The Disability Download

Reshaping the experience for disabled musicians

Episode Summary

This month we're talking all about music! We chat to Nick Wilsdon and Jess who both worked on charity Youth Music's Reshape Music Report, which explores the lived experience of disabled musicians in education and beyond. We talk about some of the barriers that disabled musicians are facing and hear about some of the technology that has changed Jess' music career. We also hear from singer, songwriter and pianist Carol Hodge, who reflects on her experiences as a disabled, female musician. Music: Sun Shine by Cymatix provided by Premiumbeat.

Episode Notes

Some of the links mentioned in this month's episode: - Youth Music Website - Reshape Music Report - Higher Frequency Podcast - Adaptive Musical Instrument Guide

Follow Nick on Twitter: @Nick_Wilsdon

Follow Youth Music on Twitter: @youthmusic - Carol's website

Follow Carol on Twitter and Instagram: @carolxhodge  - Leonard Cheshire website 

Follow Leonard Cheshire on Twitter and Instagram: @LeonardCheshire 

Get in touch with us: 

Episode Transcription

Episode 17 – Reshaping the experience for disabled musicians 

Jess: When I first started my journey, the first thing I said was well who can I look up to you and not Ed Sheeran, but who can I actually look up to who is a disabled musician? 

Nick Wilsdon: 48% of music educators felt confident teaching on adaptive or accessible instruments, which you know one in every two educators doesn't feel comfortable with that, and I think what really extends beyond that is, it's the lack of representation of disabled teachers.

Carol Hodge: So empowering, just to, literally just as you're scrolling mindlessly, you know through your social media feed, to see someone else with a with a hand like mine or you know to see someone else with a hand like mine who's also playing an instrument. You know, I've never encountered that before, but it turns out there's quite a lot of us out there, who are, you know, adapt, and play!

Erin O’Reilly: Hello and welcome to the Disability Download. The Disability Download is brought to you by pan-disability charity Leonard Cheshire. I'm Erin O'Reilly and on this podcast we respond to current topics, share stories, and open up conversations about disability.

So last year, charity Youth Music, who are a national charity who invest in music making projects to support children and young people aged zero to 25, released a report called Reshape Music. So the report explored the lived experience of disabled musicians in education and beyond, and it highlighted some of the significant barriers that are faced by disabled musicians when accessing music education and music making. As part of the report, the research team, which included eight co-researchers who were all disabled musicians, worked to gather the views of hundreds of music makers, music educators and music retailers, as well as surveying disabled people to find out about their experiences. So in this month's episode I chat to Nick Wilsdon, Research and Evaluation Manager at Youth Music, who led on the design and management of the Reshape Music Report. And musician Jess, who was one of the Co researchers. So we have a bit of a chat about the report, about Jess’ experiences as a musician and some of the things that really need to be done to create a much more inclusive and diverse music industry.

And later on, I speak to musician Carol Hodge, who shares her experiences of diversity in the music industry and how the pandemic has affected live music. So first, let's catch up with Nick and Jess.

Thank you both for joining us today. So I wanted to have a chat with you really, 'cause you are both involved on the Reshape Music report, which really highlighted some of the barriers that disabled musicians are facing at the moment. And so, Nick, I was hoping you could just start by telling me a bit about how the report came about and what your role was in the development of it.

Nick: Sure, erm yeah. So the report actually, Reshape Music, it grew out of some data that was gathered by a consortium of organisations called the Take It Away Consortium, which is a partnership of organisations working to support disabled musicians in many different ways. And they originally conducted some data collection and we really wanted to dig a little bit deeper within that. And what we really wanted to do was work with a team of co-researchers and then we worked with research expert Sarah Mawby, to dig deeper into the findings of the research and really embed it in the lived experience of disabled people. Because we felt that that interpretation was really lacking in the data that we'd collected and we wanted to go a little bit further and understand it beyond that. Off the back of that, we recruited Doctor Sarah Mawby who ran the research and the analysis phase of things, alongside a co-research team of eight musicians, all of whom have lived experience of disability. And we worked with the research team to analyse and interpret the data and the net result was the Reshape Music publication that came out at the tail end of 2020.

