Saturday, 19 January 2013

Art: Rant 86: 'Sorry, we can’t allow dogs in the gallery.'

Most galleries these days are working hard to attract wider audiences and think that the measures they put in place are enough to make them fully inclusive. But are they doing everything they can to accommodate visitors with disabilities? Jon Cronshaw rants against unhelpful invigilators and organisations that don't make concessions for those with visual impairments.

Art galleries are strange places to visit for a guy with a guide dog. I’m visually impaired, and have been for most of my adult life. I also love the visual arts, and for many galleries, this is a difficult notion to grasp.

I’ll admit that the visual arts isn’t necessarily the most comfortable realm for the visually impaired. some galleries are not exactly the most considerate places to visit: darkened rooms; countless obstacles; grumpy invigilators; poorly-lit artworks; and trip wires surrounding paintings are just a few of the issues that a guy like me has to overcome on a gallery visit.

There are of course some instances where dark lighting and sporadic composition is necessary for the integrity of a particular work or installation.

I’ve been in galleries where I am unable to proceed to the next room because of something as simple as a poorly lit throughway. I could have asked for an invigilator’s help, and I’m sure they would have obliged but instead I turned on my heels and left – for those with disabilities, independence is very important, and based on the size and layout of the gallery, the provision of an alternative route would not have been a problem.

There is also a lack of understanding and awareness by some galleries regarding the presence of guide dogs. Guide dogs, by law, have exactly the same access as the general public. When a gallery asks if I can leave the guide dog in reception, or tells me which rooms I have to avoid, it is a needlessly humiliating and often confrontational experience. I wonder if they would ask a wheelchair-user to leave their chair in reception.

Steps have been made in recent years to improve the physical access of disabled users to the gallery space; but in terms of intellectual access, they leave a lot to be desired. Token gestures of appeasement tend to come in the form of a sculpture that you can touch, and objects that you can hear or smell. It is an incredibly patronising assumption to make that a person who is visually impaired would want the same intellectual relationship to art as a toddler.

It seems that the gallery environment needs a radical rethink: a wheelchair ramp and some braille on the lifts just won’t cut it anymore if a gallery wants to be an inclusive public space.

This article was originally published by

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Music: The Top 10 Alternative Christmas Anthems

For most people, the only Christmas song worth listening to is The Pogues’ breathtaking ‘Fairy of New York. So if Shakin’ Stevens’ ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ fills you with dread, or Noddy Holder’s ear-piercing scream of “It’s Chriiiiissssstmaaaaassss” makes you want to punch someone’s face off, then fear ye not. Why waste your precious holidays listening to the same old Christmas songs, year in, year out, when you can listen to the top ten alternative Christmas anthems instead?

10. Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).
You can’t go far wrong with a three-chord wonder from Joey Ramone: it’s simple and catchy, and only sounds Christmassy because of the inclusion of ringing bells. This is easily one of the best festive punk-rock-pop songs that you are ever likely to hear.

9. Snoop Dogg – Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto.
Who said that gangstas can’t enjoy Christmas too? Snoop Dogg’s take on the festive season includes an album cover depicted Santa Claus strapped to an electric chair and lines like “Now on the first day of Christmas, my homeboy gave to me / A sack of the krazy glue and told me to smoke it up slowly / Now on the second day of Christmas, my homeboy gave to me / A fifth of Hendog and told me to take my mind off that weed”.

8. Smashing Pumpkins – Christmas Time.
Billy Corgan is probably not the first person you’d think of as a bringer of Christmas cheer, but in ‘Christmas Time’ we see Corgan’s subtle vocals singing over jingling bells and heart-warming strings. It just manages to hold back from your usual sickly sweet sentimental Christmas fare, as it retains the sense of aching and longing that pervades much of the Pumpkins’ work

7. Barenaked Ladies – Green Christmas.
The quirky Canadian indie-popsters throw their hat into the ring with an off-the-wall Christmas anthem filled with envy and resentment, with lines about being jealous of other people having fun, other people having better presents and other people having someone to share a kiss with under the mistletoe.

6. Eazy-E – Muthaphukkin’ Christmas.
Christmas and profanity only tend to go together after a well-needed Christmas row, but the late Eazy-E made short work of turning ‘Jingle Bells’ into something pornographic. With lines like “So ring them bells, ring them bells / She’s takin' it all the way / Oh what fun it is to watch her suck my dick this way” - a charming and wholesome message, but I wouldn’t recommend it for play over Christmas dinner.

5. The Raveonettes – The Christmas Song.
The nostalgic tones of The Raveonettes’ echoic 1950s-tinged sound filters down into their appropriately titled ‘The Christmas Song’ provide the perfect soundtrack to a sleepy Christmas afternoon slumped on a sofa after stuffing your face with too much Turkey and far too many Miniature Heroes.

4. Arcade Fire – Jinglebell Rock.
A cover of Bobby Helms’ 1957 classic, this version is quite the raucous affair: drunken vocals that occasionally drift into incomprehensible jibber-jabber; pianos that wouldn’t sound out of place in a primary school’s nativity play; and a glockenspiel that crashes and clanks with only the slightest regard for the integrity of Helms’ original.

3. Matt Stone and Trey Parker – Christmas Time in Hell
One of South Park’s finest songs, Christmas Time in Hell is easily the funniest and darkest Christmas song ever – after all, Satan can enjoy Christmas too!

2. Yellowman – We Wish You a Reggae Christmas
The classic Christmas song given a reggae twist: imagine what would happen if you gave ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ a reggae backing track and replaced the word “merry” with “reggae”. Well that’s exactly what Yellowman did, and it injects the stale festive tune with a well-needed shot of fun and charm.

1. Sufjan Stevens – Come on Let’s Do the Elf Dance!
This might be the greatest alternative Christmas song ever: it’s poetic, nostalgic, and the tune is fantastic – what more could anyone ask for?

Happy Christmas everyone!

This article was published by AMP and Leeds Music Scene.