SUPPORTING ARTISTS WITH DISABILITIES

The Old Courts is much more than just a venue – We believe in giving every artist a chance to showcase their talent without stigma or prejudice. Who is Rik Jones? Rik Jones is a singer/songwriter from Wigan who has been making music since 2008 and who we have been supporting since 2015. Rik started his journey by playing in various pubs and at festivals around Wigan before The Old Courts existed. In Rik’s words: “The open mic nights and jam sessions were the only options I had back then because there was nothing like The Old Courts around at the time.” In 2015, Rik became the first artist with disabilities to perform at The Old Courts, and we have been championing his immense talent ever since. How has The Old Courts supported Rik? Our team was so impressed with the way Rik sounded, that he offered him a spot as a supporting artist to John Power from Cast when he played a solo gig here back in 2015. Rik told us: “I grew up in the era of Britpop/indie rock – Oasis and Blur and all that - so it was an amazing opportunity to support somebody like John Power! It was a great feeling because it was the first time I’d ever supported anyone.” Since then, we have invited Rik to support artists such as Steve Craddock and he has also independently supported The Songbook Collective and The Real People. Rik’s songwriting is excellent and now, it is being recognised for being so. In 2018, a radio executive recommended Rik’s song, Walk A Mile in My Shoes, to Dave Heeley, the first blind person to complete the seven-marathon challenge in 2008, and the directors of the film about his life, 7 Days - The Story of Blind Dave Heeley. Rik’s song is about having to understand what someone is going through, but it’s also quite open to interpretation and is a fitting end to the film which explores the challenges that Heeley faced as a blind man trying to complete “I’ve played that song a hundred times or more but sitting there at the premiere and hearing it in that context was something else!” After hearing about Rik’s inclusion in the film and his experience at the premiere, Our former Sales Manager Jill Challinor suggested to Rik that we show the film here at The Old Courts in our Theatre. The directors of the film agreed on the condition that the proceeds go to a charity of Rik’s choice. He chose Wigan and Leigh District Society for the Blind. On the night, Rik introduced the film to an audience of over a hundred people and performed an acoustic set before the film was shown, which included his song Walk a Mile in My Shoes. The evening was a sell-out success and ended up raising £500 for the charity. Rik told us: “When my tune came on at the end [of the film], the applause from the audience was unreal!” Rik is still a regular performer in our Bailiff Bar. We asked him what it was about The Old Courts that differs from other venues: ‘I really love the Theatre there because it helps focus on the audience. Usually, when you play in pubs, there are sometimes people who aren’t interested in music, but in a theatre setting, it’s different. I love playing The Old Courts because it gives me a chance to try out my own songs, old and new. A lot of places just want covers of songs they know. I love the Bailiff Bar because of the way the audience interacts and gets into it. Obviously, I can’t see them, so I have no idea how many people are in the room, but it’s great when they start to sing along. I’m just more confident in playing my own songs there. I love music and when you love what you do, it comes across.”

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The Old Courts is a trading name of Arts at the Mill CIC a registered Community Interest Company registered in England

under Number 07411657 at Gerrard Winstanley House, Crawford Street, Wigan, WN1 1NA