Latest Audio Blog

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Oh Janey Mac!

I'm not nearly, I am! And it all feels fine so far. My head hasn't fallen off, I haven't forgotten how to party, I don't need more or less sleep and best of all I can still do my own version of that rub yer stomach pat yer head thing that people do, except I can't reach my head and my circular motion is just around me belly button!

I guess just acknowledging I'm 40 means theres some significance to it, but I haven't been able to put my finger on it's exact significance yet. My feeling is yahoo, I've got here and my life has been great so far. We've had some pretty major challenges in our family and so far survived and become stronger as a result of them. So no complaints apart from still not being able to properly access the tube for the last 34 years (mum got me on when I was 6 by carrying me down) or being able to access the best intimate live venues in London without the bouncers (oops door supervisors) needing to call for back up to get me in!

we had a great party where it confirmed that I know I've got the best family and friends a 40 year old could wish for and they can all still party too!

So what pearls of wisdom have I learnt over 40 years (the following is only useful for my self guidance and not meant as advice or to be followed by anyone else, you can do your own!):
  • Humility is a great virtue to which I will always wish to work towards.
  • I haven't got all the answers but I'm happy to continue looking.
  • I'm on a journey and love sharing it with others.
  • Don't tinkle in a field in the wind, especially in Dorking in the middle of the night.
  • Have a good time all the time.
  • I'm a lover not a fighter (except where freedom and discrimination is concerned).
  • Disability has nothing to do with ability.
  • The road to Holyhead is two-faced - it's the best journey and the worst all in two lanes!
  • Being in a wheelchair is absolutely fine & dandy unless it breaks down. It's steps, stairs and attitude that stops you doing things.
  • Keep practicing, there's always something to improve.
  • Trust in others, the Holy Spirit & yourself.
  • My glass is nearly always full to over flowing.
  • Never sit in a deckchair on the Isle of Wight with Ginger, without having a good limerick up your sleeve.
  • Independence is not being able to do everything on your own.
  • Cows are lovely things and I still haven't quite worked them out.
  • I like music loud.
  • I don't trust cucumber.
  • This is a beautiful world which we need to look after and I hope to continue seeing the most beautiful sites it has without damaging it too much.
  • Normal doesn't exist.
  • Music is my bag.
  • Don't end the day with things left to do, resolve n plan, but go to bed settled or you'll never sleep.
  • Irritable bowel is really irritating when your nervously about to perform/facilitate/present/meet someone important/speak or if you haven't got a pa/hoist/strong mate/accessible loo nearby (although I have to add, I've been lucky so far!).
  • I love my Mum & Dad, friends and family and my life so far.
  • There's always a way to do and manage anything life throws at you.
  • Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire have taught me loads.
  • There's not much on telly.
  • Extreme wealth is as bad and obscene as poverty.
  • Why does business news get air time when community news gets zilch (by community I mean good news opportunity to work and support each other to create change, embrace differences and do things for the good of each other and our world).
  • I'm not the best musician or singer but I love playing and rocking it with a crowd who's up for it.
  • All means All.
  • Nothing About Us Without Us.
  • My van Lizzie, is wicked and changed my life.
  • My life is always changing so don't try to stay the same.
  • I still haven't found my soul mate, but I've whittled it down to about 30.
  • It was hard writing the last one without breaking into a U2 number.
  • There is definately good. There is only bad if you want to look for it or if you let 'em win.
  • I'm proud to work with so many inspiring young people.
  • Vic Finklestein & Michael Oliver, Jane Campbell (Dame, sorry Jane) & Jenny Morris have best articulated both my understanding of disability and my experience of disability.
  • The Fonze is still coolamundo...Eh!
  • Colombo is still a genius.
  • Elvis in his youth sung the butt of a song.
  • Frank Spencer is still my hero!
  • My impairment is a total part of me, it's not secondary, non-existent, to be cured or made better or made normal, it's part of me, not the whole of me or the dominant part of me, it's part of me, not to be hidden, or ashamed of, or to be blamed on others or myself, its part of me and like the wheelchair (see above) it doesn't stop me doing anything that is important to me.
  • My top 5 songs (see along right hand side of blog) hasn't changed much over the past five years so need to re-visit.
  • Jacks is the best bar in my world and serves the best Guinness in the World.
  • Thank god I'm not a good business man.
  • Try to be as honest as you can to yourself and to others.
  • Turning 40's cool.
  • Don't rush, the journey is as important as the destination.
  • There's plenty of time but don't procrastinate or even worse don't not do the things you need to do (and I'm not talking about the washing up)!
  • I've got the loveliest, talented, kindest god children you could wish for.
  • Do the washing up ( I prefer doing it as you go long, as long as the food doesn't go cold).
  • Lists are good so always put at least one thing on that you can tick off straight away.
  • Get the balance between doing the hard things and the easy things right.
  • Doing things together collaboratively fuels and motives my individual work.
  • Inclusion is the way of the Jedi.
  • The Saw Doctors, Pogues, Dubliners, Elvis, Elvis Costello, Robert Wyatt & Billy Bragg to name but a few.
  • I'm a tiger (when I need to be).
  • Don't forget yer shovel if you want to go to work.
  • Keep wasps off my sandwich.
  • Don't be pretentious or self important.
  • Never wear a mankini at your birthday party.
  • Do it!
  • I'll be sorry about writing at least one of these someday, so will update when I'm 80.
  • Nothing is definitive.

