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Raising A Glass To The Next 50 Years of Jimmying

On October 13th 2012 I read that Penny Pepper was appearing at StorySLAM:Live on the
south bank. It's theme "your five-minute story around the theme of '50', as WE celebrate the 50th Koestler Trust Award anniversary". I imagined myself a slammer and this came out.

50 years of jimmy in the kids home
50 years more in special school
50 years again detained at her majesties pleasure
50 years pleasuring the unpleasant
A further 50 adding to all the 50's in all the world
Until old, battered and beaten with the old folks

Stoke Mandeville
Leeds General
Haute De La Gareene
Duncroft Approved School
Broadmoor
The names of places change

Disabled People
Sick People
Children
Vulnerable young adults
People with mental health issues
The range of people change

What stays the same over time
50 years of Jimmy
500 years of  Jimmies
5000 more
Abuse remains the same
Removal of rights remains the same
Indignities barely imagined, the same
The same
The same
The Shame

Whose shame?
The perpetuators?
The safe guarders?
The police
The moral guardians?
All these named

Whilst we suvivors
Hang our heads
Fret
Self harm
Die
through our shame
our hate
and disgust
at all those who did it
they who failed
who cried with crocodiles
too late
too bad
too harmful
too shamed

And yet we look outside
Inside on our tv screens
Listening to the radio
Reading papers and magazines
we know it happens
we wait for it to happen again
and stand idly by
leaving the institutions open
ineffective inspections
weak regulation
uncaring, not that greatly bothered
by all the old
all the young
sick
disabled
vulnerable

its not me
not my problem
read about it
talk about it
say wasn't he awful
that jimmy
this jimmy
those jimmies
its them
not me
not us

Posted by Rich Downes, 13 October 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 15 November 2012

Touched by the hand of Jimmy Savile

 A response from a member of the We All Shot Pudsey Bear facebook group invited to the Burn Pudsey Friday event suggested that we should target the beeb for direct action.

This has been done before and it is not the first call that i've heard for the same. I've never felt able to lead in this way but i've been thinking about things and I am wondering what the interest and commitment would be like.

My first thought was maybe we could add that sad olympic mascot Mandeville to the burning pyres. From this I wondered if we are missing a trick given the Savile outcry.

Some things seem clear to me:

  • Disabled Activists correctly promote the social model
  • In doing so we sometimes criticise the tragedy model

We make a link between having no equality and the involvement of charities of disabled people in preserving the status quo, presuming to speak for us when we can speak for ourselves, and the investment that is made in them at the expense of under funded Disabled People's Organisations (DPO's).

So it is that a part of our modern movement was made at telefon when we opposed the media and successfully closed it down.

In addition to this we are told that Jimmy Savile was saintly for raising funds for charities. We are hearing that he used his links with charity, the media and care institutions including Stoke Mandeville to perpetuate gross indecencies on our people and others. We hear that institutions were even complicit in this and provided rooms and accommodation where these venal acts were carried out. We are hearing of people in the employ of some institutions, particularly the beeb who knew or suspected that this was going on and they did nothing as this was just the way things were; the dominant culture that prevailed.

We know that abuse is fairly common in institutions regardless of the level of that abuse
We know that abusers actively target good works in the community as a means of reaching their targets and we may not be surprised to one day find out that this includes celebrities who embarrass themselves on the night of Burn Pudsey Friday which coincides with the Children In Need telefon.

We also know that the current economic climate is penalising disabled people. We feel that we are being driven back into the arms of the same charities that have let us down throughout our history. We know that the rights to independence that we fought so hard to achieve through our Free Our People and Civil Rights campaigns are retroactive and some local authorities are proposing institutionalised care as a solution. We instinctively believe it is only a matter of time before the next big abuse scandal hits.

So what do we do about it? Do we call for direct action? Are we capable of making the links between charities, institutionalised care and abusers? Should we still be speaking up for the social model, independent living and against cuts to services?

Should we pressurise celebs who are appearing not to do so until the beeb cleans up its act?
If so who can we rely on to man the barricades? Who is up for it and how are you going to organise?
Replies to this blog would be much appreciated
Given the presumed importance of this blog I have reprinted in my own blog to aid circulation

Posted by Rich Downes, 12 October 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 12 October 2012

EMPOWERMENT

Once upon a time on a wode tip at Shepherds Bush Empire, Arch Drude Julian Cope said; "The most empowering thing I ever heard was you know". And you know what? After a moments reflection - I did. I know. What? Everything. When? Now. Where? Everywhere. How so? Just so. There is no need for me to ask because I know.

Watching Magical Mystery Tour, the arena show, on BBC TV IPlayer I caught sight of the attached manipulated image. It has someone carrying a placard in front of a policeman and it reads "You Don't Know". But I do. So who doesn't? Someone doesn't and i'm fingering that someone as you, the public, and you, the establishment. And what you don't know is very important. I know it so; why don't you?

And what is that something that I know. I know what it is to be a disabled person. I know what its like to  live in a culture of your threats Mr Politician and your stupidity Mrs Public. It alarms me to the point of death that you don't know what is going on, that you haven't understood what your discrimination is all about,that you won't be responsible for  it, that you have ignored and reneged on our rights, that the lessons we have taught you in history haven't stuck and I know in the face of this long time cultural oppression that the paralympics have not made a jot of difference.

And so it is that i write this note called empowerment, because you're not giving it. You only give disempowerment and that is where my responsibility stops for now.

What are you going to do about it. I know. You don't Know. Think about it.

