This weekend Diane and me are off to enjoy Derby Feste, the city’s annual arts festival. It’s always a thoroughly enjoyable weekend for us, as Derby is one of those places that gets access for disabled people and so allows the disabled visitor to switch off while they are there. When you combine this freedom with a fun filled itinerary of arts for all the family, from street theatre through to the music and firework extravaganza that ends the festival, which this year is courtesy of Les Commandos Percu and Deabru Beltzak, it’s one of those events that is a must see. Luckily I will be accompanied by my mate and local actor Emily Howlett, founding member of Deaf Arts company PAD Productions, who will be giving me the skinny on the secret side of Derby. I am planning a review for the Huff, both of the festival and of any key shows that grab my eye. So watch this space. And if you are knocking around Derby this weekend and see Di and me come and say Hi! Especially if you have something in mind that you think we just have to see!
Argh! August was a crazy busy month. It’s started with three days of training at the BBC weather department, as part of their weather presenting training scheme. It was an amazing three days and I learned loads. Being a weather presenter is one of the hardest jobs in TV, and I doff my cap to anyone who does it. You never know, one day it might be me!
Another video clip that came out in August was my contribution to the Scope campaign. End The Awkward. I originally did one about always being asked if I could have sex, but they went with a less rude experience instead. See what you think…
Then I spent a week celebrating hitting my 50th birthday, ending in a humdinger of a birthday party. A huge thanks to everyone who came. Here’s to the next 50 eh?
But I had no time to recover as I was then off to Brighton to act in a short film, directed by 90’s heart throb Toby Amies. I can’t say too much but I got to fire a gun… for the first time ever in my life. While it was a really long night shoot, I can’t wait to see the finished result as the film looks like a gore fest with a superb twist!
I’ve also just finished my regular column for PosAbility magazine, and an article exploring sex with a spinal injury. I also shot a film with Enhance the UK about the problem page I write for, The Love Lounge, alongside my partner Non-expert Sexpert Emily Rose Yates. I’ll keep you posted when that is ready to look at.
So as September begins it still looks just as busy. I have been asked to create an access guide to Camden by the owners of the market, have loads of Disability Equality Training coming up as well as a visit to Derby to review the up coming Derby Feste. If you are up that way for the festival maybe see you there?
Anyway, I will try to up date this website on a more regular basis. I did say try of course……
I must admit I haven’t been updating my website as much as I should have recently. I’ve been really really busy, but I had to tell you all some amazing news. On Wednesday July 29th I am starting on a three day course at the BBC, training to be a weather presenter. The course got loads of publicity as it was especially looking for disabled people to take part, and the right wing press went a bit ape over this as they said it was positive discrimination. Well, yes it is and I think it’s about time. Disabled people are still pretty invisible from our TV screens, unless they are talking about being disabled, and this is course is part of drive from the BBC to change that. All I say is bravo Auntie Beeb. Now I’m not sure I will end up with a job at the end, as I don’t exactly look like an stereotypical weather presenter, but the new skills will be fantastic.
Presenting the weather is a real skill, and one that if you do it right makes it look much easier than it really is. You have to get across loads of information in a fun and entertaining way, in a really short space of time and all live.Doing my audition was scary but by Friday I will have the skills to be a weather presenter. So watch this apce for news. Fingers crossed eh?
It never rains but it pours, and this month is nothing different. But I must never complain about being busy eh?
Today two videos what I wrote and presented went live online, and I must say I am rather proud of them. They are part of a special feature run by the Wellcome Trust’s online science magazine Mosaic on the subject of disability and sexuality, written by journalist Katherine Quarmby. I was interviewed by Katherine and this led me to meet the Mosaic team, which in turn led to recording the videos.
The first explodes the top ten myths around sex and disability. I really feel it is vital that society re-examines the way it thinks about disabled people and sex, if for no other reason than anyone can become disabled… but they don’t suddenly change how they feel about sex. It’s a normal part of life and pretty much everyone can enjoy a sex life, disabled or not. Society needs to move away from this freaky image of disability and sex. And I for one am doing something about that. So this what lies behind the first of the videos…
The second video came out of discussions during the filming of the first. I was explaining about a technique I helped develop that allows disabled people with loss of sensation or function in the sex organs to regain the ability to orgasm. The crew was intrigued and so we shot a quick clip explaining how to allow yourself to create orgasmic zones anywhere on your body…. enjoy!