Erin: So Jess I'm gathering you were one of the co-researchers that was involved in that. How did you kind of get involved in this project?

Jess: Now I actually got involved with this project through a music company I now work with called Digit Music. They approached me with it because they knew I just started out in my music career. They knew it was something that I was very passionate about, making equal opportunities for disabled people, especially in the music industry. Because when I first started my journey, the first thing I said was "well who can I look up to and not Ed Sheeran, but who can I actually look up to who is a disabled musician?

So when I realised there’s not a big….a range of musicians who are disabled out there, that's when I really wanted to not just complain about it, but I actually wanted to do something about it, and I think that's when I started to realise I’ll do the Reshape Music report to then give people my view and hopefully help change the way musicians, especially disabled musicians, are represented and make a change, 'cause I think that's really important.

Erin: Yeah, definitely. And obviously, representation of disabled musicians across the industry in the past has not been great. And like you say, there's not many people to look up to, so Nick with the report and, and how it went on what were kind of the key findings of the report then?

Nick: So the key findings is kind of interesting because in many ways some of the key findings are things which will be, well, it's a majority of the key findings will be familiar to all disabled musicians. In terms of their experiences and they run through from, you know, the barriers you might experience in terms of finding the right instrument, purchasing an instrument, sourcing funding. All the stages in the development of a musician. You know all the things that you need to experience as you start learning your musical pathway and choosing your route. Some of the things that really stood out within it is we found that you know the majority of the disabled people who were surveyed had not been able to find a teacher who met their learning needs. So just over 50%, 52% of disabled people survey found that their learning needs were not met or understood in terms of actually where they wanted to go in terms of learning an instrument. And we found that you know one in four disabled people surveyed were able to source an adapted or an accessible music instrument. So you know 75% of disabled people wanting to play an instrument wouldn't know how to source an accessible or adaptive music instrument. So you can see right off the bat there's some barriers at the entry point. And what was interesting from my perspective is, you know talking with the co-research team, really digging into how those barriers play out on the ground, it starts from there and continues outwards. I think probably Jess can expand on some of her own experiences on this, but actually taking those first steps as a musician are really difficult when actually you're not sure where to find the instrument that you want to play or how to access the instrument that you want to play.

Erin:  Yes, so Jess were you kind of surprised by the outcomes of the report? Or did it kind of really just ring true to your own experiences?

Jess: Sadly, sadly it did it was almost sort of a wakeup call of how much things actually need to change. It didn't surprise me in the sense of I was kind of I kind of knew what I was probably going to hear because of lived experiences. But also it really made me want to bring about change. You know, because we're on the consortium, we’re voicing our opinions. But there are people out there who don't feel confident enough to voice that. So for me, I really felt the need to express it, but then also don't just express it, then share the report. Share it with the right people, then these things don’t have to stay the way we are. They can improve over time.

Erin: Yeah So what did you both kind of think then really does need to change and kind of help with this representation and increase that access for disabled musicians, especially in terms of the learning support they get, but also, like you say, the instruments available. Are there things that the report recommends that can be done to kind of start making immediate changes?

Jess: I think one of the biggest things is the educators. Because whether it's a mainstream school or not, they oftentimes music educators don't know where they can source the specialist equipment from if they need it. They don't have the training, sometimes of what they need to be able to teach musicians with disabilities. So I think in an education setting, there almost needs to be this new way of thinking and there almost needs to be people like myself who go in and who show them that “ok this is the way you can teach us and not just stick us in the corner with a tambourine!” Because the majority of us are capable of playing a musical instrument, we just need an extra hand, an extra helping hand. So I think one of the biggest things for educators is just to be given that support of you can teach these people, but this is the way you need to do it. And not just leave them with a lesson plan and expect them to be superheroes because they need just as much as support on the teaching as the learner does. 