Posted by Rich Downes, 10 October 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 10 October 2012

My Bed - A Thought Provoked by Trish Wheatley's Description of Liz Crow's Forthcoming Exhibition

I always enjoyed my bed
The time that I spent there.
Ill or not
There was a time it was central
Located near everything
The Tea Pot
The records
The player
Adornments of a life
In Bedsit land
People would come visit
Sit around the bed
The bed that I would stay in
Two friends
Left me there one night
and let me sleep
before leaving
I felt blessed by their kindness
But my bed has
a longer history than that
For many years it was just
a staging post
between falling asleep
and working
Short hours spent there then
A place for different company
More than friends
Loves.
I love my bed again
now when not working
But the location is less central
Further away
from the tea pot and the records and the player
Adornments of a life
that has changed
taken on different significance
growth
and fall
My bed
keeps me warm
keeps me safe
enables care
and caring
for my love
who loves
my bed
we share

Posted by Rich Downes, 9 October 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 10 October 2012

Historical dates

UK Disability History Month logo

Tomorrow Tuesday: Nabil Shaban celebrates John Lennon's Birthday on 9th October by launching on Kindle the original first draft and performance draft of his play 'I am the Walrus'. Nabil introduces the event as: "The world believes Mark Chapman killed John Lennon... but Broadmoor psychiatric patient, Charlie Markham, a little man in a wheelchair, knows he, Charlie was the real killer, even though he was Lennon's 'Number One Fan'.

These drafts date back to 2001 when Nabil Shaban, disabled actor and writer, was commissioned by Robert Rae of Theatre Workshop Scotland to write and perform a one-person play for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival about the death of Lennon, called 'I am the Walrus'.

Fictitious character, Charlie really believes he was responsible for John Lennon’s death… i.e. he inhabited Mark Chapman’s body and made him go out and kill his former idol. However, this psychotic notion of Charlie’s is just a smokescreen for the awful truth that he had in fact murdered his mother, which he is unable to come to terms with and therefore is in denial.

At the end of the play, his idol, the ghost (or hallucination) of John Lennon arrives and tries to coax Charlie into admitting the matricide, as this will help to put him on the road to recovery. 'I am the Walrus' is a drama dealing with issues of disability, specifically, feeling victimized and persecuted for being a disabled child... thus the proposal will appeal to many disabled adults".

This Wednesday is World Mental Health Day. World Mental Health Day (10 October) is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy. It was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.

This day, each October thousands of supports come to celebrate this annual awareness program to bring attention to Mental Illness and its major effects on peoples' life worldwide.In some countries this day is part of the larger Mental Illness Awareness Week. An interesting highlight may be activist Lynn Harrison's radio slot from 6-7pm on West Craven Radiowhich you can hear live on westcravenradio.com. Enjoy.

 

Finally, the theme for this year’s Disability History Month will be 'Changing Lives, Changing Times: Challenging the ideas that lead to hate crime'. There are some interesting events planned, which will explore the considerable changes that disabled people have faced throughout history. They will also be looking at the origins of hate crime and the impact it has on people with disabilities today.

A pre-launch event is happening with Leeds University on *Wednesday 17 October*, 2-4pm at Cockburn School, Parkside, Gipsy Lane, Beeston, Leeds, LS11 5TT. This will showcase a groundbreaking project which uses musical theatre to take disability history into secondary schools.

They are also planning the official launch for UKDHM 2012 on evening of Thursday
22nd November in Central London at the Abbey Centre, Great Smith Street London SW1. More information will follow shortly, but expect thought provoking speakers, entertainment and a showcase of an exciting new UKDPC project of disability murals.

Disability History Month creates an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of disabled people’s struggles against discrimination and oppression in the wake of the highly successful Parlympics when public attitudes shifted. UKDHM allows the challenging of traditional stereotypes of disabled people and forms a strong platform to argue against discrimination and inequality for disabled people in the UK.

For more information www.ukdisabilityhistorymonth or 02073592855 or info@ukdisabilityhistorymonth.com

 

Posted by Rich Downes, 8 October 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 9 October 2012

Welcome To the 5th Annual Burn Pudsey Friday

cartoon of a yellow bear with a spotty bandage and a smile - with a gun pointing at its head

The We All Shot Pudsey Bear Facebook Group started its Burn Pudsey Friday Event five years ago. It always coincides with The Children In Need telefon event and so if nothing else saves us from watching crap tv with crap celebs doing crap things. So if you are looking for something to do on 16th Novemeber 2012.....

Historically the page started when Clare Lewis sent me a picture of Pudsey with a bullet wound, a gun and the slogan 'I Shot Pudsey Bear'.  I found this extremely funny - though its violent content has been much criticised. The picture was used on the page but one of our younger members decided that Pudsey should be feeling sad about this and his manipulation has been used ever since.

Clare and I had a shared experience of being Danners. One of my first actions with DAN, The Disabled People's Direct Action Network was outside the BBC Centre, White City. Some of us used tickets acquired by Nick Saunders to get into the studio and chant Rights Not Charity at Terry Wogan and Gaby Roslyn. I remember Sue Elsgood and Rachel Salmon being there. We were evicted. Burn Pudsey Friday came out of this event.

Marisha Bonar and Dave Lupton have been great supporters of this event, participating and cocntributing images to the facebook page. I have celebrated it myself with the aforementioned Nick and Adrian Wyatt helping me to burn what Marisha calls 'the little yellow bastard'.

What i really wanted to hear about was disabled people getting together, saving their fireworks and bonfires for this event. The idea of sociability and solidarity figured pretty big in my head at the time. I figured that the event could be celebrated individually too and just the idea of disabled people burning Pudsey across the country would conjure a sense of solidarity.

Don't buy a pudsey to burn. That would be to contribute to a cause I don't believe in. Previous burners have used other bears and put a sling across his unblind eye. I usually print the bear out on a piece of A4. I've found it doesn't burn well but, if you buy a newspaper that usually discriminates against minorities, that will usually help him to burn really well. Last year I bought the Express and tore out pages that showed discriminatory views or charity adverts or tragedy model messages and just burned them. The evidence is on the facebook page.

Did it have an impact. Well, DPAC became really direct in taking action this year putting law breaking above and beyond simple theatre so maybe the wishes that went up with that smoke meant something to someone.