I hope you agree that as well as being informative they are loads of fun. I would like to thanks Barry J Gibb and Chrissie Giles at Mosaic and Katherine Q for getting the ball rolling.
This week Eddie Redmayne won yet another award for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything. My review has just been published in this issue of PosAbility magazine, but as so many of you have been asking to read it I thought I would also put a scanned version up online. As well as my thoughts on the film I explore the wider issue of non-disabled actors playing disabled, and chat to disabled acting talent to find out their views.
I’d also love to know your thoughts on the issue, so please send me your comments.
Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the image.
If you are having trouble reading these images here is a PDF version. Theory-of-everything-review-posability
You can purchase a hard copy from PosAbility.
Recently I read an article about young disabled people using vlogging to highlight their experiences. I have been thinking about doing the same, despite not being anywhere near young anymore, but could never really nail down what to talk about. However as I now give advice on Enhance The UK‘s Love Lounge it occurred to me that this would be the perfect medium to dole out my pearls of wisdom around love, life and confidence. So Mik’s Tips was born.
After fighting with Adobe Premiere for a day, I finally got a product that fitted my hopes. Not a slick super professional job, but more a homage to late night TV from the 90’s like Get Stuffed. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen… I give you the inaugural episode of Mik’s Tips. In this episode I explore my methods of turning rejection into a good thing… yes it can be done.
And remember, if you think I can help with a problem or issue you are having please drop me a line through the Love Lounge. You never know, your question might even end up on a future Mik’s Tips!
Recently I was asked to appear on Sky news, to talk about access for disabled people here in the UK. It was part of the press around the national Disabled Access Day, and I got roped in to do some of the press. I had met with the guys behind the day to do an interview for Disability Now, which should be out soon, but they needed a media type to tell the world. Hence I got voted that job.
Up at some unearthly hour, Diane and me were then whisked our to the wilds of West London, to the Sky Studios. Talk about security! Easier to get in to Buck Palace than this place. Once in, it was make up time… despite the fact I had already got make up on to hide a rather bad attack of zits. Before I knew it I was on. While I felt I had left a thousand things unsaid, I received loads of tweets saying well done. Scary how many people are up at that time on a Saturday!
What made my day was the fact that while I waited I got to meet Helen Lederer, a comedy hero of mine! Her dead pan style and acerbic wit always hit my funny bone, and she was just as funny in person. I also met Stuart Miles, Heart radio Breakfast show DJ. Of course, I’m not normally up at that time although I am now old enough to listen to Heart. All those 80s hits are a dream for me.
Anyway, something amazing came out my appearance. The lead reporter Stephen Dixon remembered me from my TV days and got the production team to get me in to do a news paper review. That’s coming up on Feburary 13th. So if you are up at 6.40am, 7.40am and 8.30am you can catch me telling it like it is about that days news. Must just remember not to swear or call Tory MP’s crooks. I did that on BBC News 24 many years back and they sacked me. Doh!
Been rushed off my wheels recently. Been writing and appearing at events all over the country. Here’s a round up of events so far!
Things started off rather glamorously as Diane and me were invited to the launch of Firetrap’s Deadly Denim ad campaign in East London. It was a great night, and we even danced.
Next I was asked to appear at a literary event in Brighton, called Sea Changers. It was an amazing night, and a real honour to be involved with such talented writers, all of whom campaign to make the world a better place. However, it was a little marred by how inaccessible Brighton is as a town. I wrote an article for the Huffington Post exploring how inaccessibility leads to disabled people being seen as a problem and now part of the community which was then taken up by the local Brighton and Hove Independent.
Then I went to an event at Channel 4, which I covered for Disability Now. They announced the launch of the channel’s commitment to ensure inclusive casting of disabled actors in their future dramatic output. However, I won’t deny I have been to a few of these things, so I will believe it when I see it. I also met some talented actors, and smoozed as usual.
