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Sophie Partridge asks Who's Spasticus?! / 1 November 2010

photo of a group of four punks posing in line against a red fence

Pre-publicity photo-shoot for Graeae's Reasons to be Cheerful

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Crikey it’s all been happening; what with Jenny Sealey’s cast pulling off a coup with Graeae’s Reasons To Be Cheerful. (see review in The Stage The show gives a chance for some true Crip Lovies to sing & sign + audio-describe Dury’s Spasticus Autisticus - loud & proud.

Meanwhile, back at the Royal Festival Hall last week, Candoco hosted a panel discussion on How much progress has there really been on the main stage for disabled artistes? The challenge in answering that question surely begins with defining what actually the main stage is! 

I performed with Rhinestone Rollers again at Liberty Festival last month in Trafalgar Square. In many ways there isn’t a much bigger main stage to be had! So perhaps a better question would be whether in fact we Artistes get the main gig’.

``We agreed at the discussion that Yes, there has been progress but not enough. Whether I go out to see big gigs of theatre and dance – mainstream or other - or stay in & watch telly, I still don’t see many disabled artistes and even less so, those with bendy bodies.

A recent article in Disability Now by a Paralympian, expressed concern that athletes with more full-on impairments are being given less heats to compete in and less exposure in the media when they do get a chance to compete. The media always tends to feature those who look more like Standy-Uppy peeps sitting down!

Some impairments it seems, are more acceptable to a mainstream audience than others. On TV, physically different actors tend to get impairment specific roles, if any... Does this reflect a two-tier acceptance of disability / difference within Society? Should we all know our place?! Of course the Wheelies will be brought out again soon for the obligatory Children In Need and that trend will again be set...

The answer? I admit to having mushy moments seeing the inclusive cast of Reasons but have we then Sold Out to the Norms? Do True Crips now have to be chaperoned on stage by those who don’t bend?! And in terms of access – just how many of us can actually get on that Main Stage?

To answer the original question, must we first clarify what constitutes a disabled artiste. Who is Spasticus? And is that authenticity about impairment and the label of Disabled? Or purely the rawness inside? Does celebrating Spasticus somehow contradict Inclusion because it’s such a rabble-rousing, 2-fingers-up-to- the-Norms, Crip Anthem? Those lyrics don’t doff a cap to Political Correctness. Seems to me Dury doffed to no-one.

I’m Spasticus. I’m Spasticus in a world of both Spasticci(?!) and Nons and I like it that way. Not assimilation or acceptance’. It’s not enough! I hope to be embraced for being Spasticus in this world just as I embrace those that aren’t... corny but true. When Spasticus gets Out in `Reasons’ it feels embracing. And never putting aside my Spasticus book of credentials, I want to be at The Big Gig with every-one. That’s the only Main Stage I want.``

Keywords: 2012 olympics,access issues,disability art,graeae,paralympics,performing arts