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How Lewis Capaldi’s Glastonbury Set Shone a Light on Neurodiversity

The Scottish singer, Lewis Capaldi, wearing a white t-shirt and acoustic guitar onstage at Glastonbury 2023

Lewis Capaldi is one of the most successful pop stars of recent time, with his debut album Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent breaking records and topping charts around the world. But he is also one of the most candid and relatable celebrities, who has never shied away from talking about his personal struggles, including his recent diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome.

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological condition that causes involuntary movements and sounds, known as tics. It affects about 300,000 adults and children in the UK, and can vary in severity and frequency. Capaldi has said that he experiences tics when he is excited, stressed or happy, and that they can be painful and exhausting.

A Moment of Solidarity

At this year’s Glastonbury Festival, Lewis Capaldi had a headline slot on the Pyramid Stage, where he performed some of his biggest hits, such as Before You Go, Bruises and Someone You Loved. However, during the latter song, he lost his voice and was unable to sing. He also appeared to have more tics than usual, which he later attributed to the stress and excitement of the event.

Crowd of people singing at Glastonbury 2023

Instead of booing or leaving, the crowd of thousands showed their support and empathy for the singer by singing along with him and cheering him on. Capaldi thanked them for their kindness and said he might take some more time off to rest and recover. He also joked that he was “the worst headliner in Glastonbury history”.

The moment was captured on video and shared widely on social media, where many people praised Capaldi for his bravery and honesty, and hailed him as an advocate for the neurodiverse community. Some also pointed out how disability is not a bad thing to be hidden or overcome, but something that can exist alongside success and joy.

A Growing Awareness

Lewis Capaldi is not the only celebrity who has opened up about being neurodivergent, which means having a brain that functions differently from the norm. In recent years, more and more public figures have shared their experiences of living with conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and bipolar disorder.

Some examples are:

  • Singer Billie Eilish, who has Tourette’s syndrome and synesthesia
  • Actor Daniel Radcliffe, who has dyspraxia
  • Comedian Russell Brand, who has ADHD and bipolar disorder
  • Musician Kanye West, who has bipolar disorder
  • Actor Anthony Hopkins, who has autism
  • Singer Sia, who has autism

These celebrities have helped to raise awareness and understanding of neurodiversity, as well as challenge stereotypes and stigma. They have also shown that being neurodivergent does not limit one’s potential or creativity, but can be a source of strength and inspiration.

A Call for Inclusion

Diverse group of women sitting in a coffee shop having a discussion

However, despite the increasing visibility and acceptance of neurodiversity, there is still a long way to go before neurodivergent people are fully included and supported in society. Many face barriers and discrimination in education, employment, health care and social life. They also often struggle with self-esteem, mental health and isolation.

That is why it is important to celebrate moments like Lewis Capaldi and his now famous Glastonbury set, where he was embraced by his fans for who he is. It is also important to listen to the voices and needs of neurodivergent people, and to create more opportunities and spaces for them to thrive.

Neurodiversity is not a problem to be solved or a defect to be cured. It is a natural variation of human diversity that should be respected and valued. As Capaldi himself said in his Netflix documentary How I’m Feeling Now: “I’m not broken. I’m just different.”

A Need for Sensitivity

Unfortunately, not all public reactions to celebrities and their neurodivergence are positive or supportive. Some celebrities face ridicule, criticism or backlash for revealing or displaying their neurodifferences, especially when they challenge the norms and expectations of the entertainment industry or society at large.

A recent example is Florence Welch, the lead singer of Florence and the Machine, who has been diagnosed with dyslexia, dyspraxia and bipolar disorder. Welch has said that her conditions have affected her education, career and mental health, but also inspired her creativity and musical expression.

Welch has faced mockery, judgment and disbelief from some people, who have dismissed her lyrics as nonsensical, her performances as erratic or her style as eccentric. She has also been accused of being unprofessional, unreliable or difficult to work with, or of using her conditions as an excuse for her mistakes or misdeeds.

Welch’s case illustrates how neurodivergent celebrities can be misunderstood, marginalised or vilified by the media and the public. It also shows how the stigma and discrimination against neurodiversity can have a negative impact on the mental health and well-being of not only the celebrities themselves, but also the millions of neurodivergent people who look up to them or relate to them.

The singer Florence Welch on stage at a concert

Welch has also spoken about how her neurodivergence has influenced her artistic expression and identity. In the foreword to “Creative Differences”, a handbook on neurodiversity published by Universal Music, she wrote: “I wish a word like ‘neurodiversity’ had existed when I was younger, because there were plenty of other words that got thrown around in its absence. Neurodiversity means to be part of the diversity of humanity as a whole.”1

She also shared how music became a refuge and a passion for her, saying: “Music was the thing that made me feel alive and connected to something bigger than myself. It was the thing that made me feel like I had a place in the world.”1

In an interview with Rolling Stone, she revealed how her dyslexia and dyspraxia affect her songwriting process, saying: “I write in a very abstract way. I don’t really write in sentences. I write in shapes and sounds and colors and feelings. And then I have to kind of translate it into something that makes sense.”

Heavenly Kind of State of Mind

Lewis Capaldi’s Glastonbury set was not only a memorable musical moment, but also a powerful demonstration of neurodiversity and its impact on society. His courage and honesty in sharing his struggles with Tourette’s syndrome inspired many people, especially those who have the same or similar conditions. His fans’ support and empathy showed that there is a growing awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity, and that people can celebrate their differences rather than hide them.

According to BBC News, Capaldi’s performance sparked a surge in online searches for Tourette’s syndrome, as well as positive messages and comments from people with the condition or their relatives. This suggests that Capaldi’s visibility and voice have helped to raise the profile and understanding of Tourette’s syndrome, as well as other forms of neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity is not only important for artists and musicians, but also for everyone who lives and works in a diverse society. Neurodivergent people have unique strengths, talents and perspectives that can enrich and innovate any field or industry. However, they also face challenges and barriers that can limit their potential and well-being. That is why it is essential to create inclusive and supportive environments that can accommodate and empower neurodivergent people.

At ToHealth Ltd. we believe that neurodiversity is an asset, not a liability, and that every neurodivergent person deserves to thrive in their chosen career. We work with employers and employees to create a culture of neurodiversity that benefits everyone.

Together, we can move towards a future where no neurodivergent individual needs to feel shame for how their brain works. Where the mention of a neurodivergent condition is met with confusion. Where everyone is accepted, regardless of their differences or struggles – as Lewis Capaldi himself put it “Oh, what a heavenly kind of state of mind”.

Looking for more from ToHealth?

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