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Long Die The Tragedy Model

Good Grief! How did we miss this classic?

Was it through our own grief at the passing of Jack Ashley?

Anyway, how this came about. I was playing around with the Gustave Flaubert image that appears in my blog below. I had the idea to change the background to red on one occassion, blue on another, orange on another and blue and orange to signify the coalition. I was wondering who I might represent the 'You What' instead of Gustave. I immediately thought of Jack Ashley. David Blunkett ran through my mind as did Ann Begg

Looking for a caricature of Jack I found this quote on the ITV website. they accredited it to Ed Milliband.

My how far we have fallen, how much we have lost. Tragic, Loss and Courage indeed Ed.

Posted by Rich Downes, 5 May 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 6 May 2012

What Is Writing Really?

Questions WIth Gustave Flaubert

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustave Flaubert

I'm not sure if I believe that Gustave.

Lately it feels that the art of writing is the art of exploring what i don't know. Richard Downes

What do you think?



Posted by Rich Downes, 5 May 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 6 May 2012

Sad Americana

A couple of years ago just around christmas time I lost in quick succession and no longer in any order Vic Chesnutt, Mark Linkous and Jack Rose - 3 musicians that constantly delighted me.


Vic and Mark went through suicide. Jack a heart attack.


I was reminded of this listening to Lambchop's Mr M, their latest album, dedicated to the memory of Vic. Some at DAO will remember Vic has a wheelchair user. I remember, reading an unsympathetic review of one of his albums in DAIL (Disability Arts In London). He was criticised for not singing about disability. I think the album was Silver Lake. Seems to me that he sang about life from the perspective of a disabled person but never labelled, never specified, never defined the reaason for his hurt, his slant on love. There are artists who sing songs that put me in mind of institutional lawns. Vic did that. Nick Drake being another - though Nick's lawns probably referred to school or college; the institutions that he knew best after family.


Nick is purported to have been a manic depressive. Which is a link that takes me from Vic to Mark Linkous. Vic, Mark and Nick. A holy trinity of  songwriters. Mark was the guiding light behind Sparklehorse whose mournful music enchanted me and took me off to dream land. The man was well connected. Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, David Lynch, Danger Mouse, The Cardigans all guested on his albums as might have Michael Stipe, another friend of Vic's.


Jack Rose was not a singer songwriter. He was simply the best of current guitarists working in a rustic, rural folk idiom. You could compare him with John Fahey, Sandy Bull, Robbie Basho, Michael Chapman and Peter Walker. He died of an heart attack at the age of 38. I was amazed at how old he was. Yet 38 is nothing. Its just he seemed to take a long, long time to get established. Though he had a prior career with; I think Pelt, who I am yet to explore. I don't even know if he was a disabled person. I just know his music and the rough time of his passing.


Like Vic, Mark and Jack never seemed to explore impairment in a laboured, labelled, this is what its like kind of way. But if you listen in, if you are drawn in, i think you'll find something there. Sadness and celebration. A difference. A diversity of ideas. Possible references. Feeling and feelings.


I think its worth it. One day i'm going to review their work just to see what comes out. In the meantime should anyone want to follow these leads I hope you find pleasure like i did.


Here's some videos

Vic Chesnutt and Lambchop

Dangermouse & Sparklehorse feat. Vic Chestnutt

Nick Drake

Jack Rose

Posted by , 3 May 2012

Introducing Jamie Green

Did you see my review of Laurence Clark's gig at  the Dugdale Centre, Enfield. I left a lot of stuff out.

Something i've really liked about working with disabled comedians of late is that its easy to access them back stage and chat. In Enfield, I was listening in to Laurence talking with Jamie Green who revealed himself to be a stand up with a few youtube clips to his bow.

I watched these out of interest. I'm not sure if I liked what I saw. Jamie certainly was getting the laughs out of his audience. Surely a good thing. He came over like a young man with a young mans interests. Kind of like Bernard Manning before he got fat and bloated. I saw Bernard Manning at a working men's club once and I have to say he was one hell of a comedian who could sustain a show with a contant barrage of heckler responses. But as you know, for many of us there was something deeply unpleasant and worrying about our Bernard.

