No. 5 @ Waterside Arts Centre- Sale Write Out Loud

Monday 20th May 2024

After months of thinking about, planning and promoting the Book Tour, I just wanted to get on with gig no 2 at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale. This is because, as I touched on in the last blog, I’m never fully comfortable with promoting myself (showing off) but I do think after years of doing poetry, my words are what show me best, so I was just feeling extremely excited and ready to be performing somewhere new.

For the first time in ages there felt a bit of responsibility and nice pressure after “the big I am” build up, to go out there and perform well. My brain was shooting off in all directions and often I had to check myself and be reminded that although the venue and experience would be new, the way I do the poems, the set, the stories in-between doesn’t need to be any different.

Seriously Shaun, you’re not going suddenly press the wheelchair controls, burst into a seven verse poem, fall down on your knees like Prince and go all showbiz.’

These were some of my thoughts but I have be honest and say my first thoughts weren’t about the gig or venue at all, they only came later. The first thing that actually struck me about arriving in Manchester city centre to catch a tram to Sale was just how straightforward it would be to get around the city.

On the tram I’d be a free flowing giddy ant going wherever I please without ever having to ask permission or check with another able bodied soul. It felt empowering to me and new. Of course it’s a little-rose tinted and tempered by the fact I still wouldn’t access all buildings and the cost of day-to-day living here squeezes so hard for everyone that its not really a viable financial option for many standard folk. Nevertheless the tram network gave me an appreciated feeling I don’t feel in my own town.

Seeing the inside of the corner shop in my town is currently on the ‘to do list of a galaxy far far away.’ I’d never claim to know anyone’s needs or requirements other than mine and that alone is why disability is a complex issue you. If we fix something for me, it could inadvertently make it awkward for another but what I will say is practicality is probably the dominant thought in my mind and other disabilities most of the time.

Back to the gig. The feeling of a little healthy pressure is also a relatively rare experience for me. I say this because a lot of times with disability not much is expected of you, you are seen as the forever angelic person who is a hero because they get up and still remember to breathe, in a world that for the large part doesn’t

care enough. It’s the image we’re branded with before we do anything and what we’re trying to escape.

Two things I want to say on this. Firstly, to be fully included on an equal level in society everyone has the right to be a bastard from time to time. It’s not what you strive for but sometimes it’ll happen when life kicks in and secondly, don’t think so little of a person that you can’t even count them as a same human to begin with. If you’re granting a disability-autonomous-patronising-freedom-from-responsibility isnt helpful. I think if you really want to help, then just look at pushing for the real world wider alterations needed instead.

As part of the book tour, another new aspect for me was taking a PA, a friend who could support me getting to the event and also be able to help on the night. In new places this is invaluable because it’s one thing to not know where you’re going but another to be experiencing any manner of access issues on top of that as well. i.e. the train platform staff don’t bring the access ramp, people put their luggage in the disabled space, no lower dropped kerbs near the venue so you have to backtrack looking for one or go into the road, etc. A friend also makes it more fun, stops me fretting and talking to myself all day. My PA for this particular gig was Tony Kinsella, a fellow poet and musician living close to the Manchester area.

As well as it generally being a bit more fun having another person, in the back of my mind was the experience I had at the Free Fringe in Edinburgh a few years ago. For whatever reason even though I was performing everyday, the lifts down to the disabled toilets were blocked everyday with beer kegs inside it. There was limited or no access to almost ALL other shows for me, so as you can imagine I felt shitty just for being there and didn’t want a repeat of that. I don’t think its unfair to say that taking an able bodied assistant acts as my insurance, a guarantor because as the experience in Edinburgh showed me you’re not taken seriously until an able bodied person says what you’ve been trying to say all along.

                                             Edinburgh 2022 outside my venue 

I’m an adventurous person and if I hadn’t had these awkward experiences in the past, I would just go by myself and who’s to say really when that perception of disability will shift from always being the one needing to be helped but in this case if it minimise all the stress, faff and stops me being fobbed off with strange excuses then its how it has to be for now. Spontaneity can’t be a thing for disabled people yet. .

One final thing that has helped make the experience much less anxiety-inducing on the tour is that I’ve booked an accessible room to stop over and travel back the next day. For all gigs further afield it means I can really enjoy being there without the worry of missing the accessible bus, it being taken off route, leaving me stranded or not being able to get the last train.

As for the gig itself, can’t fault it, just a lovely space to be in, the atmosphere was really friendly, there was a disabled toilet which was a decent size to get my chair in. There wasn’t a stage but it didn’t really matter because everyone had the same space

to perform in. The only thing I spotted on the night that came in very handy was a small table in the performance space so I was able to put my books on here and feel less clumsy with my movements. Overall It was a lovely night and its somewhere that I’ll definitely put down to return to in future. Linda Downs a co-organiser of the night, also sent me this nice message about this gig afterwards, so despite that annoying self-sabotage voice in my head, maybe I didn’t do too badly after all.

Morning Shaun was just going to message you thank you. Your set was brilliant and I'm sure will go down great. Good luck with the tour. You made the night perfect. You are always welcome to come again x “

Waterside Arts Centre Sale 2024 


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