I don’t really know why I’m reviving old memories by writing this blog (my very first in 75 years) but I am still a Disabled person and proud to be so. I just felt it was time to reach out to see if any of my old friends in the wacky world of Disability are still alive too.
During the Naughty Nineties, I was pleased to edit Disability Arts In London for a couple of years. DAIL was a curiously shaped (long thin format) monthly paper magazine that many will recall was influential in shaping views and lives. It was a formative influence on my art and my view of the world.
I then went on to be Chair of the Disabled Members Committee of The National Union of Journalists, I also served on the Arts Council of England’s Disability Committee. After and during those times I made many films about Disability for the BBC, Channel 4, the arts Council and many other institutions with my late wife Sally. Well, that’s the cv bit out of the way.
What do I do now? Paint, write, teach painting and try to avoid drinking too much wine. The last is a bit problematic as I live happily in the south-west of France and the temptation to drown oneself internally in excellent, and cheap, Bordeaux wine is ever present. There many Brits out here who do drink to excess.
I also play music at sessions in bars or bistrots, either solo or with others. Instruments: fiddle, squeezebox or banjo.
Getting older with a disability is always worth discussing with others. Some people here assume I hobble around like I do because I’m aged. When I explain that I’ve been like this for many a long year they are kind enough to enquire the reason.
I also tell others that my condition explains to some extent my attitude towards my painting and art activities; it is great when people take an interest, especially French people because they come from a different perspective.
I always say to my painting students, ‘You have to be tough to be a good painter’. This is not to say physically tough necessarily but more that it pays to have a robust and enduring mind, just like many of my Disabled friends in the UK. It’s how we survive.
I’m a little non-accepting of current French terms on Disability. We crips, here in France, are ‘les handicappés – a term that makes me cringe – but the word belies the growing awareness that French people are adopting about Disabled people’s rights. The French constitution after all, defined and developed after the French Revolution, gives us all the right to be treated with respect and, by and large, that right is now being upheld for Disabled people too.