Are there other ways to celebrate burn Pudsey Night. You bet there are. Some have suggested direct action. I wonder if any cinema franchises support Pudsey. What would happen if we all went to watch a film together. Its a case of choosing your targets i guess. But having said that doing anything, messing with your imagination, puttiung some art out there. Whatever, its your call. No pressure.

Posted by Rich Downes, 1 October 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 2 October 2012

Chatting to A Chugger 4

We are walking through a busy Camden High road, too wrapped up in each other to notice the people funneling around the chugger so it is we find ourselves face to face with the garroulous scottish one.

"You ever heard of Battersea Dogs Home?"
"Yes"
"Are you english?"
"No"

I am english. Its just sometimes that when people ask me direct yes no questions i alternate my answers. Its fun to see how long it takes people to cotton on that i'm playing with them. never thought i'd get the chance to do it with a chugger but it might be usefull to bear it mind in future.

"Then i'm sorry but i can't ask you for money"
"What?"
"I can only take account details from people resident here?"
"Really?"
"Yes"

Better stop this now before he gets to playing the yes no game with me. But what a great discovery.

Weeks latter I'm in a pub watching the football and relating this tale to one of the bar staff. he is well impressed but finds it a little dubious. Money is money. His australian assistant confirms this. It has happened to her too. Suddenly we are engaged with the thought of developing two armies of anti-chuggers. The yes no army that plays them along and sees how far they can go and the phoney foreign accent army who wish to spend less time with them.

Can we recruit you? 

Posted by Rich Downes, 26 September 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 2 October 2012

Katherine Arianello's Sick

Sick

Follow the link to Sick to get good earthy you tube exposure to Katherrine Arianello - a video that she feels is on the edge, a video that she feels some discomfort with, a video that gives a message that may be misunderstood by some. A mighty risk.

'I am sick. I am disabled'. on the one hand we operate in a culture that seeks to minimise the impact of out impairments on ourselves. On the other we collectively celebrate our difference without necessarilly understanding what that difference is. 

Katherine highlights aspects of her own diversity here. This might appal some. Though why it would is beyond me.

For me the joy here is in spite of being Sick there is a deep well of humour that is best seen by her wheels spinning around in a hospital corridor whilst the text calls for fun and dancing.

Enjoy!

Posted by Rich Downes, 13 September 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 14 September 2012

More Yoko - No 7. A Maze In Room

At last; the time and space to do my last piece on Yoko's To The Light exhibition. I've been 3 or 4 times now. All pieces but this one was based on the first visit when i could not face down a moster called FEAR in spite of the instruction on the back wall 'Be grand', despite of the fact that I know a secret that would have helped.

 

In this room Yoko has constructed a maze made out of perspex. I know what awaits me in the metaphorical centre - myself. But that's not what i'm afraid of. I sit on a small white stool or table and watch other people smiling as they go around, listening to the loud thud when they bump into the barriers they cannot see. I sit and wait. Will I go in - can I? No i can't. What am I afraid of? Humiliation at being seen unable to find my way around. No. I've told you I know a secret. The secret of how to find my way around a maze and how to get out again. A young Australian told me the secret and it works. I think my fear is more about being seen at all. I've always had that. I used to wear a hat with a brim that I would pull over my eyes thinking if I can't see anyone then no one can see me. It worked. It mean't I could go to the town centre. It was completely stupid of course because it mean't everyone would see me but it did not impinge on my belief.

 

I wouldn't mind invisibility. I think, if i didn't talk about it, write about it, I could be a really successful invisible artist. Something as changed within me. Back in the 80's I couldn't put my name to anything. I thought I was the best writer in the world then and my name was Anon. I'd written some great fables as you will well know. Poems too. They all carried my name then.... Anon. Now, i'm Richard Downes and I write for DAO and sometimes I really fret about what i'm going to say and how it will be received. I trust my words. I don't trust how people will read them. This curse of being visible, of having to be heard.... i've cracked some of it but, there is no way i'm going into that maze.

 

On my last visit I made it. Jean was with me. She was on her first visit. She had no fear about going into the maze. She went in first. I purposely went another way knowing that i was safe with the secret. She looked back and saw me walking away and turned to follow me. I had to turn back and go past her. I could basically run with the secret and Jean would struggle to catch me. This was fun. We were laughing. We got to the centre which is not a centre. Its off to the side; fact fans. I sent Jean in to find herself first. She seemed a little apprehensive about me letting her past. She didn't find herself because of it. I had to take her back in. She found herself. I found myself. My isn't that wonderful. No it isn't but its OK.

 

We came out. I had to pass a stranger. That was a little harder. There's not a lot of space in here. Tight bends. Not accessible. If you pass someone you have to at least acknowledge them. Say hello or smile. But it was OK. I was still having fun and now I know another secret. Turning on the fun beats fear all the time.

 

Thanks Yoko for the fun and the inspiration that gave me seven pieces from one exhibition. I really liked almost all of it.

Posted by Rich Downes, 3 September 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 3 September 2012

Paralympic Censorship

Following on from the perceived protests by Team GB at the opening of the paras and the actual protests at the Closing of ATOS Ceremony by DPAC and UK Uncut it seems relevant to demand the truth.

 

Was there a protest or not? Could it be that Team GB were the only team that could not cope with wearing lanyards in the wind? Was there a sudden pandemic of collective amnesia within the ranks? Are we the only nation on earth that doesn't know how to dress properly?

 

It certainly appears that Team GB Officials want and expect us to believe that proud achievers, who are committed to the uniform of the patriot want us to believe the pathetic excuses being peddled out. Does this undermine the team? Does this explain our slow start in climbing the medals table (we were fifth when i wrote this - way below expectations). Are team administrators largely non disabled? Is there a glass ceiling that frustrates our team?

 

If there was a protest does this even point to immaturity within the olympic/paralympic movement in insisting on contracts that prevents the expression of political opinion and a lack of freedom both within speech and movement. Are the authorities impairing rights through the design of organisational barriers. If so isn't this an attack on the very hope that we are encouraged to believe in, that attitudes towards disability will change. Do the authorities patronise us to the extent that they keep us in the position of children who it is ok to see but not to hear?

