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Richard Downes

I always wanted to write. I practiced for years. I played guitar and sang. I took photographs. I guess I really wanted to express myself anyway I could Then DAO gave me the opportunity to blog. Much thanks

Posts by Richard Downes

Missing

Once upon a while ago when younger, still brash, cocky and apathetic I thought I’d enter a tryptich of photographs into a Shape Arts Open on the theme of, if I recall correctly, what disability means to you. I started well but the apathy won (again). The pictures went missing. ...

In the Mean Time – Chapter 1

There was an advert relating to mean time. Colliers Wood. I don’t know what it was for. It wasn’t for the meantime. It wasn’t what I saw. Adverts, Profit, money motive. Seems to be the law.There will be more to follow. Like jabs upon the jaw. In The Mean Time – ...

Wait

A warning from a personal history bound up in compromise reflecting on the who and the who could have been. Its alright, not too bad, one gets by, my oh my, always driven by other voices and the imagining of a change that may have been coming but never did. ...

Chatting to a (non) Chugger – The 7th Wave

We met Katie Dawson and Fay Kent, Life Guards both, on the beach at Bigbury Bay. Trying to tie us up to a direct debit benefiting the Royal National Lifeguard Institute, (RNLI) Katie asked not to be called a chugger. The RNLI had a pretty decent offer. £36 for a small ...

Conscripted

Words start to fall on a moonlight walk. 'Conscripted into separation' starts it all. I wonder what it means. I share the line with someone who gives it a thumbs up. I forget it as the day goes on. It returns. It gets a few more numbered lines. Its left. ...

Resurrecting the Glorious Servant

The champ had been taking a real beating but like a true champ he believed in finding his second wind. It took a while but he found it Resurrecting the Glorious Servant It had been unremitting misery Being away I missed this space This place This desk This hex This mouse This house This file This smile Turned upside down Yes the sun ...

Signs: Misread Sign

Best not believe a word I say. This may be a lie. There may not have been a dream. It may have been real. I don’t know. Honestly, I can’t remember. You decide: Misread Sign In dream Walking past a Chelsea park I misread the signs Please keep your Crip on a lease Keep It off ...

When Words Lose All Meaning

There appears to be a trend I must keep in my mind about the lines that I’ve sourced over years sitting at a desk – the office poems. Discussions I’ve had with colleagues. Council meetings, visits to parliament. Lines found on the street next to the woman with the banner ...

Black Dog

I’m not familiar with my depressions. I tie them up with a bow and put them in a bag and heave them in a sack, on my back, and carry them with me, hidden. Numb to thought to feeling. But from time to time they grow stronger in the dark ...

Photo of a sign in Devizes advising disabled access via Snuff St

Snuff Street Haiku

A while ago (2010) I saw this sign. Disabled Access via Snuff Street. Having a somewhat twisted sense of humour I found the juxtaposition amusing. Though of cause there is a connection with politics, eugenics, and the Not Dead Yet campaign. Humour contains truths regardless of whether the truth is ...

Elements

I have no idea why I wrote this a week or 2 or 5 ago. I guess its no more than a response to something I saw. A fire sign submerged in flooded water. I can’t remember where I learned about the elements or why I would want to know, ...

Hagiography

Today in the ongoing diary of a holy fool I stopped to wonder if it could have been different then. Hagiography Poet. Wasted. High On Drugs Low On Depression Waiting for the word. No. Don’t do it. Poet. Wasted. High On Drugs Low On Depression Hears the word. No. Don’t do it. Poet. Wasted. High On Drugs Low On Depression Obeys the word. No. Don’t do ...

Lou Reed

Observation

What no signs, no photo? Sometimes, something you read, or misread, will set you off on a thought. Here's one that happened to me. You can read it. Comment on the blog if you like. Do your own thing. Observation Lou Reed said We are lucky to be alive At the same time as ...

Signs: In case you don’t know

The photograph was taken at the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate where I met with friends. The story of the case was presented to me by someone who inspired me 20 years ago – Paul Fagan. I remember few things. I remember Paul and others from that time with gratitude. In ...

