Grassroots charity promoting the right for people with learning disabilities to have a choice about how they live their lives

Simon Barker – an obituary

04
Dec
2017

Simon Barker was the charismatic front man of the punk Heavy Load. The band came to the attention of the public thanks to Jerry Rothwell’s feature documentary (also called ‘Heavy Load’) charting the bands attempts to break out of the world of social care social clubs and take their raucous and energetic shows to the mainstream.

Simon was the perfect frontman. The fact that he had a learning disability was no obstacle for him. His wit, warmth and gift for hugely inappropriate and funny one-liners won him fans all over the UK, and the world.

The film was premiered at SXSW, won various awards and film critic Mark Kermode rates it as one of his top 5 rockumentaries of the 21st century. It also enabled the band to go on to play shows in the USA, Europe tour the UK as well as two Glastonbury Festivals, helping to change the way people view musicians with learning disabilities in the process.

They released 3 albums (The Queen Mother’s Dead, Shut It and WHAM) and penned the theme tune for Channel 4 drama series ‘Cast Offs’.

Another of the band’s achievements was the creation of the charity Stay Up Late who work to promote active social lives for adults with learning disabilities. Simon’s spirit of punk and living life how you want is a driving force behind the core philosophy of the charity.

The band had a major influence on the learning disability arts scene inspiring many musicians with learning disabilities to get up on stage and embrace something of what Simon exhuded in his performances.

After 15 years the band played a final show in Trafalgar Square as part of the Paralympic festivities in 2012. This year they reformed for a recording session and were planning to play one last re-union gig in October. Simon’s last recorded words were fittingly a screamed ‘BOLLOCKS!’

Simon will be remembered for being full of fun, the creator of chaos, a master at swearing and a truly lovely man. He was also well-known and well lived personality in his local community.

He was a true punk in every way, even his non-conformist love of Bros, Rick Astley and George Michael was somehow punk as it broke all the rules about what sort of music he ‘should’ be listening to.

Simon will be well missed by his family, his many fans, his local community and his friends.

  • Mick Williams

    Looking back, it’s amazing what we achieved together in Heavy Load. So many great memories, for which I will be forever grateful. It’s truly wonderful that Paul and the SUL team are continuing the spirit of the band in changing people’s lives for the better. And Simon Barker…. always in our Punk hearts.

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