For me Jamie just about gets away with riding a cusp of dodgy moments. I put this down to his youth and enthusiasm for the laughter response. I also credit his clear potential.

His show made me wonder about how we support young artists, where do they go for mentoring, how they get involved with troupes, what are they getting already? I wondered about the ownership of jokes. Who do jokes belong to? Are they copywrited? Is there a willingness to share? Do we pay our dues?

My top joke of the year so far was given by a man who's been around the block a few times. Warning!!!! Salacious alert!!!! Here comes that joke: What's the difference between acne and a priest? Acne doesn't come on a young boys face until he's 12.  I heard that from Mat Fraser whilst he was compering Abnormally Funny People. I have repeated it and found people laughing at it as much as I did. But i'm wondering if it was a Mat original or if it is in wider use (well, it is now).

I guess the usefulness of Jamie Green is in what you learn about the world of young disabled people. Does that make it merit worthy? Is it enough? The next thing that comes up is the questions the performance raises. I'm still thinking about it. I've not decided yet. Would love some comment, wouldn't mind some feedback on Jamie's act. Just post below.

Posted by Rich Downes, 23 April 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 24 April 2012

Struggling to Record the Action of the Hardest Hit

I have a photo journal on flickr which i would like to contribute to DAO for safe keeping, debate and discussion. If anyone can advise me how to do this it would be much appreciated. I have tried Slideshare but my Power Point is too big. I've tried attaching it and mailing it to the Editor. Again its too big. The Power Point is an editted down version of the flickr set. Its about 3,100kb.

Particpation in the first hardest hit march was a fun day out for us as participants. Much more fun than we had a right to expect. It tortured us to decide to go. Other crips would miss out on it, descrying it for being led by organisations for disabled people, those who speak for us at the risk of losing our own voice,presenting our own ideas, which the For's have heard, stolen, misappropriated. Why should we give them credit by filing alongside them in protest. We knew the risk. One of us says almost a year later that they are still being persecuted by radical activists for having the nerve to choose to participate - ah, the rigours of being principled in opposition, the unkindness of friends, the devastation our choices roll out when taken, the risks that were too much to take, the quality of support.

So, why risk it. UKDPC were calling for partcipation under their own banner. it promised to be big. The mass mobilisation of disbaledpeople as a major fighting political force. Some hopes even then it would fizzle out again until the pain behind the vastness of the issue began tobe felt. the issue was important but we could a) support our brothers and sisters, b) make a contribution c) see friends who would go and d) show we were there

We had to find a way to make it acceptable for us, I came up with the idea of cheap photocopied posters reading OF on one side. OFF on the other. We would use these to subvert the march by idenitifyingourselves as OF Disabled People and OFF charities for and the bad intentions of government.

My work stands for what it is on flickr. I'd like to be seen more widely. I'd like this to be a useful tool that reflects the fun and humour of taking action, that talks of friendships that we have, links we make and positions that we adopt. I'd like for it to be useful in discussions we contniue to have about our stance on the tragedy model and its evil practitioners.

I'd also like for the We All Shot Pudsey Bear Facebook Group to be more widely recognised.

Feel free to follow the photojournal and join the group. They are in public domain. Steal what is useful to you in support of our struggle for equality. Use art and action to make your own statements.



Posted by , 20 April 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 24 April 2012

Rock N Rollers don’t wash their hair.

This is a fundamental tenet of my beliefs.
And I’ve had it dashed.

Repeat exposure to old copies of Top Of The Pops, ancient photos revealed in the holy book of Mojo show the fathers of rock n roll, the progenitors of pop flouncing around with clean locks.

I feel sick to my stomach.
I keep on telling myself I will never believe again.

But where did I create this mantra. It was forever in Chuck’s ducktail, Little Richard’s pompadour, Elvis’s Quiff. And blow me down; even Buster Bloodvessel’s bald head was cleanly shaven – in all likelihood even dabbed with aftershave. Brut-ish brutes.

