This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

> > > > Disability Desert Island Discs

The Songs The People Live By: compiled by Richard Downes

When asked to compile a list of favourite tracks by disabled musicians / composers I got stuck into FaceBook and asked people to nominate their top three tracks from the Disability Rights Movement and to say something about why those tracks empower you as a disabled person.

cover of Ian Stanton's CD 'Rollin' Thunder' with an image of clouds

Ian Stanton's 'Rollin' Thunder' is a classic album at the top of the disability rights catalogue

It would be good to hear cripz on Desert Island Discs. A reason to be cheerful, but how often does one of our songs make an appearance? The airways are clear of our sounds, lives, politics and humour.

According to the Facebook friends that responded there are three stand out tracks and one clear winner, but this is simply the beginning. 

There were some new names for me, which gives hope that the charts will go on as the songs keep tumbling out: Dickie Lupton White and Simon Wood along with Kevin Robins and Creatures on the Lawn.

Please do join the conversation by adding some of your own favorites in the comments forum at the bottom of the page.

Bar Room Bollocks and No Hope ATC by The Fugertivs

Straight in at the top of the disability pops The Fugertivs’ Bar Room Bollocks. Actively kept alive by Dennis Queen and identified by Colin Cameron as being from the Fugertivs' 1999 album 'Joyful Noise', Bar Room Bollocks was noted by Johnny Crescendo ‘for its humour and simplicity’.

The first Fugertiv number No Hope ATC got two nominations from Dennis Queen and Julie Cain and can also be seen being performed on YouTube by Dennis Queen

Dennis Queen added: ‘I picked No hope ATC because its about segregated facilities versus work and inclusion and origins from within a day centre. I also nominated Not Dead Yet (see below) because it's the only song I know about equal rights to life which is a fundamental principle.

I chose these songs partly so I wasn't repeating the Stanton choices and I wanted three different artists. I think there's actually a core of ten to fifteen songs between everyone, which just about give the full picture. I love Stand Up by Leigh Sterling, because it’s punchy and fun and it gets across the fight-back message which is most crucial.


Tragic But Brave, Chip On Your Shoulder, Douglas Bader, Foot Fetish Blues and The Glee Club by Ian Stanton

Tragic But Brave got Robert Punton’s vote for ‘summing up attitudes and activists reaction to attitudes.’ John Smith said of the song: ‘Stunning! Still sends shivers down my spine’.

Karen Sheader said: ‘Tragic but Brave drew me into the Disability Movement. As soon as I heard it I recognised myself 'laughing all the way'.'

As one might expect Ian Stanton got loads of mentions, but like Johnny Crescendo may have been kept off top spot by a great slew of songs that mean a lot to lots of people.

Ian was nominated for Douglas Bader by Deborah Caulfield: ‘Always makes me nod and smile‘.

Foot Fetish Blues was put forward by Colin Cameron. He wanted to offer a top 20, but instead here’s a link to an essay Colin wrote, citing many of Ian’s lyrics: Tragic but brave or just crips with chips? Songs and their lyrics in the Disability Arts Movement in Britain

Bob Williams-Findlay said of The Glee Club:  ‘Ian’s humour was second to none, Loved watching people’s faces when playing this during Disability Equality Sessions’

Personally I expected the album Rolling Thunder to get more votes than it did and Chip On Your Shoulder which was promoted ‘for its politics’.

Choices and Rights, I Don't Wanna Be A Wanna Be, Not Dead Yet, Strong Woman and Voices In Our Heads by Johnny Crescendo

Choices and Rights was nominated by John Kelly as ‘a classic’. The power of this song was brought to life by Gemma Nash who remembered 'driving back from Alan (Holdsworth’s) and Barbara's (Lisicki’s) house way back in 1996 (aged 24) listening to that track again and again and fighting back the tears... it was definitely a memorable epiphanic moment of my youth’.

John Smith nominated several of Johnny's songs ‘from a live performance in Warwick Arts Centre which may have been launch of WMDAF and for lyrics that were proud and seemed to complement where I was emotionally and  mentally at the time. I liked Not Dead Yet and Strong Woman because it strikes a chord. It's not your typical Crip theme’. John also put forward Voices In Our Heads which Bob Williams-Findlay prefers to Choices and Rights: ‘Its far more gritty’. 

Sociatease by Simon Smith

John Smith said: 'I love this. The music and words brings back great memories. Might be after a ‘Rights not Miracles’ action. Sue Elsegood will know Simon negotiated it to be played in a café. Great memory!’

Pig Pen by Clair Lewis aka Dennis Queen

Pig Pen was promoted by Danners who were at the dirty action outside the DWP which inspired the song. It relates to coppers locking us up in pens to stop us taking action against the people who make the rules that keep us down and bring us out.

Mary’s Field by Creatures From The Lawn

Tipped by Fugertiv Karen Sheader who told me about the band: ‘They were Lindsay Carter, aka Spikey, on account of her hair, and Lady Caroline, who played the banjo.

They performed their sweet sounding songs with themes of oppression, abuse, loss and love, across the North East but the Disability Arts Cabaret scene had all but disappeared.

Lindsay and I were co-chairs of Arcadea, formerly NORDAF, until she chose to end her life in October 2009.

You can watch a tribute to Spikey on Shoot Your Mouth Off's YouTube channel. Mary's Field is a beautiful haunting song she wrote about Mary, a woman drained by depression, who chooses to end her life in a sunny field.’

Karen also showed me Tribute to Spikey in memory of her friend and talked of a book she is writing.

Dial A Ride and Happy by Katherine Araniello

My fave Youtube artist Katherine Araniello was mentioned twice in despatches by Colin Cameron for Dial A Ride and Happy.

Neither seem to appear on YouTube. Katherine always does new stuff. Will she ever revisit the old? 

Condem Love by Kevin Robins

This song was described as ‘brilliant’ by John Kelly.

I’m not sure if Leon Russelson would make the grade as a Disability Rights Artist but his sensitivity around a song called Susie inspired Kevin Robins as did What You Do With What You’ve Got by Si Kahn. Clearly outsiders to the movement can look in and get it right when they come from the right ethos themselves.

Clinical Psychiatry and Crack Down Tribunal by Dave Russell

It was a joy to get something from the mental health movement. Survivors Poetry is strong but do we cross-impairment enough as a movement? Colin Hambrook nominated Clinical Psychiatry for ‘its sideways look at the disingenuous intentions of psychiatry to 'cure'. And Crack Down Tribunal was recommended by Kath Tait.

Bare Bones, Chameleon by Dickie Lee Lupton-White and Simon Wood

Colin Hambrook said 'I love the shades of Anthony Newley in this powerful song about redemption and understanding, important themes within the mental health canon.' 

Please click on this link to Soundcloud to play the song, Bare Bones, Chameleon