Pink writing cut from a film poster saying; 'what's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent'

Signs: Of a Silent Voice

Only last wednesday I was saying I can’t remember something important, a feeling about a pain. In searching for the answer I meet with other people who were there at a certain time. This is a lie Though I wouldn't call it that A memory now forgotten Wondering did it happen I need to know More ...

Signs: Dogs

The photo for this one shows an adapted toilet on a National Trust property at Dunwich Heath. Adapted toilets are not necessarily accessible. Typically the best of a bad job. This toilet is next to a store room. In between there is a tap and a dog bowl. We are ...

The Long Slow Death Of A Glorious Servant

News came through this week that the glorious servant who gave his soul to work mastered and unmastered is dying. Contractual time ticking by. We have reviewed his situation. All parties are keen to see him gone; at last. The whirlpool Spins above the table Eddying papers far away Threatening the in tray He dream't ...

Signs: Taking On The Cattle

I’ve never been a farmer, I’ve never farmed the land. I don’t know how to do it. I have no reason to believe that my life as a poet, photographer or activist lends anything towards a useful transferable skill. But I know a metaphor when I see one and the ...

Oujia, Tarot, Cauldron

In many ways I have not made enough of a contribution to people and things that matter to me. Each item on this wall bears my name though. The theme is green. The witch is black and many coloured, the green man a gift, the landscape an artwork I found, ...

For Esme (Wherever Life May Find Her)

Researching images for a powerpoint and speech on advocacy I came across a Carl Jung quote. Something about, it's not what happened to you it's about what you become. I liked that. It fitted very well with what I wanted to say. Two days later I was out with a ...

Signs: Mind Steps aka Words to an Unresolved Election

Last time around 'Signs: Mind Steps aka Photo Poem to an Unresolved Election' offered pictorial evidence of a mood within a time within a space. One of my favoured lines; 'if a picture paints a thousand words' urges caution. You do not see what I see. You do not feel ...

Holy Wholly Holey

Patronage has had a field day of late with the Heads Together Campaign. Those three royal youngsters have been superb. You know credit where its due and all. I’m really looking forward to meeting them and their breed as they get stuck in on a day to day basis, raving ...

Signs: Mind Steps aka Photo Poem for an Unresolved Election

Hornsey Town Hall Square, scene of public defeats, on an overcast day. In a low mood not alleviated by Dunns Bakery cakes feeling surrounded by depressing signs alluding to depressing times. Some days there are signs everywhere. Portents of doom. Everything is rubbish. Next poem will use words.

Disconnect

Sitting among 20 odd old white folk Concessioned on a Monday To watch I Am Not Your Negro Suggests their civil rights struggle Became our entertainment Their martyrs our heroes As the celluloid image Recites the lines we know The songs we sing The police dance of brutality Moves choreographed with truncheons And I feel a disconnect As I think of Cameron And ...

Signs: Numbers

90 people on the bus And only one of us Seems fair to me Lets take them on One by one by one by one 85 and counting This old lady Next to me She’ll limp She’s lame She’s 93 84 and counting Aye young fellah give up your seat you don’t need it to get up this street 83 and counting Hear young mother Fold up your chair That’s ...

Words From A Photo

Words from a photo were inspired by the responses of Deborah Caulfield, Miriam Binder, Rohhss Chapman and Tony Connell who all responded to my facebook request to look at a photo I'd taken of a touchstone entry at the Photographers Gallery. This project hosts one regularly changing photo in a ...

Review: This Girl Can Morris Dance

22nd March - 30th July 2017 Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regents Park Road, London, NW1 7AY Everything inside is changing. Ups and downs and spinning round. Take exhibitions. They never turned me on. Cold rooms, snooty people. Scoot around, spend a second or two with something you like and get out quick. ...

3 Wheels

One of my top photos here. I just like the shapes and colours and composition I guess. I also liked the convenience of it. A short walk to the bus stop and there it was; complete with an idea about 3 wheels on a wagon, riding up from memory, which ...

Signs: Push

Another song of exhortation, encouragement. I feel like I've been a long time gone from disability activism, that I've settled for work, photography and poetry, but my street actions were of a time, a time shared by others. I know also that there are others doing and leading the pushing ...