Eyeliner, make up, lipstick. They’ve all been at their momma’s pots.

Even last night, back at the Karamel Club, Nia’s deep bluesey, Karen Dalton, Billie Holiday, barnet was washed. Charlie Snelling’s positive pop evoked tainted love tresses proved pure. Adam Masterson’s urban pagan pernickety lion’s mane pristine preened. What has been going on in mind.
Rock N Roll gave me a commitment to rebel long hair, regular face fluff and ear wax. But did it have to be so dirty.
Where was I in aligning myself to rock, greaser, grebo, hippy, punk and permed footballers. Why couldn’t I see that my religion was dominated by fake pretty priests. When did music stop getting real and when will it return. Chris Sheehan I ban you from the shampoo.

Posted by Rich Downes, 29 March 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 2 April 2012

Another Playground Label Ahoy

Travelling to the Shape Offices for the last day of the New Voices course I found myself shocked and alarmed by a poster on the tube.

It wasn't the picture. It was the title. I suddenly realised that as a disabled person I was now at risk of acquiring another label.

I was suddenly beiing asked to consider myself as one of The Undateables. Any search for love would be futile. Love for me had to be blind, disfigured and autistic.

I could hear the word echoing around the playground, in the pubs and on the terraces.

Should i feel grateful to Channel 4 for this? Having not watched programmes about disability for a long, long time I also felt strangely drawn to this. I also felt sick to my stomach.

So, i took a photo. I forgot it for a while and then i decided to manipulate the image a little.

Wonder how everyone feels about this.

Posted by Rich Downes, 26 March 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 26 March 2012

Keys To The Karamel’s Sweet Konnektions

Up early, yesterday, sitting at the PC, marvelling at an early youtube clip sent by Chris Sheehan of Robert Plant getting up to sing a rollicking rock blues with Charlie Wood .. Late last night going home having seen Chris compere for Charlie’s chilled out jazz grooves at the Karamel Music Club, Wood Green, London, I thought I need to tell my readers about this place.

This story reflects on Keys to the Karamel Club’s Sweet Konnektions. Chris Sheehan, Creative Director of Karamel Music Collective prefers to call himself a singer songwriter. A while back he had the opportunity to lead a couple of days at a Chris Difford's (Squeeze) songwriters week. They met, they played, they created, and became the bedrock of the Karamel’s Music Nights – all sweetly konnekted – all top of their kraft, all konnekted to others, and the others starting to come to the Karamel – a kalm, kollected kollektive dedicated to good times and kraft. Ddi the people who used this k technique for the Kinks back in the day have a spell chekker korrekting all the words?

Songwriters seem to inhabit a secret life of their own, scuttling off to dark corners of the soul, returning with rewards for all who want to listen. They don’t necessarily front their own songs. Others sometimes do it. Some have other abilities. They can sing, they can play. They are wanted. Charlie Wood is connected to Jacquie Dankworth, herself a Karamel regular and scion of Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth. Other artists who have shown up have been connected to Fairground Attraction, Alicia Keyes, Shirley Bassey. The list goes on. They have been around, they're not muppets, nor pop puppets. They are real, authentic, rootsy and red hot. They have turned themselves around to face a little club in North London. Why? To be connected, to form a community, to be loved and wanted. It’s not quite Laurel Canyon. Its’ not quite CBGBs. The talent has its own flavour and collects quietly and modestly at the Karamel. And listen to this…. they play for nothing. A tip jar is passed around. The community, a crowd prepared to sit, liten and adore gladly show their respect and appreciation.

The crowd itself is another key to the Karamel. Every time I go there I find someone new to talk to. A politician, a producer, a fan, lovers of the arts. Many come through their connections with the Chocolate Factory and Collage Arts whose Director, Manoj Ambassna, is almost always in attendance, networking, listening to ideas, wanting to support.

There is an element of playing for a pie and a pint. They get fed and watered by the mighty Ian, chef with his own connections to restaurants a foodie would have heard of. Ian’s always hot, always cheap, always excellent food is another key element. It should be praised highly.

Then there’s Rosely Funari who runs the club itself, who has created the comfort, the ambience, the warmth, further keys. Rosely is supported by family and volunteers. She is another who is willing to talk with, work with, mentor artists. She might be top of the food chain but she is no feeder. She is the final key element in a club that gives and keeps on giving. The Karamel is a love fest.

The Karamel seeks to be accessible and inclusive. A disabled toilet has been built into the premises. Rosely wants to know if it’s right. She wants to listen to anyone who can tell her how to improve things so the club becomes more and more a thing for everyone, a place for a community to grow. Support it.

In the spirit of inclusivity, I have been offered the Karamel space for 6 weeks later in the year. I want to hang works by our artists on the walls, I want people to use the performance space, I want to host talks and put on workshops that reveal our lives, our world to this keen to learn community. If you are interested in participating drop me a line on my other blog;

Posted by Rich Downes, 1 March 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 2 March 2012

Chatting to A Chugger 3 - An Occasional Series

For me the biggest word that comes out of the social model is responsibility. We all need to be responsible for change. In what ways can we be responsible? This is for you to answer for yourself but one way I do it is to chat with chuggers. A chugger is someone who collects for charity out on the street. The word is a composite of charity and mugger. I think it works well. The more time you spend talking to them the less they collect. The less they collect the less they work, the less they work the more likely they are likely to end up doing unpaid work at Tesco’s.

Some are really happy to talk to you. Some think the more they talk to you the more likely they are to persuade you to drop the cash. Some are very cocky. Happy to spread the bullshit round – either that or believes in the product. These are the best to talk to. They collect nothing for the time and seconds spread to minutes, to half hours and longer. It’s a good thing to do and represents a strong test for your tolerance levels which incidentally is not included in the all work test.

The chat I had with this next chugger found someone barely forthcoming. She was standing on the corner by a local supermarket. She had this kind of clown, harlequin outfit on. I happened to have a digital camera in my pocket. I had specifically started carrying it for encounters with chuggers.

This was the chat:
“I think you are really colourful. Can I take your photo?”
“Thank you Sir”
“Who are you chugging for?”
“Disabled Children and Older People”
“Which organisation?”
“Families for Survival UK”
“Do you support people in the UK?”
“Yes and in other countries”
“Well I think you look great. Do you think it helps to chug if you dress up as something ridiculous?”
“I don’t know”.

 I found her answer to be very funny. I wonder if anyone else knows.

The first in a series called Chatting To A Chugger

The second can be found here:

I’m sure i have another one somewhere – maybe our conversation was too complex for me. I did mean to write it though!


Posted by Rich Downes, 21 February 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 22 February 2012

About Our Special Powers

 Richard Downes has a grouse at Tempo House and wonders what your powers are.

"Winston Churchill had a speech imp-p-p-pediment
And look what he did
He razed half of London"

Currently my favourite lyric. I've caught it every time its come round on the The Fall's 'Perverted By Language' LP. I've actually got it on CD, but if i say LP you'll get more of an understanding about how ancient i remain. The small i too - that's a dead give away. Let us talk more of the small i one day. Though some day. Cos time slips by you know and then one day we are all gone. And we didn't get time to discuss the small i. So, i promise; 1 day.

Why do i favour this line at present? It speaks to me of so much. Winston was such a hero wasn't he. I'm not sure if i remember his funeral. I remember the death and i remember seeing the newsreels go round on repeat for an eternity. Was it him or Shakespeare who won the honour of Brit of the millennium? 12 years ago; already. Anyway he scored higher than my choice. So, he must have been someone, somewhere, some time. Big enough and famed enough for me not to have to google him.

