Yet the creative impulse, urge for self-expression and the need to connect to our fellow human beings often ‘trumps’ the oppression we as disabled people have faced, do face and will face in the future. Each culture and sub-culture creates identity and defines itself by its music. ‘Music is the language of the soul. To express ourselves we have to be vibrating, radiating human beings!’ Alasdair Fraser.
Self-expression should be a right for all and music is a very strong area of creativity if we make space for it in the curriculum. Use our posters with your students to get some idea of how many disabled musicians there are
The launch of this year’s UK Disability History Month, held in Parliament, was a good demonstration of this. Evelyn Glennie, on a film especially made for the occasion, talked of how one of the two musical colleges where she wanted to study refused her as a deaf student because ‘no orchestra would employ her’. Her retort was ‘I wanted to be a solo percussionist’ which she has famously become. She explained how feeling vibrations led her to reject her hearing aids and instead rely on her body for freer expression.
Kiri Tunks, President of NEU, talked of the importance of music to life and self-expression and yet it was being increasingly cut from the curriculum. We shouldn’t need months like this, but we do. We should have schools that embrace all differences. The NEU is committed to developing a fully inclusive education system and not authoritarian testing that excludes. ‘To help us not see disabled people as other, but part of our community we need Disability History Month’.
John MacDonnell MP, our host spoke about the importance of people understanding the history of disabled people from different angles each year, in order to understand how important it is to politically tackle the invidious and unfair position disabled people have been placed in by austerity measures. Marsha de Cordova, Shadow Minister for Disabled People, gave her support to the month and talked of the 3 United Nations Reports that have now criticised the Governments shameful violations of disabled people’s human rights in the UK.
Classical composers often contended with mental health issues. Operas and musicals over represent stereotyped views of disabled people as pitiable, figures of fun, evil or isolated.
Some of the strongest lyrics are disability ‘protest songs’ from Johnnie Crescendo, Ian Stanton and Dennis Queen. Many on their way to success have hidden their impairment but once established, talk of the barriers they face.
Find out more about UKDHM 2018