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Singer with rare condition urges music industry to welcome disabled artists

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By Catherine Wylie, PA

A musician rejected for gigs over concerns that her feeding tube will put people off has urged promoters and venues not to stand in the way of talented disabled artists.

Ali Hirsz, 20, from Caxton in Cambridgeshire, is in an indie rock band called Idealistics and has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which means that on average she suffers three joint dislocations a day and has very fragile skin which splits a lot.

The singer has issues with her blood pressure and heart, and has a vascular compression on her small intestine, meaning she has not eaten for almost two years and has to be fed via a tube.

Ms Hirsz, who said the most common problem she faces is being denied gigs, told the PA news agency: “I’ve been told by promoters, venues and other artists that my feeding tube will deter crowds and it doesn’t fit their ‘image’.

“I’ve also been told by record labels that they won’t sign us because I won’t put the work in if I’m disabled.”

She added: “I’d love the opportunity for people to see me as I am, to see I’m still a human being and the feeding tube and my disability doesn’t change that, it’s just part of me.

“Other people are similar to me and I want promoters and venues to stop preventing talented musicians who could bring new talent to the scene.”

Ms Hirsz, who also writes lyrics and plays bass, said the Government could “do with some educating” on these issues.

“Judging by how they have previously spoken about people with disabilities, they don’t actually view them on the same ‘level’ as everyone else.

“I definitely think there should be stricter regulations on ableism and I definitely think the Government should be aware of what’s happening; I know this is happening in other industries as well,” she said.

Ms Hirsz is having an operation on Tuesday to have a feeding tube tunnelled into her chest.

Doctors have warned her it will be a “very difficult and painful” surgery and recovery.

“I’ll need to be taking time out for a while and, due to the stress on my heart and my lack of healing/bad bruising, I’ll need to take it really easy,” she said.

Asked what her main message is, Ms Hirsz said: “That no matter who you are or what you have, you can achieve what you want and you are valid.”

Ms Hirsz is joined in Idealistics by her sister, Dominique Hirsz, on drums and her partner, George Gillott, who writes the music, plays guitar and sings.

The trio are influenced by Manic Street Preachers, Suede, The Killers and Wolf Alice, and have been performing since their mid-teens.

The band play regular gigs at their home venue, which is The Portland Arms in Cambridge.

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