Nick: I think picking up on what Jess is saying, you know we found that 48% of music educators felt confident teaching on adaptive or accessible instruments. Which you know, one in every two educators doesn't feel comfortable with that, and I think what really extends beyond that is, it's the lack of representation of disabled teachers. There needs to be more disabled music teachers out there who are able to support developing musicians. And there's a real lack in terms of that, and there isn't a shortage of disabled musicians. So there is a real piece of work that I think needs to be done there in terms of supporting access to music teaching jobs, and providing space for you know, disabled role models as music teachers to be teaching. And a lot of the barriers that the co-research team shared, that they actually had their own experiences, a lot of them were things that could be mitigated in terms of conversations about what type of access is comfortable, what works for you as a musician, and spending more time thinking about what instrument do you want to play. And working out how to support that rather than saying, well, these are the instruments available to you, and determining that choice for musicians.

So there's kind of a lot of it stems around that. I think the point about the confidence is, I think actually as well, giving all teachers the confidence to build on their musical expertise and skill set, and recognize that you know they might play the flute, but that doesn't mean that they can't teach musical aspects on the linnstrument or another sort of accessible instrument. There's plenty of things that is transferable knowledge as well, I think, actually giving teachers the confidence to transfer that knowledge is also a really important part of it.

Erin: So how do you think we can go about, you know, building that confidence and kind of integrating that I guess more at the school level as well? And making sure that there is appetite at school level and an interest in accessible music and making sure that every student does have an opportunity?

Jess: I think sharing this, the report that we've done the Reshape Music report, because oftentimes people know there's a barrier they just don't know where it's coming from and they don't know how to fix it. I equally think if you got people like myself, actual disabled musicians to go in and talk to these people, maybe in an assembly or just in a formal setting where they can see what is possible. Because I think for a lot of young people, especially today, especially in the time that we're in, it's the case of OK, I want to do that, I just don’t know how. And giving them the tools and the knowledge in knowing which direction they could take and where they can go next. Sort of just inspiring them to go on that journey. You know they might reach the end and it might change over time, but I think the more you can talk to people and actually educate them rather than just letting them figure it, figure it out with no tool set. I think the more you can really educate people in a positive way is gonna benefit everybody.

Nick: Yeah, I think and Jess Idon't know if you wanted to share your experiences at your school because you were quite instrumental in actually affecting change in your school and a really great example of how an individual could have a huge impact as well. 

Jess: So one thing that we did, I was part of a group called the Able Orchestra. And one thing we did was we actually got to perform at the BBC Proms in London. And I think ever since we had that experience., it was something that we didn't just want to leave it, we wanted to make sure the legacy continued in the school and we wanted to make sure that music was a thing that we were always going to have access to. Because it really made us realize that we have the knowledge, we had the understanding to do this. And if the right people equipped you, if you have not only belief in yourself, but in the people around you. And we ended up keeping music alive in that school and it was just a really amazing feeling to see how far everyone had come. And just even in a short amount of time, what change can happen as long as you're you know, willing to have the right people around you. People are willing to listen. I found a lot of people who I never thought would listen to me really took the time to listen to me and it made change and it was just a really nice thing to see.

Erin: Yeah I bet it felt great to see that action turn into something positive and how people receive that as well. And so we've kind of obviously mentioned that you are a musician, so it would be great to find out a bit more about that. It's great to have that inspiration, so what inspired you and what do you play?

Jess: So I, my has always been inspiration. My sisters grew up playing in our local church worship band and I was always drawn to that, but I just couldn't physically play an instrument. And then back in 2015 I was approached by Inspire Youth Arts and they actually came into my school and said we see the potential in these students, we’re gonna teach you how to play music on iPads. And at first I was like yeah right no way are you gonna be able to teach us how’s just not possible. And they came in and they did it and then I started to realize oh, I understand this and I enjoy it. And then cut forward a few years, we went to the Albert Hall in London in 2016 and I think it was at that moment when I realized, A) I can do this. But also this is something I want as a career. This is something that I don’t just want to do as a hobby. It’s something I want to pursue. And then Si Tew who is someone who was involved in the Able Orchestra, he then went away, saw how we used our joystick controllers in every day, and he actually went away and invented a chair controller called Control One and that now enables me to play music freely and independently, and it's actually enabled me to start my own music career. I've had two song released since using Control One and I now in fact say that I work with Digit in helping them in carrying on. But I think for me it's just nice to know that it's always been something I wanted to do and for all these people actually looking past a wheelchair and seeing the potential in me and not seeing the wheelchair, has then enabled me to go on and do something that I'm really passionate about.

