Johnny Dean is hosting a charity gig showcasing the talents of two groups of musicians with disabilities on August 27. The Menswear frontman will introduce The AutistiX and Motxila 21, two bands who have overcome many obstacles to challenge the notions of what it means to have a disability. Four of the six members of North London’s The AutistiX have autism, while members of Motxila 21 have Down’s Syndrome.
Having just returned from a successful tour in Spain, the two bands will be exhibiting their powerful live show to a home audience in London, with all proceeds to be donated to the National Autistic Society (NAS). Johnny himself was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder (PPD) in 2008, an umbrella term covering autism and related conditions and is now passionate about trying to demystify the condition.
Speaking on his diagnosis, Johnny says: "[It] was such a relief. It felt like a light had been turned on, helping me to see myself properly for the first time and understand why I've always felt different.
“Since the diagnosis I’ve felt empowered and determined to raise awareness of this condition so that children and adults don't have to go through the years of uncertainty and confusion that I experienced. This show is a celebration of the achievements of people with disabilities and I hope it will go a long way to changing attitudes towards autism and Down’s Syndrome.”
Susan Zur-Szpiro, the manager of the AutistiX and mother to the band’s drummer, adds: "The AutistiX love playing their music and we were delighted to have the chance to support the NAS.
“Like most people with autism, they can get anxious when presented with new situations, so the recent Spanish tour was a big challenge for them. But by being well rehearsed and preparing for what to expect on the trip, they managed their anxiety, together with the support of parents and carers. They played brilliantly in each town and city and they went down a storm with the Spanish audiences.
“They show how much people with autism can achieve when they are given the opportunity and the right support.”
The gig takes place on August 27 from 7.30 at Suyra, 156 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9LJ. Tickets are available here.