A user-led music charity has launched a major survey of disabled musicians in a bid to push for improvements to the accessibility of performing, rehearsing and recording spaces.
Attitude is Everything’s (AiE) NEXT STAGE project has already secured the support of leading disabled musicians such as Blaine Harrison of Mystery Jets, singer-songwriter and violinist Gaelynn Lea, Kris Halpin from Winter of ’82, and Rob Maddison from Revenge of Calculon.
AiE is now looking for disabled and Deaf musicians to take part in the nationwide survey and provide information about their own experiences of rehearsing, recording, playing live, attending industry events and applying for arts funding.
The charity has previously focused on improving accessibility for disabled people who attend festivals and live music gigs, but its new project aims to support the music industry to develop inclusive spaces for performing live, recording, networking and pursuing a career in music.
AiE hopes to use the survey results to develop a comprehensive network of disabled artists, musicians, songwriters and DJs.
Suzanne Bull, AiE’s chief executive, said: “We have spent almost 20 years working for disabled audiences and now, with support from Arts Council England, we want to improve accessibility for disabled artists.
“This process will not be easy. The challenges facing Deaf and disabled people are often hidden, and rarely discussed publicly. There are a range of stigmas and sensibilities.
“So our first goal is to collect information through a comprehensive and wide-reaching survey.
“By paying attention to artists’ voices, I believe we can build a thriving network of talent that will enhance British music and benefit all in the wider music community.”
Harrison, an AiE patron, said that “hearing the experiences and voices of disabled artists will hugely diversify and enrich the music industry of tomorrow”.
He said: “Since we started out playing shows there has been a huge shift in the music industry’s attitude towards deaf and disabled audiences.
“It’s been so inspiring to see live-signing catching on at gigs and festivals, not to mention how popular viewing platforms have become.
“And when you’re up there it’s not hard to see why. The atmosphere is one of shared joy; reminding us that the live music experience is one we can all participate in.
“But backstage, it’s often another story. Dressing rooms can be tucked away up steep flights of stairs in the eaves of the building; if there are lifts they are often made for hauling heavy equipment and not safe to ride in unattended.
“For artists requiring some alone time to mentally prepare for the pressures of a performance, the back of the van in the car park can sometimes be the closest thing to a safe space.”
Halpin said: “We often see commitment from venues to improve access for disabled audience members, but often backstage it’s as if no-one ever considered the existence of disabled people.”
Maddison (pictured) added: “Whilst on tour, disabled artists often encounter huge problems in terms of accessible transport and accommodation, the last thing we need is to arrive at the venue we’re booked to perform at only to find out that it is totally inaccessible as well.
“All of these barriers inevitably result in a situation where disabled artists feel excluded from playing live, and the knock-on effect is that you rarely see any high-profile disabled artists in the music industry as a whole.”
Tomorrow (14 December), at Cafe OTO, AiE is co-promoting the accessible London date of Gaelynn Lea’s UK tour in support of her new album, Learning How To Stay. There will be a question and answer discussion before the performance on accessibility and live music with Gaelynn Lea and Suzanne Bull, moderated by BBC’s Nicola Stanbridge
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