I am in Marrakesh. It’s 46 degrees [106 F] with a dry wind from the desert. We had lunch in the hills near the women’s work co-operative we support. A donkey accompanied the birdsong. I wondered if any other animals make a noise when breathing in as well as out. Ee-or. I can’t think of any apart from me when my asthma is bad. Lions? Ee-roar … it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for donkey’s either which may account for their questionable repute. We are all bigots in the end.
Talking of bigots, a headline caught my eye this morning: A wave of Black British female artists are dominating this year’s diverse Mercury Prize nominations, headed by Celeste, Arlo Parks, Laura Mvula and Nubya
I really like all those artists – sorry, I mean all those black female British artists. I wanted to ask them if they like being cited as Black British Female artists, rather than just artists or British artists or female artists or british Female artists – maybe they do. I have a friend who is an Oscar nominated film director. She told me she was hoping one day to just be called a film director not a black female film director.
I remember Marvin Gaye’s hugely powerful, blunt, anti-racist masterpiece. I remember Stevie’s ‘Living In The City’ making me shudder. I don’t remember them being called Black Soul Singers. Stevie also wrote powerfully about blindness in many songs but always with positivity, as he did about his colour. He was often called Blind singer Songwriter Stevie W but not Blind Black Singer Songwriter – that sounds like a blues artist from the twenties.
But in the end I think they did have to fly their flag, cite their colour as a badge of honour, just to be bloody listened to properly.
So here I am, blind white creole Irish British record producer carrying the flag – er, cane. I’m looking around. Where are the others? We don’t seem to be even on the nursery slopes of this diversity thing. No Mercury nominees – I thought the headline said diverse list of nominees? I guess they mean sort of diverse race and gender-wise … so a bit diverse-ish then. There doesn’t seem to be a disabled people’s coalition, or disabled musician awards. Hmm
Maybe it’s time I took my white cane out of my pocket and unfold it and use blind or disabled to describe myself … and hope if I wave the stick around and shout and listen carefully I might find some other brilliant disabled people, maybe black, maybe female, maybe British, to walk or wheel alongside me. I’m a bit pessimistic as the wonderful Jane Dyball, co-chair of Attitude Is Everything, remarked in a speech last month ‘I’m sad to say after 35 years in the music business I’ve never worked alongside a disabled colleague’.
So where is everybody? There are 14 million disabled people in Britain. That’s 20% of the population. They can’t all be incapable of holding down a senior job, can they? They can’t ALL be crap musicians apart from me, can they? I thought blind folks had super hearing, like black folks are good dancers….this is all very confusing.
I hated being called blind record producer. I wanted to just be first among equals. I sort of got there… but now I’m thinking … where is everybody?
Ee-meow? Ee-woof? No, nothing there. But while I’m on about culture can someone ask Noel Gallagher to stop wearing those shades everywhere please. Doesn’t he know that’s reserved for us blind folks?