 

In the aftermath of this it comes as no surprise that an official spokesperson for an apparent democratic government (one not voted for)  says; "It's disappointing that a small number of organisations are protesting against sponsorship of the paralympic games". The word 'small' indicating the lack of importance attached to disabled people's opinions. And does it come as any surprise that the arch pragmatist that is Lord Coe should turn yet another covered eye to a perceived problem by stating; "I am pleased they (ATOS) are here. They are helping us".

 

Indeed in a strange twist of fate the only respectors of protest are ATOS who quite rightly say; "we fully respect people's right to peacefully protest and we understand this" (the legalised impoverishment of a large minority group), "is a highly emotive issue".

 

I therefore unilaterally demand that we free our athletes by seeking to unearth the truth. Toachieve this I call on the royal/celebrity perogative and call on friends of the athletes to talk to the press.

Posted by Rich Downes, 2 September 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 2 September 2012

The Paralympics - Reinforcing Attitudes Towards Disability

I boycotted the Olympics because of the involvementof ATOS. I was going to boycott the Paras for the same reason only listening to friends and adding my own prejudices I added Dow, McDonalds and Coca Cola to the mix.

Then I started to change my mind. Someone said the fourth principle of the Paras is equality. I can support that. Then articles on access started to appear in the press and media. Even Disabled People Against Cuts and other activists groups began to get a mention. I can go with all this. Maybe the paras were going to be a good thing after all.

My vacillation on this point took another turn. The Paras were going to change attitudes towards Disabled People forever. I felt uneasy with that. Certainly the promotion of the Super Human wasn't to my taste. It chimed with the other thing that the fourth estate had been so careful to avoid but which had now started to ring out loud and clear. Specialness, bravery, courage, overcoming tragedy, extraordinary achievement in the face of insurmountable odds, were all mentioned as luvvies took to the stage. What's David Beckham doing on that advert? What's all that about? Suddenly the tragedy model was - the old way of seeing Disabled People - the ingrained attitude; had become prominent again.

I'm turning away from the Paras again now but i'm hoping for better stuff still. What will swing it for me one way or the other. I went out last night to see a movie. I missed most of the opening ceremony but i was up for catching what was left of it at a friends house where a party to watch the ceremony was in full swing. I arrived in time for the march of the athletes - a boring parade of waving, fist pumping, gurning Crips that received the following comments from the gathered flippant, jovial guests:

  • "Who let that one out?
  • What's that one going to do? They certainly won't be doing the hop, skip and juimp without legs
  • Look at that
  • What a shame
  • What a mong
  • Spot the looney"

Except there are not going to be any Mental Health Service Users. They do not participate in the games. If i recall the history of the Paras correctly, People with Learning Disabilities were banned because of the ease with which non Disabled People iinvaded this category and left countries open to accusations of cheating. And what of Deaf People? 

So, now i'm feeling Super Human my backside. This is no more than the passage of the Super Freak - an elite determined by an eligibility of criteria based on impairment - 'the deserving disabled'.

What could possibly be worse than this but the sudden appearance of David Cameron, sitting close to Wills whose brother had nominated a carrier of the torch because of heroics in Afganistan (still potentially an illegal war that goes about its daily grind of impairing people). Yes that Cameron, the one who had appointed ATOS to get Disabled People off benefits, the one who fails to take action against ideas expressed on all sides of the house and on all sides of the media that Disabled People are really no better than work shy scoungers who really need to be left without an income until they find a job in a society that freely discriminates against us. The same Cameron who is cutting services to Disabled People. Only on this day hadn't I advocated for someone who had her care provision cut from 210 hours per week to 35.

Now my mind is made up. I'm with DPAC, Black Triangle, UK Uncut, Social Welfare Union. These games are not going to change attitudes. They are going to reinforce them. Get a job Scounger. The Super Humans can do this. Why can't you do that?

Posted by Rich Downes, 30 August 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 1 September 2012

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 6 - Engaging with the Medical Model

The room has four walls. One leading outside is full of windows. No art stands there. The other three walls hold a collection of photos in horizontal line. Each of the photos are the same as the one before. It is a blurred photo. Probably a portrait of a man who wears glasses. It is hard to tell. The piece is called Vertical Memory and is dated 1997. But you said it's a horizontal line and its called vertical. Why is that?

Each photo represents an event in life. In life we grow tall - well, some of us do. We grow upwards. The movement is vertical. We stand against a wall and have our inches marked off for us as children. Yoko is marking off something else entirely. As she grows she grows in line with medical and caring interventions. It is these that are marked out horizontally as she herself grows towards the sky.

There are three main characters. Care attendants, Priests and Doctors. Don't be surprised to find holy men conspiring with your death within the medical model. Who else will administer those last rites.

Yoko didn't like the care attendant, Shosi, who held her hand on the walk to school. She found his attendance an embarrassment. Her preference was for freedom. Later, in wartime, in penury, malnourished, feeling faint and next to fever a doctor tells her to close her eyes. He bends over her. She feels uncomfortable. The medic kisses her. These are portents for the medical model. Confinement, threats, abuse. Then there begins a list of removals. Appendix, tonsils, wisdom teeth. The list that is taken never seems to meet with gifts that are given back. A psychiatrist enters the room. Yoko has a real problem. She is not dating. She should be dating. Her value is found in matrimony. I am guessing there is a cultural imperative here. Dating is normal. Not dating is time to call the doctor.

More is taken. Yoko's tale is told in part by failure to deliver a child too. She miscarries, she has abortions. Is it Life With The Lions or The Wedding Album that records a foetus heartbeat prior to another miscarriage. Do you hear the heartbeat playing in the gallery, or the hawk, are you praying for or circling over Syria and all the children dying there today, the mothers who will not deliver, the partners who will not share fruit. Yoko records the birth of a son and daughter.

