UK Disability History Month, with its focus on Disability and Music, was a change for us to explore how important it is for people who are disabled to get involved with music and the benefits inclusion has for everybody.
We organised three special interviews to discuss how the barriers people with a disability face can be overwhelming, yet the creative impulse and urge for self-expression often trumps the oppression many disabled people feel.
You can listen to them from the links below.
The interviews included Hampshire Music Service, which works with schools across Hampshire to make sure every child and young person has the chance to participate, enjoy and achieve by making music together. We spoke to Jill Larner and Liz Davies, from the service, who encourage every child to take part in music at some point.
Jill said: “We just hope to treat everybody as an individual, so they can actually take part in the way that they want to and do they very best they can.”
Liz added: “In a way I think the best mark of success is when people with a disability are invisible but invisible for the right reasons, because actually what they do and who they are is so much more important.”
Actor and musician, Mat Fraser, (pictured) was born with shorter arms making it more difficult for him to play the drums. Mat Fraser used music as an outlet to express himself as a teenager and used music technology to help discover his creative flare for music.
Mat said: “The outlet that music provided me as an isolated disabled person that couldn’t express himself was invaluable, and it taught me to find my voice, so it’s the ultimate liberation for me.”
Rich, from London based charity ‘Attitude is Everything’, helps to improve deaf and disabled people’s access to live music events. The charity works with over 150 music venues across the UK to help make a huge difference for those people who are disabled.
Rich said: “We work very closely with music venues. It starts with a willingness and then making small changes. So, making signage really clear, having step free access to the bar and where the performance space is, you know, little details that can make a massive difference to somebody.”
“You like music, you want to go to gigs, it just stops you being a disabled person basically because once you remove those barriers you’re just part of everyone else.”
There are many gifted musicians who happen to be disabled in some way, including Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli, Joni Mitchell, Ian Dury, Beethoven. There are also talented musicians who have hidden disabilities, for example Lady Gaga has fibromyalgia, a condition of the central nervous system, Brian Wilson and Sinead O’Connor have diagnosed mental health conditions.
These individuals are first and foremost artists in their own right and serve as an inspiration to others who may have to overcome barriers to pursue or continue their chosen career.