew the meaning of soul. Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the page, The Queen of Soul, the divine Miss Etta James.

We first dallied together in a loveless town in the east of england in the radio home of brit doyen of the blues, Alexis Korner, one of the big men behind the white blues boom. His sunday night show was one of the few that I'd religiously wait in for. He taught me Stalin wasn't Stalling. He gave me history and then he made me say hello to a voice that I'd carry with me into the future.

Ladies and gentlemen give it up. One more time for the Queen of Soul, the blessed Miss Etta James. In this blues revue, the song that came over the airwaves to crush my aching heart, the song that welled up the tears, birthed a forever lump in the front of my throat, and bore my lively tread down was the truth testament, the wailed warning of the Queen of Soul's, Etta James, I'd Rather Go Blind.

The obituaries tell the tale of Etta's quite extraordinary life. Catch Garth Cartwright's one from the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jan/20/etta-james. It evidences the 4 Real qualities that carried in the sledgehammer soul of that great big shouty voice. Understand that it is no lack of significance that bought her portrait to the front page of the Independent for the simple act of dying. But realise this is no tribute to the queen of soul, Etta James. This is about the song, I'd Rather Go Blind.

Spotify it now kids and let it break your heart. Like all the great songs, somewhere over the rainbow, it passes the covers test. Rod the Mod couldn't crash it, Stan Webb's Chickenshack, couldn't chintz it down, I'd bet Beyonce couldn't burn it down for it would be Beyonce who would take it past the second test; the gruelling trial of time.

As I first heard it 20 years after its release so Beyonce would cover it 20 years after me. Adele would say she knew she would have to sing after buying the Queen of Soul, Miss Etta James, and I'd bet that it was 'I'd Rather Go Blind' that gave her that information because as the strings build and the chorus hits again you can't help but sing 'I'd Rather Go Blind'  - for the other test it passes it passes is a truth test stating that anyone who has really loved and then really lost may probably, given a choice,rather go blind themselves.

And this is where my other life long dalliance with the song comes in. As a disability equality trainer shouldn't I be railing against this politically incorrect piece of sentimental hokum, this slight song idea that describes a very sad piece of a life story, calling it the very worst thing that could possibly happen and then equating it with acquiring an impairment?

Surely I should be standing up and saying this is just so hackneyed, I've heard this in song a thousand times and this is just so not on, This is so wrong. Surely I should but surely I won't and surely I can't. And that's all down to the performance of the song and the passing of a third test. 'I'd Rather Go Blind' by the Queen of Soul, Miss Etta James, in her passing shows its true indestructible nature. I'd Rather Go Blind survives death. 'I'd Rather Goes Blind' keeps on jumping from the grave, 'I'd Rather Go Blind' will be reborn, over and over again, forever.

Posted by Rich Downes, 24 January 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 24 January 2012

Shaping Up Another Entry

About an enjoyable day, the thoughts it caused, about past, current and future work that may or may not happen. A tale about a work completed with this blog entry - which may go further.

Synchronicity. Does it work?
It's Saturday. I'm reading the Guardian magazine. I like the Your Photos page. Always look at it but have never entered a photo. The next theme for entry is 'missing'. I remember a photo I took in Lacock. What is missing? A second glove? A person? This glove? A person's hand?

I did not take this picture because something was missing. I took this picture to confront my fears. It constantly alarms me to find stray items of clothing within the environment where they do not belong; scarfs, knickers, tights. I am not one of those who think everything has a place. I can and often do welcome chaos. I nearly always wonder how the stray items got there.

What is the story? I sometimes give them stories. My stories are usually about some kind of foul play. There are no nice stories for missing items in my world. If you know of one please tell it below in the comments box.

My day rolls on. I am in the Speedo shop, Covent Garden, trying on swimming trunks. My wife is with me. She laughs and points me in the direction of the Speedo logos. On one of them a joker has removed the 's' to leave behind 'peedo'. I helpfully point it out to the young shop staff who giggle. Maybe they had never thought of it before. Sometimes when things go missing it reveals something else.

