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Disability History Month 2018

10 December 2018

UK Disability History Month 2018 (UKDHM 2018) will focus on Disability and Music.

19th November to 22nd December - Find out more on the UKDHM 2018 website

It will explore the links between the experience of disablement in a world where the barriers faced by people with impairments can be overwhelming. 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.

UK Disability History Month broadsheet

Download the 2018 Broadsheet in PDF or Word  format or text only

Featured performers

Johnny Crescendo

 Born in Salford in 1952, polio survivor Alan Holdsworth goes by the stage name ‘Johnny Crescendo’. His music addresses civil rights, disability pride and social injustices, making him a crucial voice of the movement and one of the best-loved performers on the disability arts circuit.

Musicians who contracted polio

List includes Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Carl Perkins, Donovan, Ian Dury, Staff Benda Belili, Charlie Haden, Doc Pomus and Itzhak Perlman.

Itzhak Perlman is a world renowned classical violinist with 16 Grammy awards and now a biopic. He contracted polio aged 4 and has walked using leg braces and crutches since then. As of 2018, he uses crutches or an electric Amigo scooter and plays the violin while seated.

“I didn’t like it when, early on in my career, the media invariably mentioned how I came on stage using crutches and played sitting down,” he confessed. “I wanted to be judged as a musician, to know if I was worthwhile as an artist. And eventually the stories stopped mentioning that. But once I was established I came full circle. I had no problem that people mentioned it.”

Amadou and Maryam

 Amadou and Mariam are a musical duo from Mali. They met at Mali's Institute for the Young Blind, where they both performed at the Institute’s Eclipse Orchestra, and found they shared an interest in music.

Evelyn Glennie

Evelyn is a virtuoso percussionist, who has been profoundly deaf since the age of 11. She regularly plays bare foot to feel the music better during both live performances touring the world and studio recordings. She hears the music with different parts of her body and describes thinking of different parts as different colours. When she went to the Royal College of Music she faced many barriers but prevailed. There was no such thing then as a solo percussionist. Evelyn made that a reality.  

Disability and music in outer space

Blind Willie Johnson

Many blues and gospel musicians were blind, music being one way to make a living if disability prevented you being employed in the 1920’s and 30’s. Blind Willie Johnson was said to have been deliberately blinded by his stepmother and later preached and sang on windblown streets in Texas. His Dark was the night and cold was the ground, a gospel blues about the crucifixion of Christ, was included on one of the two golden records which have been placed on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes. In fact, any alien in outer space who cares to listen, may hear Blind Willie long after the human race has ceased to exist.

UK Disability History Month