Friday, 8 March 2013

Raising Awareness of iss facing those with autism from Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) Communities

Campaigning is a crucial part of raising awareness. Being on the spectrum or being the carer of someone on the spectrum is an experience that most people find difficult to comprehend. Therefore as difficult as it may be, we need to be the driving force behind campaigns that highlight autism and how it affects everyone around us.

On 12 February, the NAS, with the support of Diane Abbot, MP, launched a new project to raise awareness of the specific issues facing those with autism from Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) Communities. This was a one of a kind event which had a fantastic turnout and achieved attendance from MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum.

So why have a BME specific campaign?

In a report by NAS (Missing out, 2007) it found that 24% of BME children had been excluded from schools, while 78% said their local authority did not provide support to their children during exclusion and more than half of parents from ethnic minorities whose children have autism did not have a choice of school. BME parents were also “significantly” less satisfied with their child’s academic and social progress compared to their white counterparts. This painted a stark picture of access to educational services within the BME autism community.

Seven years on and these issues are still pertinent; more so, given that resources are rapidly declining and unfortunately those who demand services are more likely to gain access to them.

There are clear issues which highlight the plight of many people with autism within the BME community. Firstly, evidence about the prevalence of autism in various communities and its impact on family life is inconsistent. Evidence has highlighted that communities may not be aware of autism, their rights and relevant services. Finally, services that are available do not always meet the needs of these families.

For me personally, I have never thought about the link between ethnicity and disability and how a substantial amount of the autism community is currently facing double discrimination. I suppose this is more of a reflection of how insular the fight becomes for you on a daily basis that you lose sight of the bigger picture. Going to the event, was an opportunity for me to think about the greater impact current changes are, and most certainly will be, having on all of us. If members within our community are not able to access even the most basic help with regards to finding much needed support then we clearly are failing in our own roles as advocates and champions. I hope this event is one of many that will pave the way for highlighting this issue more and make accessibility to information that little bit easier.

I am delighted that we were able to get a substantial presence for autism within parliament and I am extremely hopeful that it will provide some much needed support to our fringe members who do on a daily basis feel even more marginalised.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

PigPen tribute for Gabriel

PigPen held it’s first show in 9 months at the end of February in memory of it’s co-founder Gabriel Hardisty-Miller who passed away last year. It was held at the spiritual home of PigPen- The Macbeth, Hoxton. If you’ve been to The Macbeth and you’ve been to PigPen, you’ll know why.

Gabriel was the brilliant taste-maker and curator behind PigPen. He was a non-verbal young man with autism. During the four years of PigPen he chose a plethora of electric and excellent acts using his yes/no comm device. He was a tireless campaigner with the National Autistic Society, a role model for raising awareness and encouraging people to think differently about disability.

It was only fitting that all profits form the PigPen Memorial Show went to the NAS.

The proceedings kicked off with a poignant procession from Gabriel’s estate down the road to the Macbeth. The procession was part of the Dron Festival at Hundred Years Gallery, Gabriel’s famous PigPen throne (that he always sat on during the shows) was decorated with garlands of flowers and lights and processed with bell ringing family and friends.

From here the marathon of performances began. The first half of the show saw PP stalwarts Eddie Halliday, Robyn Steward, Bram Arnold, Captain Spoon and Charlotte Young take to the stage for acoustic and performance art sessions. Then followed a beautiful tribute to Gabriel by jazz singer Sarah Niles with Rob Grundel on keys. For anyone that remembers the Roy Davies Jr, Peven Everett dance floor classic- ‘Gabriel’, Sarah did the most moving version of this.

As ever, DJ’s Brian Turner (AKA Bram Arnold) and Good Grief kept the crowd bubbling in between acts with a trademark blend of soul, indie pop and odd music from their varied record collection. The vegan chilli ran out within the first couple of hours and there was the latest edition of ‘Snizz Comics’ by myself.

Christine Binnie (with help from Tom Madders of the NAS) ran the PigePen Art Raffle with gusto. With such a fantastic array of prizes it’s not surprising this alone raised £250. We had artworks by Robyn Steward, Lewis Heriz, Martin Kingdom and myself, Dean Atta’s debut poetry collection plus a £150 meal voucher at a fancy restaurant up for grabs. Needless to say, all prizes went to very happy winners!

The first half of the show ended with one of South London’s finest voices and began with the same- Mr Joel Culpepper (one to watch people), following him PigPen legend with a capital L- Tim Ten Yen, poet extraordinaire Dean Atta and despite motor troubles- Honkeyfinger with their trippy, sweltering blend of psych -swamp rock. How could we possibly fit in anymore you say? Well we did.

United Vibrations opened their set with their beautiful and moving piece ‘Don’t Be Sad’ and continued to uplift us all in a way only UV could. Finally DJ/Producer Noel Eeteks (who grew up in the house next door to Gabriel) took the helm on the ones and twos and saw PigPen well into the night.

Not only was this a very special night that managed to raise £520.60 in Gabriel’s name, it was also a show that saw Gabriel very much present. The acts he chose and nights he curated were an extension of his unique personality, it felt as though the PigPen Memorial Show was as close as we could get to having him with us again. It was a blast from an entertainment point of view, also spiritual to feel his presence again. A huge thanks to all involved- far too many to mention.

On a final note, many people have been asking me on the future of PigPen and Snizz comics, all I can say for now is watch this space….

Ben Connors