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Alan Martin obituary


Alan Martin, who has died after an accident at home, aged 49, was an extraordinary dancer, musician and poet based in Merseyside. Affected by cerebral palsy from an early age, he was profoundly disabled, with no recognisable speech, and throughout his life was a wheelchair user. He was often treated as if he also had a learning disability (a very common experience for those who cannot speak to express their feelings and thoughts).

When he was 31, a group of his friends raised funds to buy him a communication aid and Alan revealed himself to be a poet and thinker. Alan's life changed and he became a tireless worker for full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life. His only regret about his communication aid was that he would have preferred it to have a scouse accent.

Alan fully embraced new technology to achieve his desire to become a professional artist: he used the electronic speech aid for poetry; synthesisers and computer programs for music; and, for dance, a specially designed electric wheelchair that spun, tilted and rose up to give full expression to Alan's movement.

One of his first and most inspiring performances was of his poem This Chair Is Not Me, which he set to music. His words were spoken through his electronic speech aid, and enhanced by his music and inspiring dance.

In 2003, Alan started a relationship with the Colourscape music festival, of which I am director. His first performance was in his home city at the Liverpool Colourscape festival. Many others followed, including a large-scale work commissioned by the festival, linking colour with dance and music.

Alan's greatest achievements with Colourscape were in education. We believe that he was the only dancer in the world running workshops using an electronic speech aid. As well as teaching young disabled people to dance and move and create performances, he was a huge inspiration through the way he lived his life. Many saw for the first time how there could be a fulfilling life for them through the arts. They also saw how a profoundly disabled person could structure the practical parts of his life using technology and with the help of personal assistants.

In 2006, Alan reached a wider audience when he appeared in the cast of the BBC3 series I'm With Stupid, intended to change attitudes to disability through humour, which was co-written by Peter Keeley, a man with cerebral palsy.

Alan is survived by his mother, Jean, brothers, Andy and Paul, and sisters, Gaynor and Heather.

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