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Rockinpaddy introduces himself as lead vocal in Graeaeā€™s new production Reasons To Be Cheerful. / 12 August 2010

Oi Oi! And thanks to DAO for inviting me to join the prestigious band of bloggers. To be honest I’m a little over-awed by it. As a reader of DAO I’m an admirer of many of the featured artists and now I’m blogging here too.

I’m a musician/singer and have been gigging since a wee lad. I grew up surrounded by music heavily influenced by the proud Irish roots of my family. That Irish passion for music and enjoying the craic has stayed with me throughout and is evident in my repertoire. I take performing seriously but try not to let it permeate into taking myself to seriously too. Listening, appreciating, playing and performing, music has been my life.

I strongly identify as a disabled person and this is intrinsic to who I am, what and how I perform. My identity and music go hand in hand reflecting something of myself. Like many, I also try to use my experiences, understanding and music as a tool for change.

I’m passionate about my music and work with young people and endeavour to support and encourage change whenever and wherever I’m lucky enough to get the opportunity. I’ve worked in Youth work for over 20 years.

As I started to learn to play and perform music I also began to learn about myself. At that time I rebelled against anything to do with the negative stereotypes of disability. I started a band (Another Dead Rabbit, may it RIP) gigging whenever and wherever I could. I wanted to learn more and took on the guitar, bass and keyboards… pleased to say I’m still dodgy on them all so I mainly concentrate on singing.

In December I was invited by Graeae to attend two script development days as a vocalist. After a further music development day earlier this year I am now to play lead vocal in Graeae’s new production Reasons To Be Cheerful.

For the second time in this blog, if honest, I’ve always been a bit in awe of Graeae’s work too. I feel they have played an important part in our rich creative history, articulating and celebrating our narrative, and now to be involved in working with them is a bit of an amazing turn in my life journey.

Graeae’s website has described Reasons To Be Cheerful as their biggest production to date and I’m excited and petrified about the next few months all in one big swoop. This blog will plot my time as I learn and grow. I certainly see this opportunity as a step up in my work as a musician and inevitably, I’ve got loads to learn and I’m very open to that. I will endeavour to map the progress of the show from my personal perspective.

Reasons To Be Cheerful will include many of Ian Dury’s biggest hits and at this time, I’m eating and sleeping Dury. One of the closest encounters I had with him was in perhaps the more unusual setting of a scout camp. All the sub-camps were named after influential/famous disabled people. I got into trouble for sneaking from my sub-camp, the rather un-cool ‘Bader’ into the much cooler sub camp ‘Dury’ to see the man himself. This chance meeting happened the year after Spasticus had been banned. If I new then what I know now, I don’t think I’d have ever returned to Bader camp!

The period in which Reasons is set is around 1979 and it’s all a bit uncanny to what’s going on now. So I hope to explore some of the parallels and contrasts that this experience is generating; for instance the role of music in articulating disability and our culture; the political feelings now (2010) and then (1979).

The late 70’s saw the beginning of a new Tory government, Thatcher’s Britain. Disabled people felt attacked, scape-goated, excluded and threatened. The backlash to this was the on-going struggle to fight for our dignity, rights and equality. Sound a bit familiar to now?


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