I also began running Disability Equality Training for Leonard Cheshire Disability in November. The plan is to roll it out next year, and if a business wants to hire us they will get a bespoke training course created for their business and sector. It means I have to dress rather smartly too.
Lastly it was off to the BBC, for the Xmas edition of the BBC Ouch podcast. It was a great show and as soon as it goes live I will post the link. I do like getting paid to have a laugh and eat mince pies. I just pity Damon Rose, BBC Ouch’s editor, as it will be a nightmare to cut.
This weekend I am off for a break in Cardiff. Two days of respite, with nothing to do but shop, rest and eat. Then it’s off to Roma Sports to collect my new Vida wheelchair. Can’t say too much until I collect it, but it is a totally bespoke wheelchair at the cost of the standard wheelchair. And it looks amazing too. I will be reviewing the chair for Disability Now very soon.
So that’s it for now. There was more but I have forgotten it right now. Well, it is nearly Christmas! Can’t wait!
If anyone can make it to the Fishernman’s Vestry, St Pauls Church, Brighton this Saturday I will be performing as part of an event called Sea Changers. Four writer/campaigners will be discussing how their work is tied to the sea, and I shall be exploring my thoughts on the connection between the sea and disability. Each writer will be doing a 15 minute slot, and then there will bee questions from the audience. It’s free, on a first come first in basis, so get there early. Doors open 7.30pm
For more info visit – Sea Changers
To book tickets (to make sure you get in) – Evenbrite
If you are lucky I might be performing a couple of musical numbers, but that is if a keyboard I ordered online arrives in time….
I’ve just turned my laptop on after ages. In fact I think the last time I used it was when I was in hospital earlier this year, and while roaming the hard drive I found this. Written to wile away the hours of enforced bad rest, it’s just a snapshot of a train of thought writing about my life. Nothing about anything much, but I have just read it and thought it might be fun to put online. So, if you want to know a little more about my life here you go…
When you are faced with empty hours stretching in front of you for long periods of time you have to find something to fill them. As a teenager I got up to mischief and did all manner of naughty things that adults called anti-social behaviour, including our group’s favourite game “Milk Bottle Wars”. This entailed riding our bikes towards each other throwing milk bottles stolen off door steps like missiles at the oncoming rider in a bizarre twist on jousting. But mostly we all filled our time with hanging about. Over the park, in the cul de sac that one of the gang lived in, up in the woods at the end of our road, or anywhere really that we could hang out without too much adult intervention. Not doing anything much. We didn’t even drink or smoke. We just did nothing in a large group. I am sure that all adults nearby found us a mixture of disgusting and scary, as people my age now do about groups of youngsters doing the very same today. Of course they are now all high on skunk and drunk of cheap booze, but that’s the modern era for you eh? Although I will admit we did make loads of noise and acted like we were drunk or high or stupid or desperately trying to impress any girls who were with us (you decide which was true….)
Only a few years later I had discovered music, so no more shenanigans for me. Every spare minute was taken up with learning to play keyboards and the basics of operating the very simple music computers of the time. It was the early 1980s and electronic music was all the rage. I was a addict from the moment I first heard The Human League’s Being Boiled on John Peel’s Radio 1 show. I, like so many others, listened on a pocket radio through a single ear piece huddled in my bed as the show went out late at night so past my bed time. The sound of the synthesizer did something to my teenage brain and it was love at first saw tooth warble. Shortly after this I was taken on holiday to my uncle’s farm in Somerset. I say holiday but it was more like enforced labour, as my bother and I seemed to get given “jobs” rather than allowed to have fun. Not that there is much fun to be had for two townies stuck in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cows and fields. The local kids would have nothing to do with us, so it was “jobs” or die of boredom. On this holiday I was about to hit my fourteenth birthday and so was entering that surly stage. As the level of teenage grumpiness grew day by day, my parents decided it might be wise to take me into a town to let me find something to do that didn’t involve cows. So after a drive through the winding narrow roads that scare the hell out of anyone child from anywhere with real roads and not cart tracks that have been covered in tarmac, we arrived in Taunton. This is the county town of Somerset, with all the trappings of normality. Shops. I didn’t have much money, neither did my parents really, but I still jumped from the car and went roaming with only a perfunctory “bye” to my family to go shopping.