Erin: And obviously technology is constantly developing and there's so many innovations as well, and I'm sure in a few years' time they'll be even more options for people. But would you both kind of say that's a factor as well? That maybe people don't realize the options that are available, and there's not really enough awareness about the technology around this as well?

Jess: Yeah, I would definitely say from my personal experience. It wasn't until I met people like Si that I realized, oh, people can come up with stuff that can make your dream come true, but you don't get told about any of it until someone actually comes up to you, or does this. And I think it's a real shame, because if I'd known from the get go that there was adaptive instruments out there, I could have been practicing before I had Control One. But the fact that I had to wait for that long because I didn't know what existed. So I think there definitely needs to be more of an awareness, especially if you go into a music shop, someone might see the guitar and think that's great, I’d love to be able to play that, but I need an adaptation. There definitely needs to be more of awareness of how to go about getting that in a more simpler way.

Nick: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, our Reshape Music research found that, I think is at 60 odd percent, 63% of music retailers weren’t aware of any specialist products or adapted instruments to make music more accessible. And only 38% knew how where to source accessible and adapted instruments. That was a relatively small sample size of music retailers, but it really indicated there's a huge knowledge and awareness gap in terms of those retailers, of what there is to sell. The Take It Away Consortium’s done some work in terms of publishing a guide to accessible instruments, which you can share the link to, which is really interesting in terms of raising that awareness amongst, you know, parents as well as musicians and as well as retailers. And I think also some of the recommendations coming out of the report really highlight things that would take steps in that right direction. So increasing representation of disabled people, you know, music education and music industry organisations will increase awareness of accessible instruments and adaptive instruments that are out there and progression that is available. And actually, recruitment in those types of organizations should be explicitly stating where there is an under representation of disabled people in their organization and trying to target to reach disabled people to meet that need and to make a better representation. And, you know informed decision making, so those who are involved in taking decisions about funding or those who are involved in taking decisions about curriculum are disabled people, and they are informing that process and that would really shape things going forward.

Erin: Yeah, definitely it would be great to see in the future more adaptive instruments in the classrooms, you know across the UK. How has the report been received then since it's been out? I mean, it sounds like you're already putting a lot into action.

Jess: I think for me as a co-researcher, one thing I saw was people didn't realize how things needed to change. People are just like ah yeah things are done differently for disabled people, and I think the world we live in today, starting to realize you know things shouldn’t be different. Things should just be equal and I think as a co-researcher getting to see that click in people’s heads that this shouldn't be any different to an able-bodied person. And I think for me one of the big things I did when the report came out was just share it with tons of people because I think the more you share, the more people start to talk, the more people start to talk. That conversation just comes naturally and I think the more you talk, the more you then do. So I think for me it was starting that, starting that talk train to then enable people to say well, what can we do? What, what do retail need to do? What do educators need to do? What do disabled people need to do to make sure that this report changes? It changes life, changes the way society views disabled people. So I think definitely I'm starting to see it changing people's mindset, and that was really nice to see.

Nick: Yeah, absolutely I’d echo what Jess has said and we've had a really positive reception from the report. Some of the things for me that have personally been really great to see, is other disabled musicians sharing their experiences and talking about what things have been like in their own musical careers. And also actually I've spoken to off the back of the report, a number of people who work in the music industry, who perhaps don't necessarily identify as clearly with being disabled, but would consider themselves to have a disability and haven't necessarily thought about talking to other people about that within the industry. And haven't necessarily thought about opening up that conversation. I know that Attitude is Everything are doing some work now in this Beyond the Music initiative looking at the roles of deaf and disabled people within the music industry and really opening up conversations there with people who might consider themselves disabled but have never really talked about it within their day job. And never really thought about sharing that with people, so that's a really interesting thing in terms as well, in terms of like breaking down communication barriers and having more open and honest conversation. And that's been really positive to see as well.

