Polio survivor plays Isle of Wight music festival
Drummer and polio survivor, Arthur 'Arty' Davies played at the Isle of Wight music festival last summer, as part of the BBC2's Rock Till We Drop series.
Arty, 74 from Runcorn has been playing the drums since he was 16, despite being in a wheelchair after contracting polio when he was just 18 months old.
Polio was never going to stop Arty and he adapted to whatever activity he chose to master, whether that be swimming, tennis or volleyball. For 40 years, Arty was a Great Britain International at men’s Wheelchair Basketball.
Arty also continued his love of the drums and was the drummer in various bands over the years, including Merseycats & Merseyrats and Lanky Kats who raised money for childrens’ charities.
To play the drums Arty explained “I’m lucky, I can use my right foot a bit, but my left leg is my ‘floppy’. It’s no good. I have to basically tie it on to my hi-hat [two cymbals and a pedal, mounted on a stand] and I use my body [weight] to make it move.”
In 2021, Arty was encouraged by fellow musicians to respond to an advert for a new BBC TV series called Rock Till We Drop. The four-part series, aired last month, featured Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp and MOBO award winning grime artist, Lady Leshurr who were in search of musicians over the age of 64, to form two rock‘n’roll bands that would perform on the main stage at the Isle of Wight Festival.
After completing an application form, sending in videos drumming for the band Faron’s Flamingos and then doing a Zoom video call, Arty was selected to join Lady Leshurr’s band.
“Arty definitely has enough skill in him to make the cut” commented Alex Montaque, Musical Director for Lady Leshurr’s band, now called Band of Strangers.
After six weeks of rehearsal, Arty and the other members of Band of Strangers entered the main stage at the Isle of Wight music festival after being introduced by singer-songwriter Fleur East. An audience of thousands were treated to a reggae medley featuring UB40’s Red Red Wine and Bob Marley and the Wailers’ No Woman, No Crime and later Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.
“Being on that stage was a great experience and it was over too quick. I loved it,” said Arty.
"We were born in the 40s and 50s right after the war. We've got a special spirit. We've got it. Don't go quiet now. If you are sitting home right now thinking, the rest of my life is the potting shed and bingo, it ain't. Do it whatever you want to do. Live your dream" stressed fellow band member, 67-year-old Martin.
Arty is a member of the Cheshire, Wirral and North Wales branch of the charity, British Polio Fellowship and will be giving a talk about his experiences of making the BBC2 show Rock Till We Drop including some insight into what goes on behind the scenes. Come along and meet Arty in person on 9 June at 2:00pm in the Whitby Sports and Social Club, Dunkirk Lane, Chester Road, Whitby, Ellesmere Port CH65 6QF.