Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

For those who rocked, we salute you

For those who rocked, we salute you writes Dan Parton (5th September 2012)

Farewell, then, to Heavy Load. Thanks guys, it’s been fun.

So, after 3 albums, 2 Glastonbury performances, 1 movie and innumerable gigs in the UK and around the world, punk band Heavy Load has decided to call it a day after 10 years at the top. To say they will be missed is a bit like saying Adele has sold a few CDs recently.

Heavy Load, comprising Jimmy Nichols, Michael White and Simon Barker, who have learning disabilities, and Mick Williams and Paul Richards, who don’t, achieved much in their time and their influence will be felt for many years to come, especially in the learning disability community.

Firstly, there is the music, which always had an emphasis on fun. With songs like ‘We Love George Michael’ (the ex-Wham! singer is Barker’s favourite artist) and Farty Animals (self-explanatory) you can’t help but smile. It was this that got them attention in the first place and will stand the test of time.

But Heavy Load was about more than the music. In 2008, the band took part in an eponymous documentary, which featured their struggle to cope with their work as a unit and their responsibilities within the learning disabilities community. That catapulted the band and the issues they highlighted to national attention.

But arguably the band’s biggest legacy is Stay Up Late. This started life in 2006 as a campaign to help people with learning disabilities lead a more active social life. One of the main barriers to this is that people with learning disabilities often need support to go to gigs and clubs and because their support workers finish at 10pm, lots of people with learning disabilities have to leave events at 9pm. They wanted to change that.

So successful was the campaign that it is now a charity, promoting the rights of people with learning disabilities to live the lifestyle of their choosing.

It has led to other initiatives, such as club night Kiss My Disco, as well as other projects currently in the pipeline, all geared to giving people with learning disabilities the opportunities to live the same sort of social life than non-disabled people do.

But of course, just because Heavy Load has split, does not necessarily mean it is the end. As the statement on their website playfully said: “Who knows one day we may just do that most rock ‘n roll of things – the big come back!” As fans of bands as diverse as Take That and the Stone Roses will tell you, never say never…

For more information (and merchandise) on Heavy Load go to: www.heavyload.org

For more information on Stay Up Late, see www.stayuplate.org

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