Marmiteboy - Urbane Warrior.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Crip, The Tent, The Ramp and The Muddy Field.

I found out today that I have been accepted as a steward at this year's Carling Weekend at Reading.

Last year was the first time that disabled people were employed by The Mean Fiddler as stewards and I was lucky enough to be part of the project. Our job in the main was to ensure that access to the viewing platforms was kept clear. The main thing that was apparent last year was the way the disabled stewards were received by the punters. I had so much positive feedback from disabled festival goers. they were genuinely impressed that the disabled community was being represented and that someone with a personal insight into accessiblity was on site.

The Festival was not without its problems though. On the Radio One/NME stage the access ramp to the viewing platform was ridiculously steep. So steep in fact that over the whole weekend I only saw one manual wheelchair user successfully navigate it without assisstance. This is obviously completely unacceptable and I stressed to anyone completing a feedback sheet last year to mention it and I'm glad to say lots of people did. I am therefore hoping that the ramp situiation is sorted out this year. It is all very well having access, it does however have to actually be accessible.

The other problem was the disabled persons camp site which due to heavy rain was a quagmire. All the non-crip sites seemed to have metal walkways laid down but this was overlooked in the crip site. Again this was unacceptable and it must not happen again this year. It will be interesting to see if they have learnt from last years event. I hope so.

In the mean time I have to psyche myself up for five days under canvas and hope it doesn't piss down with rain. On the positive front I've got Belle and Sebastian, The Fall, The Shins, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah, Broken Family Scene and Radio Soulwax to look forward to.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Shame Of Big Brother?

So a disabled person has at last been admitted to the Big Brother house. For many years now disabled people have complained that no disabled person had ever ben admitted to BB and that the Channel 4 was not a true reflection of society. This series it seems is different, a 24-year old man from Brighton in Sussex, Pete Stephenson has Tourette's Syndrome and went into the house on Thursday night.

Now I originally posted on BBC Ouch that I wouldn't watch any of this because I felt that Pete would only be included on the show as some kind of sweary freak. However, on reflection I thought I'd watch before I criticised. On Friday morning I was listening to BBC Five Live and they were talking about the entry into the house. They played one clip. Guess who? Yep, Pete. And they took the piss out of his 'bizarre' behaviour. No mention that he had Tourette's at all. Not a good omen. Then yesterday afternoon I turned on Big Brother's Little Brother on Channel 4 and the camera was focused on Pete in the garden. He was on his own and was shouting and swearing.It looked like they had what they wanted. A freak show. However, the guest in the studio, whoever they were, had taken a liking to Pete and was tipping him as a winner.

So is it just me? I'm I being too precious and protective? Is Channel 4 right in putting Pete in there. Should Pete be commended for giving it a go probably knowing that he was going to get ridiculed. It may well be that by Pete being in the house awareness about Tourette's will be raised and it will do a lot of good in the long run. Only time will tell and I hope that the directors and producers of Big Brother treat tehe subject with dignity.

I really hope that I'm proved wrong and the first disabled person on Big Brother turns out to be a positive experience.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Belle & Sebastian Live - Grosse Freiheit 36, Hamburg, Germany

This was to be the furtherest I have ever travelled for a gig. My mates (Jock Pop, Chuck and Father O'Malley) and I decided that two Belle and Sebastain gigs since February wasn't quite enough so we planned a trip to see them on their European Tour (mainland Europe anyway). Having taken a poll by the single transferable voting system, we decided upon Hamburg in Northern Germany. Rather than just go for the gig we booked up for a long weekend. Jock Pop got the tickets by phoning the venue (luckily for us the person on the other end spoke very good English) and O'Malley booked the flight and two nights hotel accomodation over the interwebnet.

A hideously early start on Thursday morning ( I was up at 4 o'clock) meant we were at Heathrow just after 7. Our flight took off at around 9 and we had a very pleasent flight across the North Sea to Germany. The weather was fantastic with temperatures in the mid 70's so upon arrival we thought it was our duty to sample the local beer. Very nice it is too.

After much general milling around interupted by the odd drink and even more food Friday arrived and we had a good few hours to kill before the gig itself. Luckily for us Hamburg is home to the greatest football tam in Germany FC Sankt Pauli, who play in the German Third Division (those sharp eyed amongst you may realise that they aren't really that good). St Pauli are a very special team. There supports are left leaning, non-racist, non-sexist sections of the community and because of this football fans all over Europe with similar beliefs have rallied to their flag. Thye have teh highest proportion of women fans in Germany (and perhaps Europe) and their Chairman is a Transvestite who runs a club on the nearby Reperbahn. Every time they score at The Millerntor Blur's 'Song 2' is played and the terraces turn into a mosh pit. How fantastic is that?? We all stocked up with merchandise from the clubshop and thus ensured the clubs existence for at least another 150 years or so.

The gig itself started rather early. So early in fact that we missed Gravenhurst, a great band from Bristol because hey went on stage at about 6:30!! Grosse Freiheit 36 turns into a fetish club on Friday nights so we had to be out by 9:30. Belle hit the stage at 7:30 and ripped straigh into an ld favourite "The Stars Of Track And Field". Stuart was on form as ever cahtting with the crowd and judging from thewa they sang along with the lyrics they could understand him too. His spectularly crap dancing also went down a storm too. Most of the set was taken from the lastest 'Life Pursuit' LP but there were quite a few oldies as well including a fantastic version of 'The Boy With The Arab Strap'. It was all over too quicky some 90 minutes later and the very appreciative crowd (they really didgo wild between songs) spilled out into the still warm night air. This was probably the first gig that I have ever been to where I came out before it got dark. It was an odd feeling. Still B&S were great entertainment as usual and it was a great gig. I'm looking forward to seeing them again at The Reading Festival if I manage to get a gig as a stweward again this year.