So enough reflecting for now, still got some major freedom fighting and plenty discrimination to beat off and I'm not going to rest on that. You know who you are and you've been warned.

Be lucky

Friday, 4 September 2009

From My friends at DAN

I don't usually post other peoples writing but Dan are trying to spread the word about this action, so please read on:

The Disabled People's Direct Action Network (DAN) is once again taking
action against Birmingham City Council (BCC) on Monday 14th September for
the rights of disabled people in Birmingham and everywhere to life,
liberty and the choice and control over our own lives that most
non-disabled people take for granted, but which we can be denied at the
whim of a local authority.

BCC promised to work with DAN towards establishing genuine independent
living for disabled people in Birmingham after our last action in March
(see report at won us
a meeting with Peter Hay (Director of Health and Social Care) and other
Council officials, but has not delivered on that promise, and 6 months
later there has been no apparent change in BCC's treatment of disabled

Yesterday (30th August 2009), a disabled service user and DAN supporter,
for whom members of Birmingham DAN had been advocating in the "social
care" system, died in hospital in Birmingham following BCC's refusal, only
a few weeks before, to provide him with any care or support to live

Disabled people in Birmingham are still being refused assessments for
direct payments to employ Personal Assistants (which is breaking the legal
obligation of all Local Authorities under the 1990 Community Care Act),
being told by social workers that they do not have any needs or being
bullied by council officials into signing agreements they do not want to
sign, simply to save the council money.
Other disabled people are still homeless, living in totally inaccessible
housing, trapped against their will in nursing homes where they have no
choice and control over their own lives, or living in total social
isolation and disgustingly filthy conditions, not because of a lack of
funding for accessible housing and social support services, but because of
the absence of the political will to use council funding for those

How many more disabled people will have to die and how many more lives
will be put at risk before BCC gives us our human rights?

The action on September 14th will start at 1pm and will be in Birmingham
city centre. For further information contact Steve on 07931 421947 or or Tom on 07816 275985 or

Please forward this message to as many disabled people (or anyone else who
you think may be interested in taking part in the action) as possible.


Steve Graby, Birmingham DAN

Monday, 20 July 2009

Abbeyfeale to Athens to Albury via Stratford UA & Newham!

It's often easy to say "I'm very busy at the moment" but my carbon footprint over the last 2 months could easily have been mistaken for the footprint left by a sizable Yettie with extra foot growth issues. Stratford seems a distant memory, but going to the home of the bard to perform Equality Street at UK Youths national Youth work conference was some highlight.

The team performed well, despite British rail making the challenges of travel even more challenging. The performance went down very well and was even seen as being a bit 'controversial'? I'm not sure it really was but my guess is that this is because of our starting point being that Inclusion = All Means All, no ifs, buts, or might have beens (cue for a song).