"Please don't tell me any more about the war daddy"

That was my voice speaking falsehoods. Dad never told me about the war. It was too much for him. I put it on the back burner of his mind and went off to get scalded at work. He was a good man my dad. I hold nothing against him. I feel for his silence. I got mine from him 2. I am thinking that we have been led to believe that my generation was the first one not to want what our parents had. I don't know if that's true.

Winston had a speech impairment did he? Well, I never knew that. I knew the old black dog came by to bark every now and then but this man held up for oration and Horatios had a speech impairment 2. Shall i put him into my personal pantheon of heroes now we share a hesitation or 3. Nah!!!! Don't think so.

But, I will give him credit for his twisted powers. He razed half of London. Sorry but i think that's well funny. It's another lie. But an interesting and thoughtful take and this is where the redolence comes in. I 2 have a speech impairment and i have been invested in super powers courtesy thereof.

Walking through Handsworth one day..... one day, very early, just as the night was shaking off, the dew was taking hold and a big red orb was arising - a fitting advent for the power to come - when a hand alighted on my shoulder and i span round to find Sergeant Slow Heavy Walk drawling about who i was and where i came from (like i didn't know that 1). A purple haze buzzed in my head from the short time previous when i'd been practicing illegal rituals with Rizz and record sleeves. Though i knew the blue line's answers i couldn't get them out and struggled and struggled until an eventually when the Sarge said; "Only you've just walked past a murder but it couldn't have been you because my brother in law's got a stammer and he's a nice bloke". Lovely. That's good innit. Either i can't speak and that makes me a charmer or i can't speak and get away with murder.

Would love to understand and know your powers from impairment. Would like to take the time to stop and wonder about the generations of our people who have passed on, who are here now, who are yet to come and get an answer to the question how long our magic powers will wax and wane.

Posted by Rich Downes, 10 February 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 27 February 2012

A Cracking Carol

Richard Downes takes a family day out to share a favourite club with others and to make lasting relationships in the arts

Scene 1: The Past. A room in Tottenham. Summer. A long, long time ago. Franz Shealey, then a lip reader is watching Phil Sherman speak. He asks; "What is your favourite story?" Fran replies' "A Christmas Carol". "Wow!!!! That's mine too", reposts Phil. Immediately, Fran and Phil; the clown and mime artist respectively behind children's theatre company Booster Cushion Theatre set about creating their own unique version of Dicken's famous tale.

Scene 2: The Present. The Karamel Club, Wood Green. A family day out. My wife and I (that sounds so regal) want to introduce the Tarpey family to the club; a place that has become more and more important to us as a site for friendship, food, entertainment and exposure to the arts. I especially want to introduce, James Tarpey, a young drama student, to Phil's wild take on the story. Phil offers children the chance to brag and joke with that old card Scrooge through the use of pop up books, humbugs, mime, voice and sign language. Booster strive to be inclusive to all ages. I watch the show with a smile but am more happy to note that all my guests sit wholly entranced.

Scene 3: Later in what was then the future. I set up an interview between Phil and James. I had an idea about the meeting of generations akin to an old NME interview where then young mod, Paul Weller met old  mod Pete Townsend. We would use quotes and titles from The Jam and The Who. I might ask James how do you think he does it and hopefully James would say more than I don't know. But it didn't work out like that. We simply explored past, present, and future. Phil was as helpful and friendly as could be. James more than held his own as you will see in a later featured interview.

But first more on the Karamel Club. It's a part of the Chocolate Factory in Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22. Its run by Rosely Funari, Phil's wife. Rosely also acts as an ideas person and is first point of call for people wanting to book this useful space for whatever reason. Its primary function is to run as a hub for local artists and connoisseurs. Chef Ian's food makes it more than this. It is somewhere to drop in to, a place to enjoy. The walls are usually full of art to buy. A small, inaccessible stage allows for music nights and comedy nights. Booster Cushion Theatre are aiming to play there once a month to show a broad retrospective of its work. Until now the Karamel Club has been one of London's hidden treasures. Watch it take off!

Posted by Rich Downes, 1 February 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 15 November 2012

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 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

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:

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 17 January 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 26 January 2012