I strongly recommend Hamburg as it is a fine place to visit. The people are friendly, teh food and drink are good value, it's spotlessly clean and teh trasport system is excellent. I can't wait to go back.

Belle and Sebastian setlist from Grosse Freiheit 36 12th May 2006.

The Stars Of Track And Field
Another Sunny Day
Funny Little Frog
She's Losing It
Sukie In The Graveyard
Electronic Renaissance
Song For Sunshine
We Are The Sleepyheads
Dress Up In You
The Fox In The Snow
Simple Things
The Boy With The Arab Strap
Your Covers Blown
Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie
I'm A Cuckoo
Jonathan David
White Collar Boy
Judy And The Dream Of Horses
The State I Am In

Monday, May 01, 2006

Blogging Against Disablism Day - Inclusive Education.

Blogging Against Disablism Day

Inclusive Education.

When I was growing up and at school in the 1970's, disabled children were educated in 'special schools'. At my school there was a girl with Spina Bifida and me, whose only visible 'disability' was that I wasn't allowed to partake in sports as a result of my condition. That was it!! In a school of some 1500 puplis. At that time in seemed that the norm was to educate disabled children apart from their non-disabled peers. I think this had a damaging affect on how my generation (as a whole) perceived the whole subject of disability. Our attitudes were seriously affected. Disability was seem as something that was strange and even scary. The only time we ever saw a disabled person was during the Blue Peter appeal when they collected bottle tops and silver foil for Riding for the Disabled (as in was called) or to re-house people like Joey Deakin in warden controlled adapted homes.

As a rule, if children are confronted by something that they do not understand or are frightened by then they resort to either being cruel, or by making jokes about it. People of my generation will remember all the Joey Deakin jokes that were about in the late 1970's. But how can ths kind of attitude, which is by any definition, disablism, be combated?

For many years, in this country, there has been a debate about and whether disabled children should be educated in mainstream schools, or whether they should receive 'specialist' education. True, there is the need for schools that cater exclusively for cetain conditions. Schools for blind and visually impaired children and for deaf and hard of hearing children are essential, but in my opinion, where possible, disabled children should be intergrated in to the mainstream education system. The more disabled children that can be educated in this way, the more that negative attitudes can be challenged.

Of course the main reason that disabled children should be educated within the mainstream education is that they receive the best education possible. It is my belief that in the past disabled children have not been able to reach their full potential by being in 'special schools'. I will provide an example.

Lily's daughter Sybil has just turned 6 and when she was 2 years and 9 months old she went to a special unit because when she went to pre-school it was felt that she was not coping. When she was 3 she was diagnosed as Autistic. Lily tells me that she really hated the unit. She was frightened all the time because as we know the Autism Spectrum is very wide and she couldn't cope with the children in the units different behaviours.

Sybil's condition means hat although she is high functioning she would find it impossible to cope with being in a large class without support. Her reasonable adjustment allows for a key worker to be with her all day at school and she uses a laptop. Lily has told me that her progress since being at school has ben very good. She interacts much more with people than she did when she was in the unit. She is stimulated by her environment and loves going to school. Her reading age is that of a 10-year old and because she has a key worker she is able to focus on this. It is by being around other children though that has benefited her the most. Until quite recently large groups of people scared Sybil but when we went to Cornwall on holiday recently we went to a park full of very noisey and boisterous children. Sybil wasn't bothered at all and really enjoyed playing on the swings and slides. I'm not at all convinced that had Sybil been in a specialist unit that kept her apart form noisey boisterous children that she would have been able to cope with that playground.

It is not just the disabled child that benefits from inclusive education though. Teachers and more importantly non-disabled children also benefit. If disablism is to be tackled, then early contact with disabled children is essential. A lot of disablism is not because of prejudice (although the rise of the far-right groups such as the BNP is worrying. We must remember who the first target of the Nazi's were). It is ignorance and lack of understanding that is the biggest cause of disablism in my view. The sooner our children are educated together then the better chance there is that ignorance of disabled peoples needs can be addressed.

It is my hope that with the next generation, disabled people will be treated with respect and understanding and not be thought of as scary or burdensome. If non-disabed children have disabled schoolmates and vice versa, then everybody's needs can be addressed without any second thought.

Disablism exists. It is out there are needs to be challenged everyday. Disabled people are still second class citizens. Not enough provision is being made within the transport system ( and I could do a whole series of posts about that little subject), access to many places is still very poor, career paths are affected and we all know about the fight to what is rightfully ours within the benefit system. However, with the rise of inclusive education maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our future generation is being educated together and we must stand up and challenge those who shout that there is no place for disabled children in mainstream education.

The Goldfish must be thanked for coming up with the idea for Blogging Against Disablism Day and making that idea into a reality. It started small and has grown into something really quite wonderful. Cheers, you're a star. Lady Bracknell has also been involved to quite a degree too. Thanks to her too.