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Mike Gripe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Rich Downes, 25 January 2013

Last modified by Rich Downes, 25 January 2013

Beware Words Written Here

Words are mine. I use them. Here in the willy nilly. Spontaneous and free. Careless. Far from frank but mostly honest. Committed to an idea of truth - what ever that might mean. As someone important said its only what you see, how you see it, not how it is. Not how someone else might view it.

That will serve as an introduction. Now, two adventures to relay. Wouln't it be great if critics could be embedded into festivals. That's Colin's idea. I think there's some merit in it. I spent hours travelling to, from and into Newham's Together 2012 Festival. I was delighted by the welcome they gave me. I would be introduced with words being thrown at me. Press. Journalist. Not my word. Writer. They were delighted I was there. Faces lit up. Someone is taking notice of us. Someone is writing about us. We are going to be heard. I hope I contributed something and I think I did. Both the organisers and our Ed starting using words and phrases i'd cobbled together to promote the fest themselves. It was a thrill for me to see that. Something coming back.

0There's a club i'm embedded into too. I love it. It gives me great nights out. They've recently expanded - opened another home for 'in-firm' songwriters. I took up residence in the front row. Unusual for me and sat with my pen and notebook. Tonight, some place else, people thanked me for the words that came out in that review but even better a short story. The musos saw me sitting there and it had made them nervous. They thought I might be from the NME or some such lesser light than DAO, and they troubled themselves over how they might be and how I might record them.

In the first of these adventures I had felt happy. It was good to be a part, to have a role, to feel a responsibility and in truth I felt just as fine in the second scene but the latter feedback whilst told with humour ("they we're shitting themselves") also spoke to me of being a part, having a role, responsibilities.

It made me think. Made me ponder. I reflected. Together 2012 was great as is the Karamel Club. They both gave me something to write about and I beefed them both up without undue flattery. Simply commenting on what I saw and how I felt. And the words we're mine, came from me, my pen, my style, my approach. But what if I hadn't liked it. Is it true I could have destroyed it? Caused someone to hit a bum note on the string I strung along with.

The stories made me consider what I do. Words remain mine. I wrote them. But what can they do. On the page, in life, in love and Anger. Its a pretty potent brew. Beware Words written here.

Posted by Rich Downes, 24 January 2013

Last modified by Rich Downes, 24 January 2013

Reason To Believe

It is 2013. Happy new year. Back in the old year I reported much on the Karamel Music Club – a favourite haunt. Free music, cheap food, good company, accessible premises. Well in this age of austerity, the collective’s masterful leader, Chris Sheehan, has only gone and opened another club night ‘The Northern Embassy’, dedicated to northern songwriters in the heart of Soho, which access aside retains much the same endearing qualities. And so it was, on a cold, wintry, snow laden day that I made my way to central London from the frozen wastes of Potters Bar.

Sansa had put more miles in. Flying to meet us from Helsinki. A strong, natural performer with expressive hands that stave off diva hell. She leads with her own songs. Her lyrics real; “I didn’t mean to make you cry. I’m sorry my love”, and what about this advice in the season of economical hell; “Create your own vision, let it set you free. Follow a path of your own. Be true to yourself.” Something’s Got Me Started, she re-arranges Simply Red, into a stately folky gauze wherein the lyric is given prominence over glossy, pop production. I never knew Hucknall wrote so well. Learn here Mick. Bring back the Stars to your eye.

Blair Dunlop is my main draw tonight. Scion of the revolutionary folkie Ashley Hutchings, Blair is on the crest of having his debut solo album released on vinyl this very day. It’s on sale by the bar and seems worth a peddle. Blair seems to have all bases covered. He has depth and lighter edges, covering all required bases. It seems sons of famous fathers shiver in the shadow of paternal achievement. Blair could yet prove the exception and may soar above the Thompson’s and the Wainwrights. A song about Christopher Marlowe sees him admitting, “I’ve seen a trick or two in my life”. Blight and Blossom takes you through a year in a relationship ending in the hopeful phrase; “My thirst is greater than it was at the start of the year”.

And then came the young, exuberant Dunwells all the way from Leeds. Certainly the crowd’s favourites, they “don’t need safety anymore”. This may not come over from the video presented here but tonight they are Mumfords without sham rock and Eagles who soar above the wasted scene. Their break up song; ‘Oh Lord’ speaks to me with its line “Oh lord, I’m calling out your name, oh lord, I feel so ashamed” – the guitar lines bringing spirit to the powerful sense of rhythm that rattles out tonight with enthusiasm and energy – as do lines given elsewhere; “Find your feet my friend, just go forward. Shit goes down just carry on regardless”.

Each and every highlighted lyric gives me a reason to believe in a better year a coming. They relate to true feelings and empower. The Northern Embassy adds to the creed being spoken. It’s too good to believe that this night will be repeated at the Karamel Club whose members show up in force to give their support to Chris and it’s hard to believe that Chris Sheehan will host a better line up this year but talking to the faithful Kevin, Sound Engineer, you know….. I think he will.

With respect to Tim Hardin

Posted by Rich Downes, 22 January 2013

Last modified by Rich Downes, 22 January 2013

Disability Arts Qualification Anyone?

There is an idea that disability arts is being swallowed up and not being given the opportunity to prosper as disabled artists move towards inclusion in the main stream.

One possible solution to this would be to develop a disability arts qualification (which of itself rings of mainstreaming). But i beleive it is an idea that is worthy of consideration especially as Dolly Sen puts disability arts and disability theory onto the agenda whilst discussing the importance of DAO.

A problem with inclusion into the mainstream is theory is lost to the pursuit of art. Can this be balanced? Is it important?

Your comments would be appreciated?

Posted by Rich Downes, 2 January 2013

Last modified by Rich Downes, 2 January 2013