Signs: Crip Hero

I love this sign. I think its the most profound of them all. But its been a bugger. Something to work on. I hate work. Working on writing that is. What was I going to do with this sign? Then on waking up, the opening line came. Buts that’s all, ...

Signs: Majority

Another pic from the Barbican. This one, count them, showing a majority of international crip signs over and above international gender representations. Sometimes I have thought, contrary to the demands of inclusion, that we segregate, go it alone, provide for ourselves, include ourselves and damn all others. I have never thought what ...

colour photograph of a tiled floor holding dust

Dust Poems

1. Dust preserved in memory The Dust dances on a sunbeam Cast through curtains into a darkened room My mother has her cloth hands stayed by a terse instruction Her cloth ears understand Leave the Dust The Dust I’m told by grandma Is but dead skin and hair She wants it there Collecting, nesting, layering the sideboard The physical remains of ...

Signs: Quiet

I found this sign one time I was out with friends at the Barbican. As a stammerer I was attracted to the word 'speechless'. I hoped my camera would let me close in on that single word. It wouldn't. I had to accept the rest of the text too. I've ...

a green metal container, covered in grafitti bears the legend aapproved for transport

Saul’s Box

I'm not one or talk about the paranormal, the psychic. I've had experiences. Who hasn't. But there is that weird thing about connections. You think of a friend and they phone. Yesterday I walked past a box. I walk past it often. I looked at it and i thought: Saul’s Box Here ...

A rubber batman model stands above a bike shed, holding a wheel and a poster. The words on the poster are indistinct but it looks like a club programme. Batman also appears to be wearing beads which could be imitating a bike chain

Dinner! Dinner! Dinner!

The mobile unit is for breast screening. So as shabby as it is, I’m not welcome there. I walk away from my partner, leaving her there. Then I see this familiar looking hero standing in a strange place above a bike shed. He appeared to be holding a halo, a ...

city sign for the town of Independence in the US

Whose Values Do We Value? We Value Our Own

I've been sitting on this for a while. Dame Louise Casey said; "But we also need more of a spirit of unity, compassion and kindness that brings people together under our common British values of tolerance, democracy, equality and respect." Eleanor Lisney discussed it on Facebook. I contributed some of the ...

a stone with wood and metal inlays proclaiming welcocme to the Totnes - Dartington Access for All Path. One of the metal inlays is written in braille.

In Breath We Walk

Strange how a mood, personal or national, changes an intention. I had it in mind to write a celebratory piece on a path that runs between Dartington and Totnes, which proclaims itself an 'access path for all'. It was to be a celebration of community. There was nothing but goodness ...

Signs: Polemic aka Pointing Percy

I sat, excited, waiting and watching for the news on the Doug Paulley case which was due last Wednesday. I had to move on. By the time I came back, the news was out and the net was humming. Dennis Queen called him 'The Bomb', Jane Campbell said 'My Hero'. ...

Especially Special

The battle for language, what it means and more to the point, I think, is what it does to you. This is the second Martin poem in a way. Maybe I was lolling around thinking about myself and the things I'd said during the day. Then Martin happened by. Martin ...

Manipulated colour photo of my fist. Manipulated to reflect two colours in the lines- red and purple

Martin

Martin came to me one sleepless night following a day of revelation. He's  not alone in these lines. There's two of him. The Martin I lived with at school and the Martin I lived with in the kids home. A composite Martin. Hi everybody Come say hello to Martin Ask him bout the ...

Full Moonage Daydream – A Device

Walking up the hill this morning (14.12.2016) i saw a moon and shot it with a camera. In my head i was reciting Autumn Almanac: 'I like my football on a Saturday. Roast beef on Sunday. Alright'. Sparked into reverie by consideration of a chapter in Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink; The ...

The Song of St Theresa

In spite of the year in politics it's been a good year for me. I've felt more balanced than I have for a long time. The photo I was going to use here had three cues in it. Art, Love and Toil. I've bought them more together than before. I've not ...

