Frank Turner on Reading wheelchair stunt: ‘It was a tribute to Nirvana, lighten up’ – watch

Singer says his doctor advised him to cancel shows due to a bad back

Frank Turner has spoken about entering the Reading Festival stage yesterday (August 23) in a wheelchair – watch the video by scrolling down.

Earlier this week, the singer revealed that he had been forced to cancel a handful of European festival dates due to a back injury and joked that he would play Reading and Leeds Festivals even if it meant doing both dates in a wheelchair. He said: “Speaking of the future, people coming to Hatfield, Reading and Leeds need not worry – the shows will go ahead, we are working on a plan, and if I have to do them in a wheelchair I will. Everyone in my team, from the Sleeping Souls on down, are being really great about making sure that the show goes on. Thanks for your patience and good wishes.”

However, he has faced criticism from some for trivialising being in a wheelchair. Speaking to NME at Leeds festival – where he walked onstage, rather than arriving in a wheelchair – Turner hit out at those criticising his actions: “It was a bit of fun, but predictably the professionally offended on Twitter got professionally offended. I’ve got better things to do with my time than respond to that.”

Explaining the idea behind the stunt, Turner said: “I did it partly because I’m not supposed to be doing these shows because my doctor told me to cancel them and there was a moment last week when I couldn’t stand up. I turned up and my tour manager had [a wheelchair] in her house and so it was there. And then finally, yes, it’s a nod to Kurt Cobain in ’92. Nirvana are one of my favourite bands of all time.”

Asked about accusations he was being insensitive to disabled people, Turner said: “I’m obviously not mocking disabled people. For the record, the charity I do the most work with is Able2UK, which works on disabled access for shows in the UK. I personally organise disabled seating for people at all of my shows. People email me and I sort them out.”

He continued: “I’m obviously not mocking the disabled. I think it’s a real stretch actually to think that’s what I’m doing. I think that you have to be somebody whose finding reasons to be angry in life and just relax or take that energy and use it do something constructive to help the world instead of posting crappy little things.”

Martyn Sibley, editor of Disability Horizons backed up Turner’s statement. “Both Kurt Cobain and Frank Turner are intelligent, clever artists so I don’t see a negative meaning,” he said. “Controversial, maybe, but I can’t see what capital Frank would gain.”

Asked if he thought Turner was mocking the disabled, Sibley said: “Hand on my heart, I don’t think that was in intention.”

See NME.COM/festivals/reading-and-leeds, and for more information about this summer’s events.

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