I heard from a friend this week I'd worked with, back when I lived in Brighton. We'd lost touch after I moved to Spain. Amongst other things, his band, Heavy Load, had just released their first album called The Queen Mother's Dead, recorded in Brighton at Metway Studio's and produced by the Load and Al Scott (The Levellers and others).
The Queen Mother's Dead, is a 12 track garage rock n roll record, breaking cultural rules and smashing obstructions. One of my favourite tunes is (Come and get it now) Frank Butcher.
Things are looking up for Heavy Load; there's the new album, plenty of gigs, a film crew following them around for the last 18 months or so for a documentary, and Mat Fraser, actor, musician and militant human rights campaigner is a big fan and thinks they kicked ass.
Anyway, I said yeah, I would love a copy of the album. I wished him and the guys well for the future. You see my mate Simon and his band have had more than the usual hard slog for a rock n roll band trying to make it. Heavy Load have had another big barrier erected right in front of them.
Simon is disabled and so are his drummer and guitarist.
As you may be aware, under something called The Social Model of Disability (coined by disabled academic Paul Foot in the swinging sixties, refined and developed by the disabled ever since) the person with the disability is not the actual problem. Yet the degree of discrimination and prejudice a disabled person faces has been intense, harrowing and since the The Disability Discrimination Act (UK), illegal. Not that an Act of Parliament will automatically change the prejudiced world, but it mirrors the fight against oppression characterised by other discriminated groups of people. Women, gay men, people from non-white cultural backgrounds, gay women, to name a few, have all fought the battle for change and an end to discriminatory practices within society. Some things can and do change.
Heavy Load have carried around a lot of disabling experiences and are now acting them out in their music and on stage, asserting that barriers must be broken down and basic human rights fought for.
Historically, there have been some different ways of analysing and characterising disabled people. The medicalisation of the disabled person, the theory that medical expertise can seek to `cure` the poor wretch of their illness, put heavy focus on defining the disabled by their medical condition. They became their disability and had to deal with the consequent shit that went with absolute zero tolerance institutionalisation and the gradual internalising that they were invalid. It became the poisoned groundwater of our language and culture.
Wars, the Industrial Revolution, new illnesses and old age mean we will all one day be disabled.
The meteoric rise of the `Charidee` business garnered wholesale commiseration, but it was bittersweet clemency and a sense of pity for that poor disabled wretch, in the eyes of the average citizen, that funded this social enterprise. It offered guilt-salve in the shape of collection can-shaking. Hearing those coins drop to the bottom of the can just put off that gnawing nagging sense of unease and fear until the Charidee came into your high street again. Charidee`s were usually run by white middle and upper class do-gooders who dispensed their aid in ways that they thought best. It was rare that the receiver, the `invalid`, was asked what they needed.
When the Government realised that they ought to provide some basic support for the disabled they did it in a way that retained power in the hands of the providers. Financial provision was propped up by the Charity machine and was complex to apply for. The language and rhetoric was discriminatory and you were tested and awarded benefits on the basis of your inabilities.
In fact the Disability Rights Movement, which of course includes Disability Arts, has sought to affirm the Social Model's main thrust at every opportunity. The Social Model puts the problem at the door of society. It was society who had erected social, financial, psychological and disempowering barriers that actually were doing the disabling. Piss poor media and other cultural images didn't help either. Anyone remember Jim Davison and that ilk and their prejudice ridden comedy charades?
To put it simply, society disables.
There is an awful lot of undoing culturally and psychologically to be done in the light of this simple, yet powerful statement.
So, when I heard that the `Load had an album out I was heartened and personally very happy for the guys. Not in a triumph over tragedy way, but in their act of fornicating defiance.
What was the point of this...Ä¶...Ä¶...Ä¶...Ä¶? Oh, yeah, it's like the Social Model says, simple yet powerful, Heavy Load are helping to break down those disabling barriers with their music and their art in challenging discriminatory preconceptions and prejudice.
That's a very Heavy Load.
You can buy their album now from their website, and find out more at: www.heavyload.org
Paul Hawkins has been interested in popular culture and music, protest and survival for as long as we can remember. He began writing about things, making music and other noise at an early age. Paul has interviewed musicians, writers, poets, protestors and artists.