At this time music and fashion was the centre of my universe, yet a had not really landed on My music and My style. Hence I roamed the streets of this unknown town dressed like a strange cross between a punk, and a mod with rather short cropped hair. I had green army trousers with black monkey boots, a printed t-shirt with Eddie Kidd blazoned across it and a brown corduroy suit jacket that had been covered in safety pins and badges. While you might not be able to picture it you must know that stage all teenagers go through, were they think they look great but the rest of the world know the truth, well that was me big time. I knew I had an hour of alone time before I had to meet with my family for family time, so wondered the strange streets with a purpose, although I had no idea what that was. Then suddenly I heard the most amazing sound, coming from a back street record store, that had it’s door open. The had a bow fronted bay window with leaded windows and looked like it should be selling traditional Somerset fair, not pop music. Yet from this shop taken out of a Dickens novel came a sound straight out of the future. I later learned it was Tubeway Army and their hit single Are Friends Electric, but at that moment all I knew was it was the sound of all the science fiction books I loved so much. That moment is one of my fondest memories, as it was the beginning of a life of music and what playing it led me to do. It also signposted the death knell of my search for a teenage fashion that fitted with me, and the start of a relationship with hair dye, eyeliner and dressing up like some kind of sci-fi film extra. To say this was a turning point would be an understatement. Not that I knew it at the time. I didn’t even go in to the shop. Didn’t have enough money to buy anything to be honest, even though singles were only a very cheap. That’ll teach me to buy sweets before hand eh? Teenagers; think they are grown up but still act like kids! All I knew was I had to go and meet my parents and that as soon as I got back to my home town of Luton I had to seek out that amazing sound. The rest of the holiday dragged like they always did. I was so bored I managed to read the entirety of Frank Herbert’s Dune trilogy, which is a hell of tone. Days of drudgery surrounded by far too much nature for a townie teenager, and nights of darkness that was more like a thick sheet over your face than it was the lack of light. Thankfully soon we were driving back, a journey that took forever as my Step Father insisted we use back streets to drive all the way from Langport in the Somerset levels to the streets of Luton, just outside London. (As an adult I find myself questioning whether this was driven by my step father not having a driving license rather than a joy of seeing lovely scenery, but I can’t be sure. Not the kind of question you ask really. “Dad, do you have a license?” Slap would be the reply)
Luton is a strange town. Until I hit my teenage years I loved it. Where we lived, in Stopsley on the outskirts of the town, there was countryside nearby, a huge park and good schools. We also had two sweet shops and a news agents that sold all the comics you could read, and all of my friends were in walking distance. What’s not to love. Hours of fun playing in the local fields, or the nearby woods or the adventure play ground just down the road from my home. It saw safe, with loads to do and a huge shopping centre only a bus ride away. Nirvana for kids. However, as your tastes change as you blossom from childhood into that in between stage of awkward teenager, the shone slowly falls away. It’s still great fun, riding bikes (throwing milk bottle on occasion), and mucking about with weekly trips to the youth club to flirt badly with girls who are only interested in the older boys fill your nights and weekends. You just know that there is something missing from what you imagine you will want as an adult. Or at least I did. I look back and realise that most of my friends did not feel this way. Their world would always revolve around Luton and the surrounding area. This was mainly due to Vauxhall Motors having a major car factory in the town, which meant a never ending requirement for labour and thus secure employment. It was especially important as I hit my mid teens as this was the era of Margaret Thatcher, and the huge growth in unemployment that went with her government’s reign. Being based somewhere that was not so heavily hit as many other industrial towns did create a reason to stay for many people. Of all of the students of my year at high school I only know of a handful who left Luton to live in adulthood.