Erin: Yeah, it sounds like it's been a good way for people to like actually connect on something like this and have like more of a forum to discuss it and realize that a lot of other people are having similar experiences or similar thoughts. And Jess you mentioned you've got some songs out and you know you've been doing music it 6 years now?

Jess: Yeah erm (laughs), six or seven

Erin: Six or seven. So what advice then would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jess: Don't think just because, whether you have a disability or not, don't limit yourself. Practice. That is one thing I've learned, especially in the last couple of months with lockdown, don't get lazy. Practice, practice your instrument, get to know your instrument, because the more you know your instrument, the more it then knows you. And the more naturally it comes. If you're not happy at school with the way you're being taught music, speak to your educators. Make it work for you. Don't just think you've got to make it work for them. If you, if you're serious about going into this industry, make it work for you. Make the most out of everything you’ve got. You know watch YouTube videos. It sounds crazy, but I've got so much out of just listening to other people and taking advice off other people, I don't know them, then just watch it inspire you to want to be a better musician. So I'd say practice and despite the weird circumstances we're in at the minute, don't give up, because you know this is going to hopefully go away and then you know there's gonna be improvement and I just think especially for disabled people, we need more representation. So don’t allow your disability to stop you because we need more of it. We need more disabled people out there showing that we're just the same as everyone else.

Erin: And did your involvement as a co-researcher did that kind of lead you to meeting other musicians and kind of making connections that way too?

Jess: Yeah I would say being a co-researcher was one of the most privileging opportunities I’ve had because it was so nice to hear that you're not alone, and that other people have these frustrations. But it was also nice to be able to come together and also say, right? What do we want to change? What do we want to do? And I think seeing all the co-researchers in their individual walks and where they are, it was just really nice to come together as musicians and just talk about these things. Cause you don't often get to talk about the frustrating things, but it was nice to do it in a way where you knew there was going to be results at the end. So I think that was really nice.

Erin: And Nick, now that that the report’s out there and you're making the recommendations, and as you mentioned, kind of creating those resources as well for people to find out about where to buy instruments and that kind of thing, what would you like to see change the most, then over the next couple of years with regards to representation in the industry and accessibility?

Nick: What I'd really like to see change in the next couple of years is improved representation across the board and people really thinking, you know, proactively within their own organizations within their own institutions, whose voice is missing here? Are we really best qualified to talk about this particular subject or topic? Who else can we engage and in what capacity? And making sure that there are opportunities to reach out and work with the people who you are representing, making sure that those opportunities are paid opportunities and making sure that you think about progression within that and how you can support people's development through those opportunities. There's a huge amount of work to do, but there's also a really, really positive attitude, particularly in the arts. People are really behind improving representation and really working proactively to make positive steps across the board.

Erin: Great, so hopefully lots of exciting things ahead then.

Nick: Absolutely, I hope so. Certainly from a Youth Music perspective, we've got really exciting things coming through the pipeline. From our research and evaluation side of things, we're going to be working with lots more peer researchers. We've kept in good contact with all of our co-research team for the Reshape Music project. So Jess has been being involved in a number of different events talking about her experience of working on the research and talking about her analysis and interpretation of the findings. And we continue to do that. We've been working with a couple of the other co-researchers to upskill them in terms of conducting interviews, and they've been out interviewing other disabled musicians to talk about their experiences, which we've been sharing on our website. So do check that out. 

Now other things that are really exciting, we launched our Youth Music podcast High Frequency towards the end of last year, run by 18 to 25 year olds covering a whole range of different aspects around the music industries. Everything that is relevant from you know, drill and the perceptions of drill music through to representation of women of colour or under representation of women of colour in music and really worth checking out!

Erin: Well, that sounds great. We'll definitely include all those links in our show notes so that people can access them. Thanks both so much for joining us today. It was really great to hear about the report and we look forward to seeing how things develop.

And at the end of 2020 I caught up with singer, songwriter and pianist Carol Hodge to find out about her experiences touring as a disabled female musician.

So you've been in the music industry for quite a while, so I was hoping you could start by telling us a bit about yourself, your history with music, and how you got into it.

