A close-up photo of a double-page spread of the sheet music for the oboe part of 'The Mikado'
Disability

To ‘Crip’, or not to ‘Crip’?…That is the question – What do we mean by ‘Cripping’ The Muse?

By Gillian Loomes

The organising of a conference takes time. It begins as a tiny seed of an idea, germinated in conversation and nurtured by passionate enthusiasm. That’s how it was for us – coffee and conversation about Disability, and Arts, and all the intersections: the opportunities, the barriers when those two worlds collide. Shared identity and experience as musicians in myriad forms, rubbing against disabled identity and disability politics – and a mutual desire to shake things up. We decided we wanted to bring people together, and to host a conference that focused on the intersections between music (as academic discipline, as industry, as career, as passion) and the politics of Disability Studies. It would be a vibrant space, a creative space – but it would also be a challenging and provocative space: A Call to Arms in beautiful polyphonic symphony.

And then the planning begins. Specifically, the funding applications begin. In filling out forms, and writing proposals for a conference, the idea once again grows in conversation. And it takes root in black and white – words on a page. It grows in its ‘realness’. But this is where the question arises: What are we going to call the event? How do we sum up all this excitement, this passion, this ‘Call to Arms’ in a name? “Music and Disability Studies Conference” just wasn’t doing it for us. This is when I (GL) began to think about (to ‘muse upon’, you might say…) my own disabled identity, and my engagement with disability politics. What did THAT mean to me? And how did it fit with what we are trying to say with our conference? And so I began to reflect on my ‘Crip’ identity, on language, on reclaiming language, and on the political work represented by, and embodied in, such (speech) acts of reclaiming language. And I started to realize that our aims for the conference are actually shaped by, embodied in, and seek to reproduce the work of disability politics, as captured in the word ‘Crip’ (noun – as identity, and verb – as provocation, as challenge.)

But what do we mean by ‘Crip’? 

‘Crip’ is a word that commands attention. It troubles, it unsettles. It can catapult us back to an age when disability was something shameful, to be borne individually and hidden from the able gaze of wider society: to the age of The Guild of the Brave Poor Things, where “handicapped” was seen as a progressive choice. But in recent years, it has begun to launch us into new, unchartered terrain. Following in the tracks of other marginalized communities (Black people, and LGBT+ people are key examples), disabled people have grasped the nettle of ‘Crip’, and spun it around. They have put it to work in the most creative, artistic of ways – such as the U.S. symposium that set out to create a disabled perspective to the cultural world of comic books, and to the related event on ‘Comic Con’. Indeed, the organizers of ‘Cripping the Con 2017’ describe beautifully what is meant by ‘Crip’ and ‘Cripping’ when they say:

“Using the terms “Crip” and “Cripping” is one way of “taking back” language and power from the people who, and the institutions and systems that have used it historically (and, in some cases, presently), to harm and demean people with disabilities … Language, control and social power are thus asserted by people with disabilities and our allies, who have the right to speak for ourselves and act on our own behalf.”

In ‘Cripping the Con’, those who participated did not simply gather together to discuss, and to carve out a place for disability within the existing landscape of comic book culture. They did more than that. They disturbed that landscape. They troubled the status quo in order to create something new from the fusion of comic book culture with disabled culture. Not an awkward squeeze, but a powerful, radical shake. And this is what we seek to do with ‘Cripping the Muse’ – to explore new terrain where disability not only fits in with the Arts, but boldly claims its place in shaping and making art.

Such political aims find their academic expression in the development of new aspects of Disability Studies – notably, in ‘Crip Theory’. Crip Theorists, such as Robert McRuer (in his germinal text ‘Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability) seek to interrogate and challenge normative social expectations, and performances that construct and embody the ‘able’ body. As Alison Kafer (a Crip-feminist) puts it, the work of Crip Theory seeks to redefine disability in order to build a ‘politics of Crip futurity, an insistence on thinking these imagined futures – and hence, these lived presents – differently.’ (Kafer, 2013: 3).