Signs: William Conroy. An Obituary

(Or, how the sign gained its initials) A long nose hangs phallus-like over a wall as do eight podgey fingers. Two eyes, a bald head sometimes awarded a single curl, somehow the character acquires a quizzical air. Probably wondering just why 'Kilroy was here'. On to another legend. Old Slowhand. Me and ...

a photo of an empty glass jar sitting on a shelf

Seeing Through The Jar

Someone talks about a fear of ageing. Two elders swap notes on their joy at being older. The first he likes the compromises he feels he can live with. The second, probably myself, speaks more about decisiveness. The first thinks that decisiveness is a part of the compromising. He knows now ...

Signs: Crip Seat Bust Up

Unusually for Signs, the words came before the image. Ensconced in a group, two fairly typical issues came up; the state of public transport and the inability (some would say) of one type of crip to get along with another. I keyed in to a real experience - being asked to ...

Support The Return of the Workhouse Cabaret

The Workhouse Cabaret is a major historic event in the history of the disability movement. Its where arts and culture first met with the politics of the social model. This defined what disability arts and culture is about. The event happens at 7.00pm on 3rd December, the international day of disabled ...

Remembrance Day

I saw Leonard Cohen last time he ventured out in Brighton and cried, sobbing tears in payment for every sung or spoken word. I considered him simple, I thought him beautiful. The lyric, the sound. He was my poet. I saw him naked in a corridor, lost, in my mind. I ...

Signs: The Blues

Woke up one morning, went to my wardrobe and opened it only to see blue. Felt depressed immediately and made a commitment to pink and yellow. Pastels. I bought crayons. My skies were never blue again. Yeah Blues on the White Album led me to the blues. Here I am, ...

Something Got Me Started (Edit)

The full version, the full story behind this is on my own blog. I didn't want to waste your time with all those words though So here for you the serious edit with photo Something Got Me Started So, Speak Up. Yes. I know I am in this room With you who have stopped speaking Stopped because ...

a hairdressers shop window in highgate dressed for halloween with witchess and ghosts

Ghost Walk

Cynicism makes me cold. I stand aloof demanding proof. Sometimes I need to believe and feel more. I am glad to be out of on a circular Highgate walk with my love. She tells me that a group she serves was expressing disdain for Halloween; "It's an American thing". She ...

A white board with the red words Danger. Unstable Cliffs. Keep Clear

Signs: Defined

Challenging The label I got from you Concerning my behaviour Is frustration with being here And Anger at seeing you I’m not unstable There is no danger Neither am I wild Stupid Or a sheep The label I’m given Like the name I’m given At the time And in the place Its given Is ether To me now A gas To waft Away Whilst I walk away Away from you Your labels And ...

Signs: Interference

Love it Love cake Love cake so much Sitting here on a sunny day Coffee and cake Flapjacks Apple and sultana The dominant Bakewell Sugar and seasoning Resting, eating Eating cake Nothing but cake Cake so fancy Cake so dreamy Cake so moist And cake so creamy I love cake Custard Cream Icing Fondant Eclair And the sun The sun keeps on shining On the currant bun I sit I rest Eating cake Viennese twirl Rum Baba Chocolate ...

Signs: Broken

Waiting in line at the Woolwich Ferry. I saw this scene. A broken sign. Rubble. Ruin. I photographed it several times from my car window, on zoom, having to get the right composition. I don't think its the first time i've used a non disability sign to tell a story. ...

Colour photograph showing a tree and hedge engulfed in sea mist.

Playtime

Late summer is on the cusp of early autumn and we are camping again. A day or two passes and we are getting to know the neighbours. Pat complains about the whistler who wakes her up every morning at 7.30am. The sun beats down and draws out more tent folk. The ...

colour photograph of a white sign bearing a black wheelchair user sign, the words disabled toilet at rear and an arrow pointing right

Signs: Distance

There: From a Devon Beach A Hampshire memory Full of joy and laughter As we conga From a hall Around and over A traffic Island To a Robert Haywood Office painted Turgid Blue Where we form A Line, A Barricade, Preventing access Denying aides egress Uplifting hearts With chanting We’re DAN You’re trapped Get out around the back We’re DAN You’re trapped Get out around the back But now a hint of sadness Blackens ...

