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Exclusively for Reasons To Be Cheerful, Blockheads Chaz Jankel and Derek Hussey collaborate with John Kelly for new song If It Can’t Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong

Reasons To Be Cheerful
Reasons To Be Cheerful

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Pioneering disabled-led theatre company Graeae has been a proud standard-bearer for protest and disability rights for many years. In conjunction with the final tour of their smash hit musical Reasons to be Cheerful, set in 1979 Thatcher’s Britain, Blockheads  Chaz JankelDerek Hussey and cast member John Kelly have written a protest song for 2017, ‘If It Can’t Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong’.

From Kate Tempest’s incendiary government-bashing performance at Glastonbury through to the #Grime4Corbyn movement and the re-energising of the anti-Maybot politicised protest at the Cambridge Folk Festival, the summer of 2017 has seen music reclaim its status as a vehicle for protest and advocacy once again.

The song is a rallying cry against the current government cuts; specifically the austerity and cuts directed at the D/deaf and disabled community in the UK and the systematic disintegration of the NHS and the Welfare State. The lyrics of If It Can’t Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong’ reflect back to the era Reasons to be Cheerful is set, when Ian Dury and The Blockheads were dominating the charts. Full lyrics can be seen here.

Chaz Jankel said: This is one of the most timely and relevant songs I’ve ever been involved in. The funding cuts are atrocious. The lyrics Derek Hussey has written-with additional input from John Kelly frame the current crisis perfectly. It goes beyond being a pleasure to be part of this project, it’s VITAL!”

Derek Hussey said: “These issues should be at the top of the agenda in any fair minded democratic society. Allowing individuals to achieve and maintain independence, an element of self-esteem and dignity without suffering the ignominy of having to resort to a humiliating begging bowl mentality. ‘If It Can’t Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong’ highlights some of those points and, I hope, reminds us all that with the right kind of assistance anything is possible.” 

Graeae’s John Kelly said: “‘If It Can’t Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong’ is the fight back towards a society that respects equality, difference, human rights and that celebrates that we actually want to support each other through life. I hope that people come along to the show and join in the fun, anarchy and energy of it all, so we can have a right old sing-along every night during the tour.”

If It Can’t Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong will be available as a free download to everyone who buys a ticket for the Reasons to be Cheerful tour and will be performed exclusively at each show on the tour by the cast and band.

It has also been announced today that Tony Heaton OBE has been commissioned to create artwork for the new song If It Can’t Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong. A long-term Ian Dury and the Blockheads fan and close friend of Graeae, Tony will take inspiration from his landmark sculpture ‘Great Britain from a Wheelchair’. Working in his much-celebrated signature style he will work to reflect the song’s defiant protest message.

Nearly 40 years on The Blockheads’ chart dominating era in the late 1970’s, the UK is again undergoing massive change with shifts in global power and a new generation rising up, musicis once again becoming a way of channelling emotion, maintaining solidarity and demanding change.

As part of Graeae’s Reasons to be Cheerful extensive community engagement programme, protest songs are now being written across the country. Graeae is inviting all members of the community (regardless of their previous song writing experience) to create original songs with an accompanying video in any format accessible to them. These are available to view and listen to at www.graeae.org/protest-song-hub. To assist members of the public with their song writing, an exclusive guide has been written by lead vocalist and songwriter John Kelly which can be downloaded here. A selection of the songs will be given their first airings to the public at each of the venues on the Reasons to be Cheerful tour.

John Kelly (Lead Vocals) has completed five UK tours as well as many international performances.  John is Artistic Director of DaisyFest, National Associate Artist for Drake Music, musician with circus company ExtraOrdinary Bodies and Policy & Strategy manager at Merton Centre For Independent Living. John sang Spasticus Autisticus, live at the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in London, and has also guested with The Blockheads.

Chaz Jankel and Derek Hussey are members of the iconic band The Blockheads. For more information, click here.