In curating and hosting Cripping the Muse we align ourselves with the political and academic commitments of Crip identity and Crip theory. We seek to bring together musicians from across the disciplines, industries, and cultures of music in order to imagine what a ‘Crip futurity’ might look like across these disciplines, industries, and cultures. These are bold, exciting aims, and they are aims that I – a Crip-musician, am proud to pursue alongside my colleagues in organizing Cripping the Muse.

 

Kafer, A. (2013) “Feminist, Queer, Crip” Indiana: Indiana University Press

Uncategorized

Call for Submissions now Closed

Our call for submissions closed on 1st May. Thank you to everyone who submitted an abstract. We have been overwhelmed with the response to this call for contributions. The peer-review team have their work cut out for them!

Whilst you’re waiting for the final event programme to be determined, why not book your place at the event? We can assure you that, if you have an interest in music and/or disability studies, you’re not going to want to miss this event! Click here to book your place: https://store.leeds.ac.uk/product-catalogue/school-of-music/conference-events/cripping-the-muse-a-2day-summit-event-exploring-the-interfaces-between-music-disability-studies

The cost of attending the event is as follows:

Day One (training event) 

Student/Unwaged: Free

Waged/Organisation: £20

Personal Assistant Ticket (if required): Free

Day Two (conference event) 

Student/Unwaged: £20

Waged/Organisation: £40

Personal Assistant Ticket (if required): Free

Both Days (training & conference) 

Student/Unwaged: £20

Waged/Organisation: £60

Personal Assistant Ticket (if required): Free

A travel bursary scheme will also be available for those with the greatest need (details of this will be announced shortly).

If you have any specific access requirements and are concerned about being able to access the event please do not hesitate to email our Accessibility Officer, Gillian Loomes, who will be happy to assist with any queries you may have. Please contact Gillian via email at lwgl@leeds.ac.uk or via Twitter Direct Messaging @LoomesGill.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

A close-up photo of a table holding a large number of white lanyards. The lanyards have the 'University of Leeds' logo printed on them in dark green.
Uncategorized

Booking now open!

** Amendment 04.07.2018 – Booking for this event is now closed **

We are delighted to announce that booking for ‘Cripping the Muse’ is now open.

Places at this event are limited so please do book now to avoid missing out. Click here to be taken to the University of Leeds Booking System where you will be able to book tickets.

The cost of attending the event is as follows:

Day One (training event) 

Student/Unwaged: Free

Waged/Organisation: £20

Personal Assistant Ticket (if required): Free

Day Two (conference event) 

Student/Unwaged: £20

Waged/Organisation: £40

Personal Assistant Ticket (if required): Free

Both Days (training & conference) 

Student/Unwaged: £20

Waged/Organisation: £60

Personal Assistant Ticket (if required): Free

A travel bursary scheme will also be available for those with the greatest need (details of this will be announced shortly).

If you have any specific access requirements and are concerned about being able to access the event please do not hesitate to email our Accessibility Officer, Gillian Loomes, who will be happy to assist with any queries you may have. Please contact Gillian via email at lwgl@leeds.ac.uk or via Twitter Direct Messaging @LoomesGill.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

Uncategorized

We All Make Music – A Universal Call for Action

Usually, if you tell me that an event involves a 4am start, 5 hours on a Virgin East Coast Service train and 2 journeys on the London Underground at rush-hour I’d be more than a little inclined to stay in Leeds and avidly follow the conference hashtag on Twitter.

Not this event. I wouldn’t have missed Drake Music’s We All Make Music festival for the world.