I was one of those. I finally left at the age of 27, but since the age of 18 I had been travelling to London regularly. It started with shopping trips to buy clothes and new records and all those other things a fashion conscious youth can’t find in a small town. Soon shopping was joined by clubbing. London’s nightlife and gig scene called to me, originally on a weekly basis but growing to a point where I calculated I would spend less on rent than I was on petrol for all the trips to and from the big smoke. Why spend more to live in Luton? Well I couldn’t find an answer either so I started putting out feelers to find an place in London, and thanks to a contact I soon ended up in a one bed flat in Hackney. Life both began and ended then. The end was the death of almost all things Luton. I tried to stay in touch with my old friends but whenever I contacted them to ask them to come down and enjoy the thrills of London they acted as if I was showing off. Rather than come down and stay over, visiting the night life and shops we used to all trip to via the train or M1, they decided that I had got too big for my boots and dropped me. Which left me alone in this huge city, so I went out and made new mates. I was lucky at this time as I was a well known TV presenter at the time, and this always helps find mates… of both types (oo-er). Most of them were shallow and after something, but I knew that and placed them in categories. C List mates were those who I called on if I had no one to go out with, required company and was OK with being used in some way. B List were those who I liked but knew I was there more for what I could bring than who I am and then A List where those I hoped would become my new mates. Looking back on this area it was a rather sad period but it didn’t feel so at the time. I had some serious fun, and partied hearty as I had dreamed being famous would bring. Oh yes, I took advantage of all the trappings of minor fame, although I might not have had as much sex as I could have. Far too much of a nice boy. Foolish maybe, but I am a little proud of not being a typical male and just shagging around because I could. Not sure my new mates saw it this way, but for them it meant more available women for them. For me it meant a growing group of female friends that found my personality and attitude towards them refreshing and new. So we all won. I guess. Luckily it led me to finally form the relationship that was to be the most important in my life, that with my wife Diane.
I first met Diane at the Electric Ballroom many years earlier. We think it was in 1988 or 89. We both are crap with dates so it could be later or earlier but hey, as long as both aren’t sure its OK. That week I found myself single after a row with a long time girlfriend. So I went out a free man for the first time in a long time. ON that night, just after I entered the club, I looked towards the bar and there stood a girl who stopped time. Honestly it was like in a film. Time slowed and people parted to create a clear path to this vision who was lit from above by the lights of the bar. I whizzed over, grabbed the bar and jumped onto my feet to say Hi. I spent the night chatting with this stunning, exciting creature and felt something I had never felt before. Sadly she was there with her ex-boyfriend and felt she had to go home with him out of duty. I asked if she would be there next week. Yes she said, but the next week she was not. So I thought that was a chance missed. But her memory burned brightly. But for now, I got on with life.
However I kept bumping into her. I found that she had gone back to her ex, but did not seem happy. She was amazing and although I also returned to my unhappy relationship, she was always on my mind. When I moved to London I bumped into her even more, and started seeking her out. I found that I had a mate that worked in the same place as her boyfriend, so I could find out where they’d be. I even booked her boyfriend to DJ at a club I ran, because it meant I knew where he would be for a couple of hours… leaving her free to chat to. Now I say all this and it sounds rather stalky, but I did not hit on her. I wanted her to be a mate, if I couldn’t be with her I could know her. So I gave her advice on her love life, and just put up with the fact she would not be mine. I formed another relationship with a rather awful woman, but I won’t bore you with all the gory details, but as this nightmare unfolded it became clear that Diane was equally unhappy with her love life. I now formed a rock band and asked Diane to join as a dancer. As soon as I heard her sing, she was then promoted to lead singer and this led us to spend lots of time together working on songs. Tee hee.
We tried to fight the chemistry the grew between us but it was bound to happen. We kissed a few times on stage during gigs, under the guise of the show. Then one night we planned a night together with dinner. I cooked a Chinese and waited for DI to arrive. She was late but when she walked through the door she was a vision. In the shortest dress I had ever seen. We ate, and I fought the urge to take her in my arms. Then suddenly she jumped on me and we kissed. From there it was a short skip to the bedroom… and I shall say no more. Just it was amazing and I knew she was the one. I was hooked. