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

Mike Gripe

Don'cha just hate it when you go to one of these disability arts panels or disabled activists meetings and they just won't use the mike or the megaphone.

You'd think they have something to say but don't want to be heard.

Went to such an event yesterday. Tiny room, packed with bodies that increasingly shuffled and shifted as they couldn't hear nor barely see due to overcrowding and it took four speakers before one of them had the grace to use the mike.

I know.... I should have spoken up. Given it a bit of gob shite and shouted at them to use the facilities they had available but you know if they can't be arsed why should I and besides after a minute or two of trying to listen and failing you get lulled and think, I just can't be bothered with this.

So, four speakers in and the mike is in use, and its getting passed around and its like a new toy. I can hear my voice. Wonder if I can make it go away. So you get the head turns, or the reader who drops their chin into their chest, brings the paper forward and moves the mike away from them. I mean its like that comedian fellow who played first you hear me, now you don't. At least he knew what he was doing and was only taking the mickey - it was his job.

A new classic of the genre debuted last night. Avoiding the bad taste jokes now a woman holds the thing in between her knees. I'm sorry but the knees don't speak. That's not what they're there for. They help your legs bend and that's about it. They're called joints. They're a long way disconnected from the thorax so its no good singing my thigh bone's connected to my hip bone, all the way up until the jaw bone cos I can't hear ya.

Anyway, she's prattling on about something that I can't be bothered to strain to hear when she passes the toy to my hero - the buddy who i'd come to hear and what does he do - open with the old chestnut; "I don't need this do I? You can hear me can't you? I'm a right gobby northerner me and they can all hear me up in t' pool". For goodness sake.

Listen up Peeps. Must admit, I missed most of the chat. It may have ben good, bad or indifferent. I don't know but I swear to Christ they were whinging about access and wanting more inclusion. Hello!!! I'm the guy at the back, under the droning fan, next to the crisp eater and the man who fell asleep before he started the snoring, right net to the gangway where the disinteresting crowd are leaving. I'm not deaf, I can't understand the signers, I'm not partially deaf, I don't use the induction loop, but I'm gaining a little bit of empathy for their situation from this experience and really most of you delectable panellists should know a lot better.

Hi there. My name's Mike Gripe. Signing Off.

Posted by Rich Downes, 25 January 2013

Last modified by Rich Downes, 25 January 2013

Documentary Evident - Searching For Sugar Man

As a reader of friday and weekend reviews I have noticed a hunger for documentaries. My initial feeling about this was pphhhfffff!!!! so what. But is seems that I have finally succumbed and i blame the wife who took me to see Marley earlier in the year.

 

Last night we went to see Searching.... at the Curzon Soho and stumbled upon an extraordinary story which i'll spend some time on later but first the Curzon Soho. I'm no expert on access and i would need someone to back this up and find the faults that I did not see but I remember a ramped entrance, a lift that i presume serves all floors and extremely comfortable seating. I also encountered great staff attitudes. Holding up the queue to enquire about concessisons I was told about the CA Card - anyone know what a CA Card is and where to get one from? Then we tried to wrangle a cheaper ticket on the basis of our extreme age. They've even got a membership deal on that. Sadly its time restricted. Clearly us Oldies have to be in bed early, don't like West End crowds and have no day time jobs to go to - well, that sums me up but, what about others.

 