The band has been extremely busy, starting off with a gig with our furry womble friend Haydon at Hyde Park, despite the mightiest of early morning thunder storms, the sun came out for Rockinpaddy in the Park. Then off on a small-scale tour of Ireland, playing around the wild west, including my cousins wedding in Adare and two gigs in our hometown of abbeyfeale. Any time playing at home is special, but our acoustic set in 'Jacks -The Corner house' had to be up there. A few Guinness's were sunk & Roland & Dave made their Irish debut's with Rockinpaddy. It was a very quick trip in the sense that because we were playing, we were busy, but we tried our best to recapture the peace and serenity that 6 blokes sharing a country house full of brandy, can have. The Rock & Roll moment of the tour, apart from the wedding, fixing the water filled stage roofing, feasting in Leens hotel or listening to the sad death of MJ on the radio as we returned from a gig, had to be drinking Brandy at breakfast as dad wanted to clear the cupboards out!

After Abbeyfeale I squeezed in a a few CIL meetings, a session in Camberley and a music workshop before heading off to Athens to help lead the music element of a European Performing Arts Seminar. I have to admit working self employed, I was nervous about pulling this one off, but i worked with a brilliant team and together we had an amazing experience, definitely a moment of moments. The participants, particularly the young woman and girls of Amalion made the whole event a special, fun and creative experience and the quality of work in the final show was absolutely amazing.

The picture heading this blog was taken from the roof garden of our hotel where we stayed for a few days after the seminar to chill out in Athens. the garden overlooked the Acropolis (still not finished!), where each morning Barry & I would sit drinking strawberry iced water, ooh it was lovely. The city of Athens was busy and hot, any blank space was covered in graffiti, some good, some not so good. what amazed me was for an Olympic city, the access, apart from the brilliant Metro, was so inaccessible. Dropped curbs were rough and inconsistent and it made me realise the efforts the team went through to make the seminar venue as accessible as it was.

I think the nerves actually spurred me on and thanks to our workshop participants we created some great original material which reflected the good time we had. I made some very good friends out there, particularly my 2 co-facilitators and a number of individuals who have stayed in touch since my return.

My time out there re-enforced the importance of music in influencing change and also the need to develop young disabled people as leaders. The experience got me questioning the impact we had and I felt there was more potential from this event to grow and touch elements of change desperately needed in Europe for the inclusion and equality movement.

On my return it was straight into a second equality & inclusion session with Newham youth Service who are on the journey. Finally a small acoustic set at the Albury Festival rounded up a very busy period. I have to say I had hoped for more in the Ferret race but at least we had a bigger dressing room than the little fury creatures!

An amazing few months and I'd like to thank my PA's & family for supporting me through this busy time, if I'm busy then they too are busy! Most of all thanks to all who joined us in Hyde Park, Stratford, Newham, Camberley, Merton, Abbeyfeale, Adare, Albury & Athens. There's more to come over the next few months, not to mention the party of all party's my 75th birthday (Well that's how I feel today anyway)! Now what does my house look like again?

Sunday, 14 June 2009

While I have the chance.

I'm glad the greens did well in the recent elections, the only party with a strong social model of disability policy, which is desperately needed. Sorry I don't believe the argument that those voting BNP were doing it as a protest, there were at least another 10 parties on my ballet paper that could have been voted for that weren't racist, narrow minded bigots, so why choose BNP for a protest?

Rant over, very busy at the moment so apologise if this blog is more like a list than a reflective diary. Currently working with Orpheus 'Breakthrough Media Group' developing the second Independent Living Podcast (visit & click on news to listen to te first), Disability Initiative in Camberley delivering a Decision making Accredited programme. Equality Street Cabaret received rave revues in Stratford as part of UK Youths 2b or not 2B national youth work conference.

I had a great night with Newham Youth Service exploring their inclusive practice and CIL discussions in Merton have moved to a snails pace as we have reached the 'money stage' of development, suddenly the brakes have been eased on and we await progress. The band and my music work generally, is very, very, very, busy and I'm very pleased and grateful considering we are in a recession. We had a great time with Haydon the Womble at Hyde Park (click on pictures of main site) and we are now rehearsing hard for a small-scale tour in Ireland and then a number of workshops in Greece as part of an exciting European Performing Arts Seminar. 'It's My Money' should be completed soon & I hear from some of the gang who participated in last years Starting Out programme are doing well in their transitions.

So haven't got much time to mention that I'm slowly learning new film editing skills (visit rockin news to see my homage to AFC's promotion) we've got new calfs being born back at home, new rockinpaddy T-shirts are on the way & you can pre order by dropping me an email on the main site) AFC have gone up for the second season and that my garden is in desperate need of some tlc, off to rehearsals, I'll try and blog in between Ireland & Greece or just after....if I survive

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Thank you Augusto Boal

Augusto Boal sadly died on 2nd May 2009. I had the privilege to have learnt directly from him and the world is a poorer place now. The day before he died he spent the day in a solidarity vigil with workers.

The reason for blogging today is because I spent the day in Bethnal Green celebrating & remembering his life in true Boalian style. We even had identified the global moment for silence wrongly (5 hours ahead/behind) but carried on with the moment as it was. It was the moment.

What was amazing was that Augusto made a global difference and yet too few people know of his work. The Guardian had done a piece and a few radio shows mentioned his passing, and yet his books will be in the majority, if not all universities. His techniques and methods are being used to transform realities all over the world.

Earlier in my learning Paulo Freire has had a major impact on my understanding of discrimination & oppression, he also influenced Boal thoughts & theories which transformed what and how theatre could be. Amazingly and with so much good fortune I had the privilege and opportunity to meet and spend time learning from Augusto Boal back in 2003ish engaging with him around his theories & book 'Rainbow of Desire'. A year or so ago I was honoured to have played a small part in attempting to get him nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize which now sadly will never be realised.

Adrian Jackson played a great role today and it was definitely an amazing event to be part of.

Thank you Augusto for impacting on my life in such a positive way. Important & significant moments, here, today, and in the future we can transform & we can change our reality.

Reflective Note: Today I found out that there were events in Rio de Janeiro,London, Los Angeles, Lille, Vancouver, Istanbul, Belgrade, Barcelona, Stockholm & Rotterdam and these are only places that were able to promote there event so it is likely that there were many more as I know his work is also celebrated in India, Ireland, Croatia amongst others.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Times they are a changing

I actually missed the moment Obama was sworn in all though I did get to here Aretha give it large which was very powerful indeed. As it turned out I didn't miss it all, as he had to do it all over again the next day. The whole thing did get me thinking about how far have we really come? What got put in place in America to challenge discrimination and begin to get black people into positions of real power. I'm under no illusion that discrimination and racism hasn't ended just because of Obama, but there is an energy of optimism for change. My gut reaction is to think that black people themselves have made the changes by believing, by working and by challenging for opportunity.

What's it going to take for things to change for disabled people? Even in America there is still a lack of disabled people in positions of power, in the media, on the television, running companies.

On another note, snow angels? Yep it snowed and all of a sudden every ones creating snow angels, wheres that all come from?

I'm working with a group around inspiring people? I'm trying to move inspiration away from celebrity and away from success only being about how much money they make. I've always been a bit cautious about inspirational disabled people, because because of the links with being seen as brave heroes over-coming perceived adversity. So what's your criteria for inspiration cause there are some inspiring people out there, Myles Horton, Paulo Freire, David Heavey & Pete Seegar for a start!

We're almost into march! My life seems to get faster and faster, so what do i need to do to slow it down a bit...answers on a postcard, or of course you can just post a comment below.

Be Lucky,


Friday, 9 January 2009

Big up the New Year!

Just thought I'd do a quick blog to comemerate my internet connection in County Down. Some Random thoughts & people in my head...Joe Dolan, Ronnie Drew, hope Shane makes it through another year, Gemmsey's leaving for New Zealand, Lots of interesting work coming up, first time I've ever sent post to ALL my aunts & uncles - what a mission that was, my lovely God-children are growing up, I'm flippin 40 this year, so the Wolfe Tones can officially sing Janey Mac I'm nearly forty to me now, still not sure I've grown up yet, scary!

I've loved this last month away from everything, a time to reflect, try and generate some new ideas, not sure I've totally succeeded but I did do most of the work I was aiming to do.

So lets do it, 2009!