Tony Heaton OBE is a sculptor and performance artist, who worked in the field of disability, diversity and social justice throughout his career. He has worked as a Field Officer for RADAR (now Disability Rights UK), Development Officer for NACAB Citizens Advice, Director of Holton Lee and most recently as Chief Executive of Shape Arts, a disability-led arts organisation working with major cultural institutions and disabled people as artists and audiences. In 2012, he was commissioned by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games to create sculptural lecterns for Lord Sebastian Coe and Sir Philip Craven, inspired by his landmark work ‘Great Britain from a Wheelchair’, which is now displayed year-round at Graeae’s offices. www.tonyheaton.co.uk

Twitter:@R2BCheerful @graeae #Reasons17
Facebook: Reasons to be Cheerful – the Musical / GraeaeTheatreCompany
YouTube: GraeaeTheatreCompany

LISTINGS
Reasons to be Cheerful
Writer Paul Sirett
Director Jenny Sealey
Designer Liz Ascroft
Associate Director Daryl Beeton
Lighting Ian Scott
Sound Lewis Gibson
Choreography Mark Smith
Musical Director Joey Hickman
Musical Supervision & Arrangements Robert Hyman
Casting Sarah Hughes CDG

Friday 8 & Saturday 9 September
Belgrade Theatre Coventry
http://www.belgrade.co.uk
024 7655 3055

Tuesday 12  Saturday 16 September
Derby Theatre
https://www.derbytheatre.co.uk
01332 59 39 39
Press night: 13 September

Tuesday 26  Saturday 30 September
Nuffield Southampton Theatres
https://www.nstheatres.co.uk
023 8067 1771

Tuesday 3  Saturday 7 October
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
https://www.wolseytheatre.co.uk
01473 295 900

Tuesday 10  Saturday 14 October
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
https://www.wyp.org.uk
0113 213 7700

Tuesday 17  Saturday 21 October
Liverpool Everyman
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com
0151 709 4776

Tuesday 24 October  Saturday 4 November
Theatre Royal Stratford East
http://www.stratfordeast.com
020 8534 0310
Press night: 24 October

Age recommendation 14+
All performances include creative British Sign Language, captioning and audio description.

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Graeae, Jenny Sealey MBE Interview: “It is a very, very brutal environment out there at the moment…We need the wider audience to be on our side & fight our battle with us, not for us but with us.”

Jenny Sealey
Jenny Sealey

Jenny Sealey

Graeae theatre company’s Artistic Director, Jenny Sealey MBE is distressed. “My Access to Work benefit is being capped,” she says. “So, my hours will be cut in half. They cut capping it at £40,000… I’m trying to work out how I am going to be Chief executive and Artistic Director on half the amount of access. This all remains to be seen because I am in complete denial about it because it is too upsetting.”

Tory cuts, reforms and changes to disability benefits and a growing crisis in social care and housing are the story of people living and working with disabilities in modern Britain. Her mood is serious, too, when she talks about the challenges being a cultural leader with a disability in 2017; she lost her hearing at the age of seven and relies on sign-language interpreters in much of her professional life. She speaks from complex experience and the threat long held over the company and so many others has now become a reality. “Many of us are going through the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment to find out if they can get their care packages recognised so that they can actually come to work,” she explains. “So, it is a very, very brutal environment out there at the moment but again, that’s why we are doing Reasons to be Cheerful because it is one way of just reminding the wider mainstream world that we exist and we are good at what we do and we need the wider audience to be on our side to campaign and fight our battle with us, not for us but with us.”

Jenny has been Artistic Director at Graeae, since 2007 in that time the industry has made huge strides to achieve greater diversity in terms of disability, race, gender and socio-economic background. But it still has some way to go. “A lot of the challenges are that there are still some awful attitudes out there,” says Sealey. “You can have the best ramp, an induction loop, sign language interpreters, note takers – everything but if the attitude of the theatre, casting director or the producer, the attitude of the BBC or Channel 4 or whoever, if the attitude is not in and around equality, acceptance and engagement then that is what stops us.”

Graeaes’ production of punk musical Reasons to be Cheerful is hitting the road again this Autumn. “We are bringing Reasons back because, my god, do we need a Reason to be Cheerful with how the world is at the moment,” Sealey laughs. “It is just one of the best shows to have in our rehearsal rooms because the music really lifts the spirits of everybody. It is such a gorgeous simple story of a young man who wants to take his dad to a gig, for the last time before his dad dies. It is a rite of passage story; it is about love, it is about being a blockhead, it is about political. Another reason we are bringing it back is because the gang love doing it – we all need to do it one more time before we are too old and don’t have the energy to do it because it is massively high impact! In my heart of hearts, I know this won’t be the last time but for now, we are calling it the last ever tour.”

Ian Dury contracted polio when he was seven years old and was left disabled. He wrote “Spasticus Autisticus” in 1981 as a protest against the International Year of the Disabled, something he saw as patronising. The lyrics were “So place your hard-earned peanuts in my tin/ And thank the Creator you’re not in the state I’m in/ So long have I been languished on the shelf/ I must give all proceedings to myself.” Dury was a patron of Graeae and Sealey has the full support of Jemima Dury, Baxter and all the Blockheads. She has nothing but praise for him. “Oh my God what a man! For so many disabled people he absolutely changed their perceptions of who they could be, as young teenagers,” says Sealey. “The first time we ever did Reasons to be Cheerful in Ipswich, we did Spasticus Autisticus and afterwards some kid came running out and just said to John Kelly, our front man, ‘I’m Autistic! I’m Autistic! I’m Spasticus Autisticus!’ and it was the first time he has owned his impairment and understood it. So, it’s a many, many splendid song,” she recalls. “Spasticus Autisticus”, was performed at the 2012 Paralympic Games opening ceremony despite being banned by the BBC in 1981 and features in the show. “I love that Spasticus Autisticus was banned by the BBC and I love that it was part of 2012 opening ceremony and I love that it has now become a real national anthem for disabled people,” says Sealey.

Reasons to be Cheerful was first performed in autumn 2010 with co-producers New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and Theatre Royal Stratford East. This kind of work is best when it is willing to take risks and embrace the challenges of presenting inclusive and dynamic theatre to audiences. Do co-productions dilute the values of work, I ask.  “I think sometimes, co-productions can get diluted if there is too much compromise but that hasn’t really happened with us so we have been lucky. It is always something to be wary of,” she says. “In a way, it is the only way that small companies, like Graeae, can operate is through co-productions. We are very rarely in a position to do our own piece of work which is why this time round, Reasons is not a co-production, it is just us and that feels quite nice. It has really re-lit the coals of the whole company because we own it. Sometimes, the co-production, especially if it is in a city outside of London, can sometimes feel a bit detached from it. But, this time we are all absolutely on it! It is so nice to be doing it ourselves.”

She talks too about audiences taking a leap of faith on work that is not necessarily mainstream. “Ian Dury isn’t everybody’s cup of tea but this is more than just the songs. Well, it is the song but the story is for everybody who has ever fallen in love, anybody who has ever lost anybody and anybody who has ever tried to go to a gig or the theatre and it has all failed,” she says, as she tries to explain the shows enormous appeal. “So, that actually covers quite a lot of people! I think it’s a good fun show about a family and for most of us, we belong to families. The complexities, the dysfunctional stuff about being part of a family and that’s what it is. I think it is a show for everybody.”

“I think it is just really pushing the point that we are massively excited about this and we really do want a whole young audience to also see it so that they can realise the skill and the wisdom and sheer brilliance of Ian Dury’s lyrics and download as many songs as possible. We want the old fans to come back and support us!”

 Twitter:@R2BCheerful
#Reasonstobecheerful
Facebook:
Reasons to be Cheerful – the Musical 
YouTube: GraeaeTheatreCompany
Graeae’s media language guide can be viewed here

National Tour (click on venue names to book tickets):

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry  8 September –  9 September

Derby Theatre  12 September –  16 September

Nuffield Theatre, Southampton 26 September –  30 September

New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich 3 October –  7 October

West Yorkshire Playhouse  10 October – 14 October

Liverpool Everyman  17 October –  21 October

Theatre Royal Stratford East  24 October – 4 November
Relaxed performance 2:30pm (matinee) 2 November