Drake Music Scotland’s Associate Composer is Ben Lunn, an acclaimed and award-winning composer based in Scotland. In his first blog for us, Ben writes about the new Disabled Artist Network he has helped found, its purpose and what it has already achieved…
Following the success of Diversions, my concert collaboration with Drake Music Scotland, Hebrides Ensemble and The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh, I have been able to follow this activity up with projects and schemes to help further other disabled composers, while also making a bit of a racket myself.
In January 2021 I had the pleasure of curating a conference focused on the experience and history of neurodivergent musicians and composers – thanks to support from Sound Festival and Drake Music Scotland. The Neurotribes conference was quite an illuminating experience, not least because it ultimately highlighted the need for a coordinated and specialised support network for disabled artists. Thanks to groups like We Are Unlimited, DaDa Fest, Drake Music, Drake Music Scotland, ParaOrchestra and numerous others there are specialised and dedicated avenues for us – however the opportunity to reach out to the mainstream is mired in bias, confusion, and mystery.
This was ultimately the spark which gave birth to the Disabled Artist Network. The group is a multi-purpose platform, still currently finding our footing in the world – and working out where our energies are best directed? Is it mentoring? Is it guidance and support for professional organisations and how they can accommodate disabled people better? Or is it a place to offer opportunities and help advance the artistic development of those under our proverbial wings.
Since our initial founding, we have done a bit of all the above – composer Jason Hodgson received a small amount of mentorship to help their application to an artist in residency scheme, composer and musician Clare Johnston has received support in developing a working relationship with the Kazakh contemporary music Ensemble Eegeru, which hopefully will allow her to produce work that combines Kazakh folk instruments, traditional classical instruments, and Accessible Music Technology. We also had our first ‘Getting to Know You’, a session which invites professionals to describe the way they work and how they engage with other artists. Katja Armknecht from Red Note Ensemble and Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey from the Orchestra of St. Johns gave us a really insightful view of their professional work and have invited attendees to get in touch – hopefully the start of many fruitful relationships.
In the future we are intending to hold sessions where we can identify the biggest issues in the industry so we can start knocking on doors to try and encourage our way in. There are also other ideas like a miniature Diversions which would see another wonderful collaboration with Drake Music Scotland, Hebrides Ensemble, and the Queen’s Hall.
At the end of the month, we have our next meeting. Following the success of the previous session, we’ll spend the time at the end of May having a closed discussion about what things we want to see changed within our industry. The hope is from here, we’ll be able to pressure other organisations to be more accommodating to disabled individuals.
We’ve got ourselves up and running, let’s hope we can be of good use.
Ben Lunn, Drake Music Scotland Associate Composer
The Disabled Artist Network is supported by