Anyway, Sugar Man. It hinges on 4 mysteries. Who is Sugar Man? Where is Sugar Man? Does Sugar Man still exist? Was there ever a Sugar Man? Or that is what they would have you believe. In solving the riddle however you become exposed to other stories that are key for art. This story is based within South Africa but reaches out to America. It is told in film, home movies, old news reels, photographs and animation. It takes us back to 1971. South Africa is a repressive, extremely conservative regime, a narrator says that its policies stem from Nazi Germany. Culturally censorship is king. The wife later tells me that she modelled in Mauritius sometime and parts of her body where blacked out in SA. She was modelling swimwear. It seems crazy. But what impact does this have. Not just on the indigenous population which is well known but on the powerful minority. Sugar Man does not sell. Why should he? The grooves of the record are scratched out. None should hear about sex or drugs it would seem. And so it is that rock and roll itself goes unheard. But then piracy through home taping takes off. Home taping brings life to music. Every home has three records. Abbey Road, Bridge Over Troubled Water and Cold Facts by Sugar Man. Whose name incidentally is not Sugar Man. Sugar Man sells millions in SA but only about 6 copies in the States so the recording career comes to an end but the artefact becomes ever more powerful. The records influence causes a growth in art. Art becomes associated with rebellion. There are good Afrikaans and later they begin the search.

 

Ultimately Sugar Man is found. This is what the reviewers tell you. He is found just over half way through the film. So the mystery is resolved. Might as well pack up and go home now. But wait. Part two. What happens next? This is where the extraordinary becomes miraculous but we are sophisticates. We do not believe in miracles. So, you don't need to know what it is. You don't need to know what warmed my heart. And even if you did you wouldn't want me to spoil it for you. So go see. Its heavily recommended.

Posted by Rich Downes, 30 August 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 30 August 2012

More Yoko No. 4 - Votive Offering

I have an instinctive love and understanding of wish trees. I am drawn to them. They make me think.

According to my old mate Wiki; “A wish tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value. By tradition, believers make votive offerings in order to gain from that nature spirit, saint or goddess fulfillment of a wish”.

One of the most glamourous wish trees, the only one I wished on, stood in Waterlow Park, Highgate. It was distinguished by copper tags containing wishes that the sun reflected into the park. I guess the copper made it art.

In the health centre where I work the local bereavement counseling service installs a xmas tree every year  and provides tags for anyone who wishes to remember someone who has passed on. I have used that tree to remember family, friends and people that I never knew including last year, 3 musicians. I never knew Was I wishing though and would I call it art.

As a sometime self advocacy facilitator I have worked with groups who have wanted wish trees. These have happened in day centres with art classes and trees but no one, no member of staff, ever thought to follow up on the wish for a wish tree. Strikes me these would be good for person centred planning exercises. But who cares if people in the institution wish or not.

Every now and then I take a trip to Avebury and Glastonbury. I have an interest in paganism but do not define as a pagan as according to the Pagan Federation I need to accept a divinity in my life and cannot do this. There are trees in these places, my favourite one being at Swallowhead Spring. I have seen the most amazing, thoughtful, votive offerings there. I never knew they held wishes. And some of them where Art. I must ask the editor to make a gallery of my photos.

Yoko has installed a number of wish trees at the entrance of the Serpentine Gallery. I watched people of all ages participating in the process, writing down their wishes in their own languages or with pictures. I read the tags that I could read. Many pursue the Yoko doctrine. Peace, Love, Joy, appear many times.

Other genuine wishes for good grades, holidays, birthdays, sunshine, self centred wishes maybe; but not predominating. Within all this goodness, an adolescent tells everyone, his favourite out of all the wishes is; “I wish this gallery exhibited real art not this rubbish”. Well suck it and see sucker because in making that wish you became involved in art. You joined the process, you followed the instruction, you interacted with the sculpture, you joined the performance, you were not embarrassed to do it and because you did Yoko will help your wish live on.

She will collect your tag, she will install it somewhere else. You may have been cynical but appreciate what happened, appreciate that you, me, and everyone else can join in the instruction to keep on wishing and maybe we could make this our art.

To find out more.

Also, what wish will you make here. 

Posted by Rich Downes, 28 June 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 8 July 2012

Today I Met The B Man at The Festival of the World

One of many designers at The Southbank's Festival of the World is Bee Man, not Beaman - Marc Cowan. He is the Bee Man because he likes bees. Well... partially. Not fully. He is the Bee Man bee cause he is involved in the days top story, told by someone else about a bee.

The story was related by the Queen Bee. It involved Marc the Bee Man. Once upon a time we all beecame very small and found ourselves stretched out, feeding, cocoon like in a hive. Queen Bee June, the Queen of mid summer, was throwing a party to celebrate a festival and she was telling everbody about the worker bees especially Bee Man Marc Cowan for it was Marc who built this little vast world in which we were regaled.

Marc the Bee Man built the floor. Outside the space he found a bee. A BIG BEE! A BIG DEAD BEE!!. He bought the BIG DEAD BEE!!! into the hive and he covered it in resin to protect it and to stop it having no meaning other than the meaning that he had given it or at least the meaning that Queen Bee June misrepresented beecause Queen Bee, whose word must bee trusted beenignly gave the impression that the BIG DEAD BEE!!! was now buried in the floor of the space that we call the hive. What was it doing there? What do you think it was doing there? I don't know but I do know this. I was curious. 

I wanted to get myself into a busy bee tizzy of activity and go home and find a spade and come back to the hive and dig up the floor and find that BIG DEAD BEE!!! and find out for myself what it was doing there. What had happened to it. Now this is typical me. I am big, blustery, breaker of balls (sorry - walls) and floors and typically I had no concern as to the state of the space and how we would all be ok to stay there and bee regaled again.

So it was that everyone got frightfully buzzy busy and flapped and fussed and i found myself outside smelling the flowers, passing messages to my friends about who i was and what i was doing and how i would find that BIG DEAD BEE!!! and as i passed around doing my bee dance of communication to Ms A and Ms B, not bee. I eventually found Mr C himself.

Marc Cowan is a freelance designer. He is a very nice man. He had been working as a volunteer at the South Bank, helping to create a space, the Festival Village, a hive in the centre of the Festival of the World. He quickly worked his way up the workers queue and he was given a job to do, for he was an enthusiast and he had an idea and the idea was to create a floor and the one thing no one wanted him to do because it would bee too big and bee too long and bee too expensive was to build a floor. So what did Marc say he wanted to do? He said he wanted to build a floor. And just beecause everyone said don't build a floor Marc for all the reasons already given, which no one now wanted to say again it was agreed that all the workers could get together around Marc and build a floor. Wood was salvaged, matting was recycled, some money was spent on things just so Marc could realise an idea in a public space and that's a wonderful thing. But, something people don't realise about the South Bank, its not something that you would necessarily know, is they have a commitment to using space, creating environments, sustaining and developing life and a life force they are very proud of is the fact of their own lovely bees of which they are very proud. 

Marc was outside the space one day and he found a bee. Have you ever seen the first bee of spring? It is a very BIG BEE!! VERY HEAVY BEE!!! flies close to the ground type of bee, seeking out the smallest flowers, the flowers that have hardly grown type of flowers. Those ones. You know them, The crocuses, the snow drops, the small before the daffodils ones.

And Marc thought what can I do with this BIG DEAD BEE!!! to show my love for it, my pride in it, my empathy with its struggles in this time of bad climate. I'll preserve it. I'll put it in my floor. I'll put it where people can find it; if only they know it is there, or are open to the fact that it can be found.

Well I like Marc Cowan and I liked his story and I liked his story even better than the Queen's Story but I was still curious. Curious and quite glad that I didn't have to go all the way home and pick up a spade and go all the way back to the hive of the Festival Village and knock down all the walls and dig up all the floors to find the bee.

But I was still curious enough to go back when I shouldn't have gone back and walk in and not be challenged for walking in and scouring the floor in a nose low to the ground type of way to find - not a bee covered in resin - but a cast, an impression of a BIG DEAD BEE!!! and I loved the fact of this story that I could just go and do that, and hear that, and write that, and tell you, dear readers.

Thank you Marc the Bee Man and Queen Bee June, Queen of Mid Summer, Artistic Director of the South Bank for without you and your Festival of the World this story would never have happened.

Posted by , 1 June 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 8 June 2012