When Will We Rise Up?

July 28, 2019 1 comment

“Rise up Evie Smith”, I yell.

It’s common place to be asked to give feedback on an experience when you purchase  or participate in something theses days. With my training background, I know important and useful this is to how I can improve and redesign things.  But hat about when you feel the feedback is just for a tick box exercise that will bring little or nothing to change the bigger picture.

I recently had this offer/dilemma to give feedback on my experience of going through my Personal Independence Payments (PIP) Assessment. To be honest this blog is  already about a thousand words too long, sorry sausages, bare with me:……

It’s important to put my little act of resistance in context.  That is the context of this governments ever increasing erosion of our rights and our independence. I (and hopefully we?) know and see this erosion all around us. All these changes are a systematic wrong to fit an ideology of greed and selfishness. It smells, feels and looks wrong. Even if you disagree and think the gornment is great (???) you must sense some of us are experiencing something that isn’t quite right?


Harsh? Unfair? You may say I’m being a bit bias? Well, if that is a bias toward the side of equality, justice, respect & dignity, then yep. But then I realise why the bias is ther. My rational (not bias) response as I reflect, is directly as I experience the Closure of the ILF (Independent Living Fund), the tightening bureaucratic restrictions and changes to Access to Work. Then outside my direct experience, but with my loved ones, my friends, their families, other disabled people being put through care cuts, benefit cuts, the bedroom tax, Working Capability Assessments and Universal Credit hasn’t even got half an evil claw in yet. The whole agenda needs ripping up, re-directing and far more urgently than anything Brexit could throw up.

To put it straight, I don’t want a new tweaked central Care system linked to health. I want to be able to live an independent life with choice and control where I can contribute and participate in the world around me…as an equal.  To do that I need support…don’t we all!

All in the name of Austerity, a strong economy and to aid the rhetoric of ensuring as a great country we look after the most vulnerable/those with greatest need. And yet it’s ok to have a limitless pot to piss it up the Brexit wall? Well you only have to google any of the above or listen to the news to know these actions are at the least having the biggest and most detrimental impact on our lives.

I panicked that my response might be my age, “moany an old bloke” period of life.  Then I pinch myself and realise it actually is really happening.

As a small time campaigner/fighter (there are many greats far more effective than I) of injustice/discrimination  theres always a sense of “why aren’t more people rising up”, how can we resist, be helpfully non compliant, not participate in this game we are being forced to play. I want to play a game with fair rules, agreed with negotiation and agreement. A game I can play with fairness and equality, one that I can participate and contribute too.


So back to the plot, my invitation to participate in a focus group looking at my experience of PIP for £50. In the context of all the above and along with the short notice, lack of financial recognition of my professional time, PA costs to be there and the feeling that I wouldn’t be able to get across half of how bad the whole experience was in terms of access, bureaucracy and my self esteem/confidence, I decided to decline, but tell them why and was happy to have it on record & is why I am sharing it in this blog.

My anger/frustration/beliefs wasn’t with the research company, the guy was nice enough. My need to adequately respond to this feedback was bigger than the opportunity to be complicite in ticking the DWP consultation box. It was very much about my anger/frustration/etc at our governments policies & actions. Heres me letter, I’ve removed the researchers name.

Subject: Re: Confirmation of group discussion about your experiences of completing the Capability for Work questionnaire [6060]
Dear xx,

After serious consideration, I have decided I cannot participate in this piece of research/feedback to DWP.
The whole of my experience was so fundamentally negative, inaccessible and difficult, that I believe the whole pip system needs drastic change to meet & reflect the real needs and lived experience of Disabled People.
If the dwp truly understood the practice of real co-production this would be a positive start that might change the culture towards Disability equality and supporting Disabled People to live independent lives.
Although I do appreciate the token of £25 for my time, as a disabled person this amount doesn’t reflect the true cost of my time & support needed to attend.  It’s a very low rate as an incentive given the costs to attend and perhaps current research rates.  In short, it reflects part of the problem in the DWP not recognising the true additional cost of disability, let alone as an ‘incentive/gift’.
I would be happy for you to use this as anonymous evidence or to chat further if there was a real commitment to change to improve the lives of Disabled People particularly in the current climate and context of policy impacting on our lives (closure of the Independent Living Fund, restrictions to Access To Work).
Thank you for contacting me, I am of course happy should you need to contact me for any clarification.

We must join together, united & rise up, be non compliant wherever we can to inequality and unfairness and continue resilient and resolute in seeking inclusion, equality & justice together as disabled and non disabled contemporaries.


Right, cup of tea Sausages! xx


Writing me ditty’s

March 10, 2019 Leave a comment

It’s funny how some things come together all at once, bit like buses. The first few months of 2019  have definitely been about songwriting and producing (admittedly writing with Access All Areas started back in September, but intensified in getting the show, Winged up & on in 2019). In particular, writing songs for others, which I have realised I love to do. So this blog is a bit of a sharing. A sharing of these songs.

In this period of time, I have found within myself a different style of song writing that has given me permission to explore and try new sounds, melodies & structures outside my comfort zone/usual style I guess. As always I continue to learn loads and always feel that one day I’ll learn to do it all “properly”, ‘Properly’ in the context of the playing & recording and in how I admire those who do all this well.

As I’m self taught, I always feel a bit inferior to those who’ve studied and know what they are doing. I do to an extent but…to use the proper  technique, starting point, language, use of tools in the right way. I know I’m professional, work hard and not too bad at what I do, but blimey do I always want to do it all so much better! I value holding  close Jenny Sealeys adage “we are here, we are in this moment, it’s the right place, find/feel that moment. So I try….

Listening to my self doubt around the notion that tere is such a thing as  “properly” (in my heart I believe of course there isn’t such a thing as one proper way, but many many different ways). With my self coaching head on, I can hear how I would say to another me, What is proper? of course the response would be believe in your way, there is no real ‘proper’ and if it works for you then it is the way. Then I stop beating myself up, overcome whichever problem I’ve technically encountered and enjoy the creative discipline until the next fekk up.

The tingle of..oh this sounds ok….even nice, drives me on. Of course then a different kind of nervousness comes about. What will those listening think?

I love artists who don’t care about what others think on their creation (even though I suspect they do a bit..?), but im still very much about wanting everyone to be happy/enjoy what is being shared.

So I get stuck in, check out for reassurance with friends, that that thought of “is this the best way”. Im so lucky that friends always return that reassurance with, thats a great way, fine, or try this…and so I create a few songs.

They are what they are, a marker to indicate a bit of where I am now, not perfect, but hopefully ok, could be better, but ok, the best I can now and not final, finished, they can always improve and change with age and new learning & time.

Funny when I started this blog, I just wanted to share a collection of songs  I’ve written that despite all of the above, i have enjoyed, loved, worked hard to create & shared.

I’ve loved working with some new companies to me.Circumference on the titled “delicate’ R&D, working with Access All Areas has been a very special time to me as they created/wrote/influenced each piece and they allowed & trusted in me. The songs we created had a place amongst a beautiful narrative, theatrical design & visuals, but mainly the experience was about being surrounded by beautiful people.

And then last week working with OCHI around R&D exploring the story of Medea, gave me even more opportunities to create, try, & share. Another weird coincidence, what is it with me & greek mythological stories?

So a few songs shared that I’ve written for these brilliant pieces of theatre. If any of you read this…Now I know what Ive done I can now do the songs again only differeny, gear 4 into 5, but I’m happy I gave it me best with these, where they are…for now xx

You can here them all & more on me soundcloud

(Sorry me blog turned into one of those YouTube instruction videos that goes on n on n on….so heres a track created yesterday, for me, for fun, nuffing serious, just experimentation).

Enjoy Sausages x Apologies for typos, will correct soonest x

#LittleDorrit on BBC Radio 4

December 29, 2018 1 comment

So, tomorrow, Sunday 30th December(& indeed next Sunday), I will be playing Mr Dorrit & the voice of Charles Dickens on yer radiogram.

Probably the only time I’ll ever be saying that one as a status!

Tune yer radiogram in at 3pm, BBC radio 4 with the brilliant Pickles Norman Liz Carr Jude Mahon Autumn Red Bonham-Cox Vikki Gee Jenny Sealey Narinder Samra Eloise Whitmore John Merriman recorded at the brilliant @CrownLaneStudios

It was a brilliant experience, I am grateful to have learnt loads & I really hope you enjoy it sausages. Let variety be the spice of life indeed!

The story set then is the story now. Yep happening now, political ….fighting injustice, poverty, accessible affordable housing, the crisis that is social housing, oppression, austerity, cuts, cuts & on it goes.

When will the quietest of our voices be not only heard, but valued and acted upon. Very Proud to be a small part of this piece and yet my heart screams more loudly, listen to the horrific experiences of those needing social housing & an end to poverty/oppression in Merton/London/all over the UK and we still wait and will never forget the need for #Justice4Grenfell


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Part 2: Setting Up The Kellycaster

December 14, 2018 Leave a comment

The easiest way for me a to break it all down here is to  a few screen shares. So heres the set up bit:-

Obviously from the screen share you can tell… I love Gawain Hewit, Charles Mathews, Jon Dickinson (he made the body), Drake Music, the clever Bela peeps, Novation, Ableton, Roland, my PA’s & many other friends & colleuges who are on this journey with me & this thing of beauty. #TheKellycaster

Blog in progress……obvs sausages!

Categories: Rockinpaddy

Pie n Mash Podcast

November 15, 2018 Leave a comment

Episode 1.

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Part 1 of however many it takes: The story of #TheKellycaster – A Thing of Beauty

March 17, 2018 Leave a comment

The Prologue.

So it’s about time I actually wrote in my own words, what The Kellycaster is (the best way I can), its story so far and why it’s so important to my future journey? I think for sanity and to keep the blogs not too long, see this as part one of however many it takes.

The Kellycaster shadow with orange/red backlight.

The Kellycaster purs away at home.

Recently someone very kindly wrote “Mary will introduce John Kelly to the stage as someone who has already helped us re-redefine the electric guitar working with DM Labs to produce the KellyCaster”.

Wow, to ‘re-define’ seems a massive statement which I was/am blown away about. However, keeping myself as grounded as possible I don’t take in so much to get carried away into the lovely things people say and write about my performances, songs I write or cover, voice, gigs or words.

Of course, I really appreciate and do not dismiss those nice words that someone has taken the time to give. I gratfully acknowledge them, feeling luky for them, but in my head, I always feel; what have I learnt from tonight, ah I have a lot to learn, long way to go, I’m not bad at this but many others sing sweeter, play better, articulate much better and so practice, practice, work hard, head down and continue working hard and hope I improve. I can be content in the comment or in the moment and enjoy it but not complacent in wanting to make my songs or singing or playing better.

The Kellycaster was in the big papers almost immediately the first sound was made on those three strings strung on an old throw-away Telecaster guitar body that we (Charles/Gawain & myself) cut up for a Hackathon on the Southbank. You’ll notice from the picture the strings doubled to 6 as to keep with convention.

Telecaster guitar body with kneck cut, wires and bulldog clips

First Prototype

And the interest has stayed and grown, the BBC ….then articles in Italy, Spain, The States…short films for The British Council….and of course things written by Drake Music colleagues, friends and other colleagues who have blogged, tweeted and shared such supportive news about its development. To all I am hugely grateful and somehow indebted too, I owe them more than a pint anyway!

A musical breakthrough says The Independent just a few days after we made the first sounds.

Guitar breakthrough – The Independent, 2015

At that Web We Want Hackathon little did Charles & Gawain (see below) know that we’d be taking my Guitboard (my first choice name for what is now The Kellycaster), on a big journey from that Southbank room (below) with no windows and lots of soldering smells. This was the first hack taken from my concept presentation shared at a DMLab meeting a month or so earlier


We started with a hex pickup and plugs for each individual string. The string signal sent to a max/msp with a 6 input soundcard to convert into sound and on that day we used an OSC app to change three simple chords.  There was a fair bit of latency but I could compensate on anyting under 90 BPM, perfect for Ride On! the first tune I played to share in the very public Clore Ballroom.


In writing this, I’ve just realised my lovely mum never got to see this beautiful thing that’s come into my life. I’m sad about that because she knew how important music is to me and she loved the craic and fun of the gigs I’d be involved in. She was so supportive to me pushing and doing whatever I enjoyed and succeeded at. I’m glad she at least knew it was happening, although I smile at what she’d thing of all the new extra gear I now carry around from gig to gig. She used to joke “jaysus, couldn’t you have got a job with a desk where you wouldn’t have to be pulling and tearing gear in and out of the house every night”, then she’d laugh, “sure we wouldn’t be happy then though’.

So…I knew what I could physically and musically do & of course I had dreamt from childhood of playing guitar. Rocking it out to a crowd, belting out a tune, playing with others sweating from the energy and emotion. Equally I’d dream of singing in a corner somewhere playing a guitar to myself (ideally in an irish bar obviously). Of course the journey had a few twists and turns and we had to work thrugh complicated bck to complex.  Complex is what makes The Kellycaster an instrument to be learnt.  Its prettty simple to get a sound out but practice and more practice is required to play it with skill, I’m still praciticing btw.

guitar with leads all over it, a nintendo controller, ballpoint pen and gaffer tape.

From complicated to complex. The birth of the Boogie Bar (nunchucker, bluetac and ballpoint pen).

Like any classic childhood guitar dreams the reality came in the shape of a snooker cue (i preferred this to the traditional tennis racket although I dabbled there too). I mention the snooker cue because that’s really over the years how I figured I could strum, pick n pluck…and also I could do left hand stuff as long as it was a button here or something there that would do the chord shape.

Although I learnt to play guitar sort of….it was on an open tuning of E, just like the old blues masters who could always go much further than I. it never went the way I wanted to play in my head. I learnt “you’re cheatin’ heart” on it and wrote “just a dream” and I could do a bit of the old boogie woogie 12 bar riff, that I am now spending hours trying to embellish and hone on The Kellycaster.

So I’d learnt the basics on piano, could blow the old trumpet (three valves, 3 faster fingers, perfick). As some of you will know I’ve played keyboards for years, using a single finger to play most of the chords and learnt 100’s of songs. Last count my little book had 170 something songs in it. So the keyboard was kind of ok, as far as I thought it would go. i could write, jam along and play well enough to please an audience. But in that old head of mine, I knew those single finger chords were still limiting and somehow locked in.  Anyone playing along with me had to fit in with what was happening.

Silhouette of The Kellycaster body shape with The Kellycaster logo on neck and inscription "This Machine Kills Oppression" on body of guitar..

This Machine Kills Oppression.



I Don’t Fit In A Box, You Don’t Fit In A Box, We Don’t Fit In A Box!

March 9, 2018 2 comments

Thanks to Drake Music for commissioning me to write this song for We All Make Music 2018, an Anti-conference celebrating the Right to make music in Education.

Woodie Guthrie would say a living song; a song that make you take pride in yourself and your work & a song that protests about the things that need protesting about.

We want Inclusion & Disability Equality so that all our narratives, stories & songs can be heard, not just the few with the Power button or are the loudest.

Inclusion, Equality & the right to make music seem a pretty important thing to create a living song about. Enjoy, share, download, join the movement for Change, don’t let it all pass by unchallenged.

We Don’t Fit In A Box

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