A blue shop sign with access symbols followed by payment methods such as Visa card which were cropped out of the photograph

Signs: Debt

This shop keeper wants our money But we have paid And we will pay And we will pay again Before the revolution of iron and steel We were fools Wise and Foolish And we paid And we will pay And we will pay again Then we were locked up In red brick institutions Where we worked To pay To work to pay Before we paid ...

Signs: Eugenically Euthanastical Murder

The Trains. The Trains The Trains are coming Coming from old Rhineland Coming from Sweden, Canada The United States and latterly Japan The Trains. The Trains are coming The Trains are coming To a Town, a Town near you A Town where you are known A Town where you can be found A Town where your door is knocked on A ...

Signs: Becoming absent

Number 1 is a prison song They made them way back then I sang it then as a protest song Loudly until I became hoarse behind the barricade We had songs even then Counting off the days On the bus Down the lane Heading for freedom We'd come over glad all over But the prison song was mine Mine and mine alone The ...

Signs: As It Happens

Blind Spot This sign is dappled Mottled by force Worn and torn T is at the hospital now Having his skull drilled The sign met his head A branch hung low Heavy with leaves The surgeon with a key hole Pokes at fatty tissue The sign serves its warning Stationary Sometimes moving His hole is stitched His head will ache when he awakes His head like ...

A door with a greenish hue holds two signs. The wheelchair user defining accessible toilet and the other a baby being changed over the words changing room

Signs: Dystopia

Roll up Roll Up Change your disabled babies here Fucked it up the first time. Have another go. But can I say Can I ask What happens to the old one? Recalibrate We have the means We have the method You mean Intervention Experimentation? Call it as you will The less names We say the better But surely not Abortion Termination Death Camps Dignitas? No. Not those Not no longer We can ...

A vector based image with two capital As

Signs: Juxtaposition

We the people of Gritsalt Are free to stand On little yellow boxes And exclaim About the shame For we have grit And we have salt And we will cut And we will sear With little fear For we are the people of Gritsalt

A white wall beneath a wooden fence bears the plaque 'Headmasters Bungalow'

Signs: Discrepancy

Standing by your locked gate My inner core is iron My outer shell is tin Hit me with a hammer To let my past times in I turn to drink As I try zinc To get my red corpuscles moving For being here Beside you As left me totally still I return to the institution. It's different. Still for kids. Kids ...

Impairment Haiku

Chest cooed like a dove A Cardio-vascular Expression of love Walking up a hill, feeling weary, I thought my chest had started up again. But no it was a dove. Or a pigeon. Probably a pigeon actually given their current predominence but I thought it was a dove. So, the words were basically ...

photo of a sign saying the old kitchen. Beneath is a disability sign for accessible toilet and changing room

Signs: Shrinkage

The Old Garden is fixed in my mind forever. There is no getting away from the system. Out there it's inside too - internalised. The work house is industrial red brick; portioned out in millions with millions separated by cement but morticed tight together as if a full soul lock ...

Red London Bus frontage containing two disability signs held in bubbles - a wheelchair user and someone with a mobility impairment

Signs: Float On

Why for the choice to live in bubble floating high in Dreamland encapsulated, ensconced and apathetic untouched, unloved, unwanted unengaged but separate and untroubled too cut off from pain and hurt refusal and rejection Why for the choice to live in bubble when bubbles burst and lose their life as soon as contact with earth is made Why for the choice to live in bubble and not to ...

a blue panel with 5 white characters on it. A wheelchair user, a woman, a man, a baby and a carer

Signs: Read Em, Write Em, Weep and Vomit

Sitting on a train from Harpenden to Kentish Town I see a blue panel with 5 characters on it. A wheelchair user, a woman, a man, a baby and a carer. I think that's the correct order. So i start telling their stories in my head. Photograph the panel as ...

A photograph shows a child's hand holding a camera remote as he takes the picture. In the background is what appears to be a council estate.

‘Picture Taking: Exploring Myself Through Photography’

Hackney Museum plays host to Picture Taking: Exploring Myself Through Photography, an exhibition featuring the work of pupils from a local SEN school. Reviewer, Richard Downes finds the show raises difficult questions about representation. "This review is a representation... This representation is a lie…" DAO's event listing tells me the exhibition is ...