If you haven’t heard of Drake Music I urge you to put your reading of this blog post on hold and check out their website immediately (although please do return once you’re done!) Experts in inclusive music-making in education, pioneers of assistive music technology and one of the sector-leaders in accessible instrument design, their remit is impressive and far-reaching. They’ve been in the game for over 20 years and, during this time, have gone on quite the journey as an organisation. As their mini ‘We All Make Music’ guide explains:

“For many years our team was made up largely of non-disabled practitioners. In other words, we were programming and delivering music-making opportunities FOR Disabled people. We recognised that there was a need to evolve a more collaborative approach. We needed to be programming and delivering music-making opportunities WITH, ALONGSIDE and BY Disabled people. This brings the idea of Equality to our work on inclusion. We value and celebrate this coming together; Disabled and non-disabled practitioners making music and change together, sharing different expertise, experiences, skill and talent.”

(Drake Music, We All Make Music 2018 Guide, p.1)

This was the impetus for the We All Make Music event. Marketed as a ‘Music Education Festival’ and forming part of Drake Music’s Think 2020 programme, this one-day un-conference brought together practitioners from across the music education sector. These attendees were treated to a range of creative, hands-on, accessible music workshops and, perhaps most relevant to Cripping the Muse, stimulating debate and discussion on what the future of inclusive music education should look like.

After a rousing welcome from Carien Meijer (CEO of Drake Music) and other members of the Drake team, John Kelly took to the stage to perform a protest song which was specially commissioned for the event. Again, if you’ve not heard of John before I cannot urge you too strongly to follow his work (you can find him on Twitter @rockinpaddy). As the room echoed with his evocative chorus – ‘We don’t fit in a box. Let my music speak for me’ – I think we all knew that this event was the start (or perhaps I should say the continuation?) of something exciting.

As the day progressed this feeling only grew. For me, last Friday’s event was the first time I’ve ever felt truly certain that I am part of a wider movement. For years a handful of music organisations have been leading the way in developing and sharing inclusive practice. What they did last Friday was to invite us all to stand with them; to come together in our shared interest to make the music education sector fully inclusive. Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music, summarised this beautifully as he presented his concluding thoughts to the audience at the end of the day:

“The language of inclusion is back on the table. We have a massive opportunity over the next 4 years to get this work scalable. We’re not a special interest group. We’re not a cottage industry. There has been a lot of talk today about this being a ‘movement’ and I support that whole-heartedly. However, to effect real change this movement needs to be organised, with precise clarity of purpose, strategies and activities to create change. This applies to all of us. Concerted action has to start now.”

(Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music)

As I sat on the train back to Leeds, these words circulated in my mind. Matt was right. This movement does need to be organised. I was left wondering how researchers fit into this. Evidence is powerful, but for it to have real, lasting impact on the landscape of inclusive music education (and disability and the arts more boradly) it needs to originate from an inclusive space. For evidence to lead to inclusion, research has to be inclusive. We have to do what Drake Music did, we have to stop carrying out research FOR disabled people and start carrying out research WITH, ALONGSIDE and BY disabled pepole.

As the train creaked homeward, I smiled as I realised that this was exactly what my fellow conference team and I were trying to achieve with Cripping the Muse. In the same way that We All Make Music formally sought to shift the narrative of the music education sector, Cripping the Muse formally seeks to shift the narrative of research surrounding music and disability.

It therefore seems fitting that the launch date of Cripping the Muse was Saturday 10th March 2018 – the day after We All Make Music. As researchers we have a duty to establish how we might collectively support and contribute to the efforts of the inclusive music movement. How can disabled and non-disabled music researchers alike support the efforts of the sector in making music more inclusive? In addition, how can we make research more accessible so that research findings better reflect the needs, wants and desires of disabled people? Better still, how can we make academia more accessible so that disabled people can shape the research agenda and develop inclusive research practices on their own terms?

Cripping the Muse will act as a starting place for these conversations. By bringing together amateur and professional disabled musicians, the organisations which support them, and those with research interests in disability studies, sociology, psychology, musicology, music education, music psychology, community music and music therapy we will collectively push the research agenda of the field in new directions. Together we will set a new mandate for music and disability research, proving that we too are neither a special interest group nor a cottage industry. We are what should be the norm.

Written by Sarah Mawby (lead organiser of Cripping the Muse)