Carol: Yeah, thank you so much for having me, so I've been a singer and songwriter since about 1997, which is a long time ago. Feels like a very long time. And yeah, I used to originally sort of front rock bands and alternative punk kind of scene, as a where I was brought up. And as of the past kind of I guess sort of five years or so I've been doing some solo performances, so me and a piano. And I've also been doing quite a lot of touring with various bands that I tend to sort of play piano and do backing vocals in.

So I'm at the point now where I'm in my late 30s and I'm very, very fortunate to have built up a little bit of a career behind me and I'm now able to sort of travel. Not at the moment. Obviously. But I’m generally able to sort of travel around touring with various bands and doing what I love. 

Erin: So how did you first get into piano then? Were you quite young? Was it something someone suggested for you, or did you kind of just decide that you know you wanted to give it a go?

CAROL: I was one of those strange, strange children who really, really wanted to have piano lessons. I think the stereotype, certainly in my generation sort of growing up in the in the 80s, was that you know your mum or dad forced you to go to piano lessons, you didn't want to but you had to go. But my parents weren't like that so I had to crack the whip, so to speak, and ask for piano lessons. So I did that from about the age of eight and then, yah, I kind of...I mean I've got, i've got 7 fingers, I have a Cleft Type Symbrachydactyly, which in my case means I've only got 2 fingers, like a, kind of like a pinky and a thumb on my left hand. But yeah, I I kind of never even considered as a child that I wouldn't be able to play piano. I just really, really wanted to, and that was the driving force behind learning an instrument for me, really.

Erin: And were you met with any challenges or like stigmas with that in terms of people thinking it was something you couldn't do or were people generally supportive?

Carol: Yeah, I mean, I mean, my parents were supportive, which is really nice. They kind of helped me, you know, obviously paid for the piano lessons. And I remember at school I, at primary school I played in assembly a few times as well and so I think my teachers there were kind of supportive of me as well. And initially my piano teacher, 'cause obviously she never had a student like me before, presumably all those students previously had all had you know “the normal” number of fingers, so for the first couple of years we pretty much did very little with my left hand.

I had one of those keyboards, it was, kinda like a Bontempi type thing and you held down like two, two notes together in the left hand and it kind of played like a chord or like a backing track for you. And then you moved your hands. You know, you played another, a different note, and it played a different chord for you while the right hand you know played all the sort of normal melody parts.

And then there was a bit of a turning point where my teacher actually realized that I could do quite a lot with my left hand. I've got, I'm very fortunate to have a lot of movement and a lot of flexibility in my fingers. So yeah, I was within a couple of years once that penny drops, we sort of moved straight on to more sort of challenging piano music. So that was kind of a nice momentous sort of like turn of fate that made things go in a slightly more challenging, and more yeah, more positive direction really. Cause that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to do as much with my left hand as I was doing with my right hand.

Erin: As you've mentioned, you've got a fair bit of experience working with different bands and doing music for a long time. Erm from your experience working within the music industry, do you feel like there is enough disability representation in the industry and has that changed at all over the time that you've been working within it?

Carol: That's, that's a really good question, and I think obviously we're talking about, I guess, visible disabilities, 'cause you know, obviously a lot of people might have disabilities that aren't immediately obvious to the naked eye. And no, I was, I was a complete anomaly as far as I was aware. And for a long time, for years and years, never encountered anyone else, any other musicians in my time, touring around like with a disability. And I met somebody maybe about five years after I started touring, who I’ve actually reconnected with weirdly now. And he has got, it’s some, some kind of some sort of dwarfism, or something like that, which means he..he has to, he has to use crutches all the time. And I actually remember the gig when we first played together and I was like, oh my god, there's someone else! There's another, there's another one of us! You know, there's someone else with a disability who's, who's getting out there and doing stuff. So that was really exciting for me! But yeah, a massive rarity and also a massive rarity like being female, a lot of the time as well. That's thankfully got a bit better, I'd say over the sort of past maybe the past sort of five years or so I've noticed that there are quite a, quite a few more female centric bands touring in, you know, in the world that I'm connected with and it's much less of a rarity to have other women on the bill. I mean, I, you know, going back maybe 10-15 years, I'd play like an all-dayer gig with like 10, 15 bands on the bill, and I'd be the only woman and I'd be the only woman with a disability, and I'd be the only person with a disability on that bill. So it's yeah, it was, it was definitely a rarity to encounter all the people who I felt were like me.

Erin: Yeah, you know we talk a lot an in the disability world about intersectionality with disability and other factors. You’ve already mentioned that seeing women in general was quite a rarity for you, so I'm guessing seeing other women with disabilities was also quite a rarity, you know when you were touring or that you knew about?

Carol: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know even now I still really, still really sort of struggle to think to think of anyone that I've shared a bill with over the years, that yeah was in any way sort of similar to me. And yeah, being female and obviously disabled. Yeah, I mean, but to be honest it's not really anything, it’s nothing that I've particularly you know, dwelt on or got hung up about or even really, you know, thought about that much. You just, I mean, it's quite sad really, but you just accept the situation that you're in. You know I would often just accept, OK, I'm the only girl today. OK, I mean and you know, I never really thought. I just presumed that always be the only person with any sort of physical difference anyway. But yeah, strange. It is, it's quite nice now to sort of really think about it and be able to talk about it and bring it out into the open for other people to consider too.

Erin; And do you have any thoughts on why there is not such great representation of disabled people in the industry? Or is it something you think with time and like building up awareness and, and social media you know can be a really good thing in this sense, in terms of building up awareness and opening up conversations and maybe encouraging other people to open up an avenue you know that they might have not thought about pursuing before. But do you have thoughts on maybe why representation just isn't that great?

Carol: Well I would first of all I would totally agree with you that the power of social media. I mean, you know as a as a person with a hand difference, there's a couple of sort of, big sort of organisations online. So there's Reach, which is the charity based in the UK and there's Lucky Finn Project which is based in the USA. And then through those two, literally through just following those two accounts on social media, I've been introduced to so many other people with particularly hand and arm differences. And it's so empowering, just to literally just as you're scrolling mindlessly, you know, through your social media feed, to see someone else with a with a hand like mine or you know to see someone else with a hand like mine who's also playing in an instrument. You know, I’d never encountered that before, but it turns out there's quite a lot of those out there who, you know, adapt and play!

So I would say, you know, for a younger generation now, if there's if there's anyone who's thinking of, you know, being a musician, who has a love for music, they've got role models, visible role models. And people that they can see, I guess like myself, who have had some success in the music industry who have a physical difference but have still made it work, and are still doing it. So yeah, I think visibility is absolutely everything. It’s like anything, you know if you don’t see anyone that you can identify with who’s doing something with their life that you aspire to, it can feel very lonely. It can feel very difficult to imagine that one day you’ll be doing the things that you want to do because no one else appears to have done it before you.

Erin: Definitely, I think social media is like such a great way of encouraging people, and then I guess you know things like research on the topic highlighting those gaps can also get people thinking like, oh, you know, that's true, I really don't see enough representation. Are there other things you think could be done to improve diversity in the industry as a whole?

Carol: I mean, I'm a big fan of positive discrimination and I think the, I mean, like you know, if you are considered, you know a marginalised group, I think it's really important that there's an effort made to involve you. I think I think it's very easy for people to dismiss things like well, well, the opportunity is there for everybody. It's like, well, that might be the case, but you've not lived the experience of someone with a disability or even a lot of the time, someone who's just female or someone who’s from a poor background or someone who's from an ethnic minority. I think that every, everyone who's potentially marginalized should be given, there should be an extra effort made to involve them in any in any career or in any field. And it really grinds my gears when people have issues with that, when people have issues with you know extra funding going to people who are marginalized or extra opportunities that are specifically aimed at them. And I think there's a lot of a lot of privilege that is taken for granted.

Erin: Absolutely. I think it's really important to acknowledge the people’s circumstances are different and more opportunities need to be made available to create more options and just generally be more inclusive. Kind of going back to your own music career, I know you've released some songs recently, but what are your aspirations for your career in the years to come? And are you hoping to release more albums, is that on the horizon too?

Carol: Yeah, I'm halfway through producing a new album at the moment, so that should be finished, kind of about March next year. And then potentially released in the summer next year, and usually I'd be, you know be, well this year I supposed to be touring all over. I was supposed to be touring in the UK and Europe and paying lots of festivals. And that's kind of my understanding of how the music world works. It's always like you write an album. You release the album and then you tour it loads and that's how you know, you sell your album basically and you engage with new supporters and new people.

So yeah, I'm kind of still a little bit on the back fence about what's going to happen next year. I might have that as an idea, and that's obviously something that can happen irrespective of where we are in terms of the global pandemic. But yeah, as far as for the other side of things, as for touring, I'm just very much going to just wait and see what happens.

Erin: Yeah, I was going to say obviously like the music and events industry have just been so so affected by the pandemic. And I guess like you say, it's hard to, you know, plan for summer and for touring. And I know I'm still holding out hope that we can you know, maybe get to a festival or events in some way. I know that's something a lot of people really, really missed last year, but have you found that you still found ways to still kind of connect through your music? You know, especially releasing songs at a time when I guess more people are online and you know might have more time to maybe discover new music. And you know, maybe you found new ways to reach people when you've not been able to tour in the same way?

Carol: Yeah, I mean, when the lockdown first happened, it was all of a sudden scial media was mainly filled mainly with men with acoustic guitars, doing an online stream gigs. And I think we're at a position now, I mean, I've not done one for a couple of months. I've been asked, I've basically just done them when I've been asked to support a charity or cause really. And so I have got one coming up one more, but it's, yeah I'm I'm I'm kind of, I think those things have sort of run their course. I did I did one live stream gig that was that was really good which was with my full band and was in like an empty venue and it was, you know filmed with like 5 different cameras and vision mixed and it was all obviously through the sound desk at the venue and sounded really good as it was being streamed. So I think that's still a potential way of connecting with an audience. But it's just not the same, is it? And I think even socially distanced gigs just aren’t the same, you know you’ve got to sit on a table, you're not allowed to get up. You gotta wear a mask, you're not allowed to sing along. You're not really allowed to sort of interact with other people. And I get it all I get, I understand that people are trying to do something and I really appreciate that. But for me, I kinda just think that's a bit that's even more heartbreaking to be in that scenario as opposed to just shelf it until we can do it all again properly.

Erin: Yeah, I guess it kind of just changes the vibe and like how you can interact with your audience as well, 'cause you know, usually with live music, I guess you can kind of get back as much as you're giving out to the people that are watching and kind of really feel that in the room. But I guess with restrictions it can change the whole way it comes out. But I think when we're able to get back to concerts, people are going to be appreciating them more than they ever have, before I reckon!

Carol: Oh man, yeah people are going to be so up for it. I'm really, really excited. That's the sort of one flip side is, you know when things finally get back to normal, I think people are gonna appreciate live music so much more than they did previously and realize how how special it is and how important it is.

Erin: Thanks so much for joining us. If people want to check out your music, what would be the best way to find you?

Carol: Well, you can just search for me online, Carol Hodge. It's Carol without an E and Hodge is h o d g e, I have a website and I'm on all the usual social media channels and band camp and obviously Spotify, Etcetera, Etcetera. So you can find my music wherever you look for it.

Erin: Amazing and I'll pop all of the links on our show notes as well so people can check you out.

Carol: Excellent, thank you very much.

Erin: Thank you so much for joining us. So some great insights shared on this episode from Nick, Jess and Carrol. If you want to find out more about the Reshape Music report you can check it out on Youth Music website and you can also check them out on Twitter @youthmusic and for Carol you can find her website at where you can also get the links to music on her socials there. Also, I’ll pop all of these links in our episode notes on our simplecast site. 

As always, we want to know what you think about our episodes and the topics and if there are any topics you want us to cover or any guests you think we should reach out to. So please do email us at or DM us on Twitter and Instagram @LeonardCheshire. And as always, Please remember to like, share and subscribe to our podcast. Thanks so much for listening everyone. Stay safe, until next time, I'm Erin and this has been the Disability Download.