Going to gigs as a disabled person, there’s quite a few things to consider, that a non-disabled person doesn’t have to think about. Will there be a seat with a view? Will I be able to stand that long? Will the venue have level access? Will there be accessible toilets. How will I get there and back? Etc etc. But you’d really hope that one of the questions you have to ask yourself isn’t “will someone be really rude and aggressive to me because I’m disabled?”. You’d really hope that most people would be decent enough human beings, wouldn’t you? Here’s my open letter to the couple who spoilt our Friday evening.
So, you go to a gig and you get a front row view. You really don’t want to lose it, I get that. I’ve got to gigs early, bagged my place, only to be pushed out of the way by some aggressive little shits who turned up late. It’s rude, it’s bad etiquette.
But you know what, we politely asked if you would move sideways 12 inches so that my disabled friend could lean on a pillar for support. It would have given you no less of a view. It wouldn’t have spoilt your enjoyment of the gig. You wouldn’t have missed anything. But you pushed (yes, physically pushed) my disabled friend out of the way. You looked down on us. You sneered at her. You made very audible sarcastic remarks about her. You told her to go and sit in a part of the venue where there was no visibility at all, and was down a flight of stairs. Go you! What heroic gig goers you are.
Here’s the thing. Disabled people are as much entitled to enjoy gigs as you. Maybe you think disabled people should be staying at home watching shit TV and dribbling down their fronts? Or at least, sitting in the shitty seats, because, you know, disabled people don’t go out, let alone to see live music. Maybe you don’t have any sympathy for disabled people unless they look a bit helpless and docile and have a carer with them? Perhaps you don’t think disabled people are really disabled unless they use a wheelchair? In fact, this particular disabled person – that you shoved out of the way, and refused to allow to lean on a pillar so that she could stand long enough to watch the show and were so rude to – is more often to be found on the stage making music than watching it. Maybe you’ll enjoy one of her gigs one day. I’d love for you to hear her amazing musicianship. But even if she wasn’t, even if just like you, she just liked live jazz, she still has as much right, and need, and passion as you for cultural and artistic experiences.
I guess you, middle class, middle aged white couple that you are, think you are nice, decent liberal people? You weren’t nice or decent on Friday night. Which makes me wonder when it is, exactly, that you do decide to be nice, and to whom? Or whether you’re rude and aggressive to anyone who challenges your privilege. And if you are rude and aggressive towards people with very visible impairments/disabilities, how are you towards people like myself with invisible impairments/disabilities ?
I’m sick of people who think they’re so liberal and and empathetic and “nice” and respectable, when all they are is low down rude judgemental inconsiderate scum. I really hope our hard stares were boring holes in the back of your head. I hope it spoilt the gig for you. Because you know what, having to stand for 2 hours with no support – when support was easily available if only you’d moved a few inches to the left – spoilt my friend’s enjoyment of the evening.
As for the gig itself… the gig was amazing. Really really amazing. We loved the band and the tunes and the arrangement and the musicians. We’re both pretty seasoned jazz lovers and gig goers, but this was something really special. I don’t know whether you know enough about jazz to know that. It was a privilege to be in the audience. I hope you felt that too. Maybe next time you are in an audience, next time you are privileged enough to witness such fine music making, you’ll also stop a moment and realise that you’re not the only damn people in the room who have a right to enjoy that.
The gig by the way, was Courtney Pine and the Inner City Ensemble. It was amazing. The band of upcoming jazz musicians were fantastic musicians and the music full of fabulous sounds, humour, and greatness. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s the first time I’ve seen Courtney Pine live for 30 years, and he did not disappoint. Still the very likeable performer, still the best ambassador this country has for jazz music, still sticking it to “the man”. Thank you to the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds for booking this gig and for the Band On The Wall in Manchester for putting together the project in the first place.