Interestingly 4 artists appear. They do not differ at all from those engaged in the model under discussion here. Are they working within the professions or is it their values that are the same. Is it about unkindness, cruelty, invasion, removal, disrespect. I must return one day to read the words applied here.

Towards the end Yoko refuses to take a last confession from a priest and whilst a doctor might close her eyes at the end as in the beginning Yoko protests you cannot take my mind and of cause remembers all the beds she laid in during this horizontal record railing at the last; "What percentage of my life did I take it lying down?"

And of cause this blog should end there with dissatisfaction and protest but I remain male and must have the last word. It always struck me as somewhat fallacious that the social model would be railed against by feminists on the grounds that it was constructed by men. I never understood the criticism that the social model failed to encompass pain. It was my feeling that the model could cover all and speak of everything. I have tested this model on the grounds of race and believe that it could and should apply to age. It will guide me the more steps I take into that sphere. I never thought to test gender against the other models. But Yoko has taken me there as a woman speaking to a man.

In front of the windows 5 exhibits: A Family Album demarcated by High Heel Shoes, A Letter and Envelop, A Coathanger, Thread and Needle and A Mind Box. Bronze sculptures covered in blood (well red paint). It strikes me now that these pieces belong with the memory. The coathanger is bent out of shape to act as forceps or abortion machinery.

What was in the letter who was it from? How much did she bleed after the event? How would the needle and thread be used and what was in the mind box that it should bleed so profusely now?

I want to open it. They won't let me. I find myself before it considering my own anger and my own sense of loss. I find myself more moved today, all these weeks after the event, by the composition within the four walls but I was more moved by the box on the day than i can imagine now. Its funny that.

 

Posted by Rich Downes, 26 July 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 27 July 2012

The Revolution Starts Here - Just As It Started There Before

Can I get something off my chest please.

I just don't like the sub heading being used by the Southbank to push Unlimited. I don't like it so much my mind refuses to capture it but I think its; "The Revelation Starts Here...".

I don't like it because it sounds a little bit holy moly for my taste. Its biblical man.

Anybody else here remember the campaigns against Maurice Cerrulo and the like. Healers. Pah!!! It strikes me as being almost anti disabled people.

And this is so sad and I'll tell you why.

Its taken from a quote which is on the wall of the Spirit Level (Royal Festival Hall). It says something like; The revelation starts here.... we want a fully inclusive society for everyone.

That's real good. That's better. That fits. Makes sense to me.

The revelation is now clear. When we say we want a better world for disabled people we are saying we want a better world for everyone.

Hallelujah!!!!

Posted by Rich Downes, 18 July 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 19 July 2012

Get stuck into Karamel Music for the last time this season

Rosely Funari is manager of the Karamel Club and she is is very serious. Every time she talks to me she talks to me about Disability Issues. I listen to her, she tells me what she is doing and then I buy a drink.

Her latest pride other than employing a disabled person is the new ramp and an access audit that says other than the gap between bars the loo is accessible.

She is so serious she won't even turn on the glitter ball because she was asked to turn it off once. I'm teasing her about turning it back on and she said she might next time unless someone asks for it tobe turned off because of an impairment issue. Rosely Funari is one of the many reasons i love the Karamel Club.

Another reason is the Karamel Music Club Nights. Free Music from Chris Sheehan's collective. An attentive crowd. Ian's very reasonably priced food. The mix of politicos and artists. Next time around, wednesday 25th January Chris is showcasing his mate Chris Difford from Squeeze, Norman Lovett from Red Dwarf and Kate Threlfall - for all i know probably a new act who excited Chris one night he was out on the town.

Oh and there is currently a great exhibition of Andrew Wiard's photos showing off all the best direct actions of the last 40 years, across the political spectrum.

Its a good line up. I'm going.  Rosely is very serious. She wants cheering up. Go tell her you like her ramps and toilets and to turn the glitter ball on.

Posted by Rich Downes, 17 July 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 19 July 2012

More Yoko No 5 - Heaven and Earth

Health and Safety Alert!!!!!

John met Yoko at the Indica Gallery. He climbed a letter to find a word that said YES. He was so pleased it wasn't anything negative and therein lies the roots of a love story.

It will never be repeated at the Serpentine for policies are used to stop you climbing the ladder. It strikes me that the ladder has a place between heaven and earth that some of us would prefer to have replaced by a ramp and why not.

It further strikes me that in this place there exist a number of references to the distances that lie between the earth and sky. Yoko manipulates them, inverts them, continues to have fun with them. This is the scope of her environment and ours. What can you do in this space?

 In the second chamber I find 'A Painting To Be Stepped On'. Yoko instructs; "Leave a piece of canvas or finished painting on the floor or in the street". Is the cut out canvas in front of me the original from winter 1960? If so how many times has it been stepped on, how many footprints has it borne. The piece looks like no more than a discarded rag. It is dispensable but it holds the history of all those who ever stood upon it - their pasts and their futures.

I feel nervous before it. I am challenged to respect it and walk around it or to respect it even more by putting my foot upon it. I choose. I plant my foot on the thinnest strip. It takes the full length of my big left foot but cannot sustain the width. I remove my foot. I am reminded how much I like to be grounded, have both feet upon the earth. I am more inclined to be here than in the sky, but admit that I sometimes dream of flying. I am reminided of a Laurie Anderson song: "everytime we take a step we are falling." Perhaps there is a point when we are flying too.

I put my foot back on the thin bit. It feels as if it is in a different place. I feel the gap between the canvas and the floor. It is small but it feels dangerous. There is no great distance to fall. I also feel previleged. I stand on a canvas cut apparently with japanese motifs which I am unable to recognise. I am challenged again. Do I invade another country in my actions. This limp old rag bit of canvas confounds me.

Other heaven and earth pieces exist here as I have said. I will not review the 13 upturned helmets which contain pieces of the sky, I will not comment on the 3 mounds of earth from different countries; say anything more about the ladder, or the card on the floor saying this is the ceiling; nor the card on the ceiling saying this is the floor.

And neither will I reflect on the potato cut game played with John and Yoko's feet that are now turned to show them walking together to the sky. I do wonder however; how much more time I will spend with More Yoko.

Posted by Rich Downes, 13 July 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 14 July 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

More Yoko No 3 - Move It

It is a long walk from Tottenham Court Road Tube to the Serpentine Gallery. Made harder by an unusually hot summer's day. I wander whilst I wonder and wonder whilst I wander. Mostly I'm wondering am I going the right way. I've passed the Serpentine before. It's over there somewhere. It does seem a long way and a long time wandering. The new building surrounded by workmen's boundaries confuses further. I plod on wondering why I never depend on maps when I should and why it always comes good in the end.

 

Somehow I am behind the Serpentine. Yoko's Chess Piece is in front of me.  A public installation. An all white board with all white pieces. Children play with it. Obeying the ancient instruction to play with trust and joy. Father watches son carry a king by his sceptre and a queen by her crown, simultaneously removing both from the board. Surely that's not allowed. The remaining white king and queen stand where they started - unmoved; not attacking, nor like the england football team forever in defence, never making moves. In chess white moves first. It is a convention. But which of the 32 whites, which side, and why is the straight, traditional formation being kept.

 

Indeed, how do you play this game. The board is white. The pieces are not constrained by squares. There is no reason why they should move in the accepted way. How do you enter a contest here? How to compete? Remove the barriers. Change the rules. What happens?

 

I want this to go even further now. Change the shape of the board. Make it circular. Change the shape of the pieces. Why should this even be chess? Stop this idea of taking. Play the game to mingle. Conjoin indistinct communities. Work the game away from war, battle.

 

Maybe its no longer about attack, winning, beating. Maybe shapes, shadows, and signs create new trusts, new joys. Look, king to pawn are fundamentally no different.  Castles are not neurotic, knights not psychotic, bishops not despotic. Status is gone. Movement is free. This is the nutopian ideal of the chess board. There are no countries, no passports, no flags.

 

 

"We announce the birth of a conceptual country, NUTOPIA.
Citizenship of the country can be obtained by declaration of your awareness of NUTOPIA.
NUTOPIA has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people.
NUTOPIA has no laws other than cosmic.
All people of NUTOPIA are ambassadors of the country.
As two ambassadors of NUTOPIA, we ask for diplomatic immunity and recognition in the United Nations of our country and its people.

Yoko Ono Lennon
John Ono Lennon

Nutopian Embassy
One White Street
New York, New York 10013
April 1st 1973"

The national anthem of NUTOPIA has no sound and only lasts 3 seconds. Its flag is white and cannot be seen against a cloudy, cumulus sky. Nutopia like the chess set cannot be invaded, nor beaten, only occupied by you and me. I have spent time in Nutopia. I have built a social model there. I have spent time in Nutopia. I have found rights there. I have spent time in Nutopia, no abuse, no hate crime there. Should you imagine Nutopia on an all white chess board what will you see there?

Posted by Rich Downes, 26 June 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 8 July 2012

More Yoko No 2 - Yoko v We All Shot Pudsey Bear

Yoko Ono, Planting Acorns, Bagism, Bed Ins, We All Shot Pudsey Bear, We Are Spartacus, DPAC, direct action

Walking down Oxford Street en route to the Serpentine it struck me that two things I respect may be incompatible.

 

Yoko's great campaign is for peace. She loves you. Single equality issues such as racism, feminism, ageism can be mollified through observance of the greater cause. Her tactic's have included planting acorns, bagism (against prejudice and stereotyping) bed in's for peace (protesting war, promoting peace). Her work is best seen as an opportunity to be included, involved. She creates dialogues between herself, her thoughts, her listeners, viewers, readers. You are presented with the choice to participate. You are asked to sing, dance and smile. She remains impish, full of fun and vigour and given the chance will help you think.

 

I created the We All Shot Pudsey Bear Facebook Group. Some of our members have complained about the violence inherent in our logo. This started when Danner, Clair Lewis, sent me a picture of Puds. A gun pointed at his cheek, a hole bled in his cheek. After a brief email exchange, full of good humour, I added the text. Later young Bryn Findlay Dykes reversed the bear's smile to make him look sad. I have never shot Pudsey with anything more than a camera and would suggest you also refrain from shooting him. I have however, burned 'the little yellow bastard' (Source: Marisha Bonar) as a part of our annual Burn Pudsey Friday event which always coincides with the Beeb's Children In Need. The event is designed to bring disabled people, wherever they are, together in opposition to the Telefon, to have fun, socialise, organise, spread the message about the inadequacies of the Tragedy Model. This year we will celebrate our fifth burning. Participants talk about the empowering aspects of working together or alone in this way. Some want more direct action. Some don't realise this, like some of Yoko's work; is direct action. We All Shot Pudsey bear shares the wish to include and gain involvement.

 

The incompatibility exists in the idea of violence within the image, the violence implied within  the event. My defence is its only a stuffed toy for god's sake. No one is saying kill the beast.

 

The importance of the comparison between Yoko and us, for me, is to question the strategies we use, encourage greater involvement and inclusion. Whatever happened to the ideas behind Cuddle Day. These ideas came about through criticism of We Are Spartacus for its treatment of a mental health service user. Criticisms continued on surface on a DPAC demo. As a danner, myself, I know we sometimes fail this test. What we gonna do about it whilst Yoko continues to do it?

 

Oh by the way, Yoko's charitable contributions tend to be to humanitarian courses and a repsonse to disasters.

Posted by Rich Downes, 25 June 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 26 June 2012

More Yoko No 1 - Sketches from my notebook

The thought of meeting Yoko Ono - as a New Voices Writer excited me. If it came to be - and it did not - what would my interest be?

Positive Activism.
The Tragedy Model
How to commit simple instructions as a way of overcoming personal tragedy
The experience of exclusion
The nature of segregation
Participation and inclusivity 

I will say more about Positive Activism in More Yoko No 2 - Yoko Versus We All Shot Pudsey Bear.

The Tragedy Model. "Depicts disabled people as victims of circumstance who are deserving of pity"

I have lived experiences of the Tragedy Model. So, has Yoko. The death of John being just one circumstance. Living through war, malnutrition, child kidnap, sexism, racism, the burden of believed to have broken up the Beatles (a false belief), miscarriage. Yet Yoko does not come over as pitied, feared, tragic but brave, etc. How did she survive? How did she get by? Was art intrinsic to survival?

Yoko has done many instruction pieces. Here she gives out an instruction. It is up to you if you follow it. It is up to you to experience and create from the instruction. How do you instruct yourself to survive tragedy. This is an example of an instruction piece. It comes from Revelations, part of 100 Acorns.

"Bless you for your fear, For it is a sign of wisdom. Do not hold yourself in fear".

The experience of exclusion. The British Press and Media did not welcome Yoko. Neither did fans of the Beatles and it seems the Beatles themselves had to learn to love her. As disabled People we live in a time where the barons of Fleet Street and government minsiters seem only to keen to lay the blame for all that is wrong in our society at our feet.

The nature of segregation. More from 100 Acorns

You are water
I’m water
We’re all water in different containers
that’s why it’s so easy to meet
someday we’ll evaporate together
But even after the water’s gone
we’ll probably point out to the containers
and say, “that’s me there, that one.”
We’re container minders 

Participation and Inclusivity. Just in case you haven't got it yet. You are a part of Yoko's art. You are a part of art. Art cannot work without your participation. the difference is that Yoko seeks to include you and leaves it for you to be included or not.

Given these areas of interest, how could I not be interested in the art of Yoko Ono?

Posted by Rich Downes, 24 June 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 25 June 2012

Ritual

Just wanted to write something quickly  about something i experienced last week. Our mate Ken mailed us inviting us to a ritual. Funny that.... our mate Ken.... only just started calling him that and it hits him with a frisson. On the one hand its nice, warm and means friendship. On the other hand its not a colloquialism he welcomes and demotes him from our teeacher - the maestro. For it was ken who took us through his course on Folkore, Mythology and Witchcraft. These interests are studied from a sociological perspective and Ken likes to be an insider. So it is we get field trips to ancient sites, do visualisation exercises, get turned on to folk music and dance, hear about rock n roll amongst the cunning folk and attend coven rituals.

 

Last weeks gig at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, a London home of the esoteric, fell to such an occasion.

 

Ken is a guest of the coven. Welcome when he wants to be there. He was excited to be given the role of Autumn Lord and wanted us to be there to experience and share it with him. This is one of his kindnesses which i tend to neglect. I treasure him for it here. And welcome the chance to reflect on the times he has asked me to either play Prince of Chaos (Halloween) or the internee of John Barclaycorn - deep in the woods at Lammas where no one can see him being murdered (not literally).

 

Anyway, a week early we found ourselves treated to a Summer Solstice Ritual. Later commenting on it and not being too pc, in the moment, i said it had all been a bit pouncey but i mean't thespy. Incredibly theatrical. Many players, many roles, Including the nobility designated to the quarters (hence, the Autumn Lord) welcoming in and saying farewell to the gods and elements of the compass points. A tableau is set before us from the circle. A crone becomes the earth mother goddess. Here isn't that sexist. Hopefully not in the context. The nobles vie for her hand. Autumn and Spring quickly lose out and Summer and Winter have a stand-off which given the time Summer wins. We dance a circle dance. The wheel spins on. We quaff ale and break bread before refusing the invite to dine as we prefer to go to the Dolphin for a quick half.

 

It was a good night. This week we have the solstice. Next week a barn dance. The old ways continue to call those who will listen. Me i can't be bothered. To join the gang i need to accept a divinity and get on a path and i'm too aetheist for that. Doesn't mean i can't play though

 

One thing it did remind of that fits here is the notion that only professionals can act as explored on DAO's facebook pages recently. The thing with this performance is some did it extremely well and some did it rather less well. Quality of performance did impact on the importance of it all.Still practice will make perfect.

Posted by Rich Downes, 18 June 2012

Last modified by Rich Downes, 18 June 2012

What could the Southbank's 'Festival Of the World' be to me and you and us and them?

I am here. You are there. Different, diverse, separate, apart. Can I share your world? Can you get into mine? I cannot speak for you. Except for those things we share. I cannot tell you what unless, in making this approach, I give you clues about what things I have myself.

Clues. Games. Treasure Hunts. Learning.

Sometimes in leaving my world I find other worlds I think I could make my world if I would give it a try. Snowdon. I look at the mountain range through a camera lens. I see it change everyday. Seasons, weather, light and dark. Steadfast stone changes. I cross moors and wonder if it effects the pressure on the point of a pen. I create perfectly ordered universes beneath the canvas of a tent, knowing how to make it safe.

On 31 May I saw the Southbank Centre as if for the first time. I want to make it home, a playground, a palette, a challenge. As a DAO New Voice I am privileged to attend a prestigious press launch of the Southbank's Festival of the World.

The 'p' word in that last sentence do not come easy to me on jubilee weekend with the terrors of noblesse oblige oppressing me - jarring at my jaw. I learn them afresh, awarding them different meanings. Everything can change. Excitement. I sit with writers I have probably read. I am with artists who have made the work I will see. My class consciousness isn't imprisoning me. I am not a slave to the social model. I fit here

Jude Kelly, Artistic Director stands in front of me. Sponsor rep, Paul Trueman, Head of Marketing, Mastercard, too. I fear not their status. Am not turned off by their words. They speak my language. They are no more than ordinary citizens of the world. Like me; they fit.

The lexicon of the festival is a thesaurus packed with surprise, imagination, dream, belief, principle. Propaganda is removed from a 50 year old festival. We were insular then and wanted to push out. Today we are open and want to embrace.

There is an environment here, much of it hidden, some of it used for the first time. More waits to be explored afresh. There are many workers, craftspeople, artists. Their commitment is to the expression of collective imaginations, inclusive communities. There is a freedom from inclusion that gives me/us the right to participate, the responsibility to look at this microcosm in all its richness, depth and glory, explore it and change it.

I wish to find an interned Bee, dig it up, release it. I might carry a spade next time I visit. I might be joking. I am obtuse. There are secrets here. There are things I will never know. Stuff I haven't said about me, words I have not heard from you. This is why I have to live here. I am curious. I must know. I must reveal. I must be responsive, understand my limits, descry the barriers that I was not able to traverse, express it to someone, be grown up about my position as a child of the festival of the world.

It is not going to be easy. Fitting will not be something I am able to do every minute of every day, but I love how this is organised, I applaud the spirit, the attitude and I was right all along about modern architecture and the environment it creates. I have to be here. I'd love for you to be here with me.

This is my hymn of praise. I am an atheist. There is much here I could knock down, turn my back on. Shit is shit, good or bad. My commitment is to what I can take, what I can learn, what I can build. Today I have no wish to destroy. I am encouraged and empowered. Come live with me. Bring your world to mine.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 6 June 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 8 June 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

Another Song In the Key Of Strife - The Misanthrope

I have no idea what the word misanthrope means - not what it actually means. It sounds like a combination of misery and strop. I think it describes someone who looks at humanity through a prism of misery, is unhappy with their world view, to the point that they go away and strop about it.

Driving through Somerset the other day, the car cd played 'Regeneration' (surely a positive word) by The Divine Comedy (does not sound misanthropic at all). Led by songwriter Neil Hannon who (my memory might be playing tricks on me) I most commonly associate with the word Misanthrope having read reviews of his work. If my memory is deceiving me I must be thinking of Luke Haines of the Auteurs and Black Box Recording. In which case my musings on misanthrope are way off beam and i'm sorry to be wasting everyones time.

I try to listen to music but sometimes my mind wanders and i must admit the Divine Comedy were not receiving my full attention when track 9, 'Mastermind', ushered in these words:

"Well, we all need reassurance as we play life's game of endurance
Like a nice cup of tea or a cigarette
But don't lean too long on your crutches, or you'll fall straight into the clutches
Of those who see free expression as a threat
You don't need a law degree to set your mind and spirit free
So tell me what the hell is normal and who the hell is sane?
And why the hell care anyway?
All the dreams that we have had are gonna prove that we're all mad and that's OK"

Now if i'm right about the meaning of misanthrope then some of those words might fit with misery strop (depending on your world view): 'need reassurance', 'endurance', 'clutches', 'threat', 'hell', 'why.... care', 'we're all mad'.

But there are also fine consolations, simple pleasures, 'a nice cup of tea or a cigarette'. These things might be able to help you hold on, survive a little longer. There's the idea that we should freely express our bodily actions, thoughts and feelings and to feel right to take the opportunity to let others see and hear them. Importantly the notion that as bad or as good as it gets, unlike in the Cameronic version, we are really all in this together; 'we're all mad' to live in this society with its oppressive ways 'and that's ok'. It seems that impairment whether mental or physical is positively represented in the words of Neil Hannon depending on how your read it.

So what is a misanthrope? An online dictionary defines it as: the general hatred, mistrust or dislike of the human species or human nature. A misanthrope, or misanthropist is someone who holds such view or feeling. The word's origin is from Greek words μῖσος (misos, "hatred") and ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, "man, human")

Having reread some reviews on allmusic.com I think I have unfairly maligned Neil and that the word more commonly finds residence with Luke Haines. Sorry about that. But I did tell you that my mind wanders and memory plays its tricks

Posted by , 22 May 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 22 May 2012

Self Service Psychiatry

I attended a CPA yesterday. Care Programme Approach Meeting. It was the first one that my partner had been granted since 2008. She is supposed to have two a year. This was glossed over quickly by the psychiatrist who explained the lack of intervention through the excuse of reorganisation. We reorganise the office, the department, the co-working, we do all this and service users expect to be included, cared for, they go as far as asking for tolerance.

Straight off he’s dealing with his assessment forms.

Are you delusional?
No.
Do you know what delusional is?
Yes.
It’s where you think you are being spied on.
Is it?
Do you understand that it is?
If you say so.
Good then you know what delusional is and you are not because I have explained it to you and you agree with me so we can agree that you are not delusional.

I try to break the yoke.

Would you like to introduce yourself?
I am the psychiatrist.
Does the psychiatrist have a name?
Yes of course I do.
Would the psychiatrist like to tell us what his name is?
I am Dr Astrepoloupazine.
I am sorry I did not get that I am partially deaf.
I am Dr Strepoloopaclav.
Pardon. I cannot hear you.
I AM DOC-TORRRR ASMANICLAVACINE!!!

There is no need to shout, Doctor whatever your name is. Just calm down. Go slow. Show some sensitivity. Believe that there is an outside chance that everyone in this room is a human being.

I am the psychiatrist. I have a job to do. I have to fill out this form. I have until 5 o’clock. At 5 o’clock the office closes. We will not be able to get out. I might have to give you a prescription too.

I have to leave at 5 to 5.
No the office closes at 5. We will stay until then.
I have to leave at 5 to 5.
But, but, but,
No buts Doctor. My car is parked on a meter. I do not want to pay a £60 fine just because you have a form to fill.
Are you paranoid?
Only about getting a parking ticket.

The following day I am talking to an activist about the quality of customer care. She believes that this is a good analogy for mental health services. If you go out into the world, go to banks, go to shops, you will find that customers get treated like shit so it is in psychiatry. The customer care model fits exactly here. We discuss the possibility of Self Service Psychiatry.

Stand in a queue. Go to a machine. Press A for facile, B for couldn’t care less, C for stupid, D for confrontational. I press D. An hologram of my psychiatrist appears.

I am your psychiatrist. Why are you wasting my time.

Posted by Rich Downes, 10 May 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 11 May 2012