Hymn of the Big Wheel

“The big wheel keeps on turning…one man struggles while another relaxes” – Massive Attack, Hymn of the Big Wheel

One things for sure, we can’t have it all; we can’t go to both parties, buy a new wardrobe and save for a house; achieve our dreams with no sacrifice. As massive attack put it, sometimes we relax, sometimes we struggle. A balance of both is probably what we need. Thinking philosophically about these things can be comforting. Usually. But sometimes it can be difficult to take comfort when we’re considering the limitations that are imposed on us. Sometimes, what one man can do and what another can’t, actually, feels like complete bulls**t. It feels unjust. Our pelicans have accepted injustice with dignity this week, which on a level, kind of makes it feel worse.

The conversation I had with Sophia about ending the Wellbeing group was on the whole positive, mainly because Sophia is so woke on a spiritual level that you can’t help leaving any conversation with her feeling that ‘everything is going to be OK’. It was also a bit rubbish. This group was important to us. It was a space for people to give themselves some TLC. 21st century living demands that we concentrate on getting through a never-ending to-do list with barely any time to just be. Relax. Appreciate yourself. Throw in the challenges of living with or supporting someone with complex physical or health needs, and that ‘barely any time’ becomes ‘no time’. We wanted to offer one hour and a half of wellbeing to people who probably hadn’t thought about themselves for that long in the past 20 years put together. Didn’t seem too much to ask. But the money ran out. The big wheel keeps on turning. More struggle, less relaxing.

“WTF”

This week Pelicans have also contended with missing sessions because their chairs have been on the blink; missing out on projects because their care packages won’t cover the time; waiting on accessibility aids that have been stuck in the system for months…ask our parents, this list could go on and on. I also had a conversation with one of our carers that really brings home the imbalance in struggling and relaxing; working a highly skilled job, long hours, emotionally and physically demanding conditions, all the while knowing that you’ll probably never own your own home. I think the kids say, “WTF”.

Some of the injustices that we see at Pelican are part of life and we have to accept the things that can’t be changed. But a lot of what we see could be. There is enough man power, money, time and resources that people should be able to access their community on their own terms, for at least some of the time. Without getting too political, something’s gone wrong somewhere. The word I keep hearing, particularly from parents, is ‘fight’. Why is OK that some people are fighting for the basics you need to live life and heaven forbid relax for just a bit? Why is it all ‘struggle’ for some? It’s no wonder the learning disabled community is so underrepresented in the Arts & Culture scene, many are too busy with this fight.

Resist inequality – how?

Fortunately, amongst the white, middle aged men in suits (and one woman in heels) who are currently too preoccupied with ‘Brexit’ to worry about minor things like equality, there are plenty of people who recognise that people are doing their unfair share of struggling (agree with this guy or not, at least he is trying to talk about the right things https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/30/historian-berates-billionaires-at-davos-over-tax-avoidance). But for those of us who don’t have an international platform or a job title that allows us to be heard, we can feel pretty powerless. What can we do at a community level that resists inequality? I don’t have many ideas on this front (please comment below if you do!) but I can offer some hope in the light of other things I’ve seen at pelican this week…

One of the biggest threats of a constant struggle is that it forces us to accept lower quality. Lower quality of life. Lower quality of work. Lower expectations for ourselves. This has not been the case for Pelicans. On Tuesday at FreeFall+ we saw some of the highest quality work the group has ever produced. Using various techniques including printing, modelling, drawing and collage, the group created repeated patterns. These patterns will eventually become wrapping paper to add to our growing list of products. As you can see from the photos, the patterns wouldn’t look at all out of place on the shelves of Paperchase. In fact, they look a lot better than most of what they stock! I would like to mention Liam’s contribution to this session in particular; the man spent most of Christmas in hospital and the family know ‘struggle’ more than most. He was a printing machine on Tuesday and the quality of his collaboration with his mum and carer achieved the rare feat of rendering me speechless.

Putting the ‘quality’ in ‘inequality’

Our core members worked hard and George maintained the highest expectations of what they could achieve. The result was quality. All about quality. Our core members put the quality in inequality. As long as we are maintaining the expectation of quality in our Art work, then maybe we are refusing to let the ‘struggle’ beat us entirely? With this in mind, we know that when the wellbeing group returns it will be of a higher quality than ever before. If you’ve seen anything else this week that makes you think we can combat inequality at a community level, we’d love to hear it. Keep up the quality Pelicans!

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