I am reminded of an advertising campaign 'Who put the Tea in Typhoo'.  Who put the criminal in Speedo?. What is revealed when something else is taken away?

I consider it as a Disability Equality Trainer. I ask what is disability on a fairly regular basis. Replies often start as something is missing, a body part or an ability. I guess i seldom think at that stage of the analysis; yes... but what happens when something is missing. Do we always have to reveal the monster, does it always have to be about who our friends really are for as many of us know when we have a bit go missing often our friends will go AWOL too.

I go home, put on the computer and look at DAO;s homepage. SHAPE are doing an Open Exhibition. Their theme is disability. They identify definitions of disability that they want artists to respond to. I read the definition as being about impairment.

I think something is missing. It doesn't seem to be looking for 'social model' ideas. I consider getting my pens and flipchart out, writing it up, photographing it and presenting a triptych. I would love to do a triptych. But perhaps i should present the two photos here and a blank piece with nothing on it - as if something has gone missing.

It's Saturday. I look at last weeks Guardian Magazine. I have missed the submissions page. Will I, won't I make the SHAPE deadline?

editted 27th January 2012 to give a link to the Speedo picture andother comments on slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/RichardDownes/missing-11293719

Posted by Rich Downes, 23 January 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 29 January 2012

A Day For The Lords

I'm unqualified to talk Welfare Reform. I know the government takes steps to hurt us because we are in this crying game together. I'm unqualified to comment on the Lords. I believe they place safeguards on bad legislation, taking action to stop the government hurting the people it serves. So, i find myself on the streets, aiming my gaze at the Lords, psyching them into supporting us.

I'm concerned about the turn out. What activism is this? Why do so few people in our movement turn up to help safeguard our own through lobbying, picketing, direct action? Who am I with today? Single Mother’s Self Defence, Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group. I see Clare from Winvisible who introduces me to Joan from UK Uncut who asks who i’m with. I’m with DAN, the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network.

This gathered coalition of mutual interest intrigues me. I look outside the confines of our Movement, taking an interest in what others say.  The clear message - 'Oppose Welfare Reform'. Why? What does it affect? Clare chants into a loud-speaker. We join in. ‘Welfare not Warfare’. Alternative strategies could be adapted if cuts must be made. It's strange to hear this. No chants originate from the movement. Some placards show poor understanding of our issues.

Mad Pride's banner call Benefit Cuts and Condems ‘mental’ - a pejorative term. The issue is pejorative as are some members of the coalition but….’mental’? Is it OK if mental health service users, system survivors, say it? Does it ask questions? What is: what is not mad? If I'm proud of being mad do i want to share this with my enemy? Dave Skull takes the mike giving the outstanding speech of the day.

Banners talk about consequences of reform, ‘Cuts Make Women and Kids More Vulnerable to Rape’, ‘Cuts Equal Racist Attacks Of A Financial Kind’, ‘Cuts Put Women On The Street’, and ’1 Year Time Limit on Sickness Benefit = Assisted Dying’ - the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) line. Remember ‘ATOS Kills’. Other placards talk to my prejudices; ‘Lords Help Us’, sounds like Blairite christian democracy. ‘Single Mom’s and People with Disabilities All Deserving and Entitled’. I’m a disabled person. Get used to saying it. I don’t want help. I want rights. There should be no distinction between deserving and undeserving. Lets destroy this old christian idea for ever. It’s not helpful. It leads to testing through eligibility, it causes division.

Did I belong with these activists? I support their aims. I'm not keen on the style, presentation and language but, because i was there I share the success. The Lords made a stand, extending the period of Employment Support Allowance (ESA), ensuring cancer patients received benefits for a longer period thus enabling recovery, giving young people receiving ESA a contributory payment towards pensions. But today I wondered what our movement is all about, where are we, what are we doing, is it enough?

More pictures are available at: http://detrich.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/last-day-of-the-lords-welfare-reform-11-1-12/

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 17 January 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 26 January 2012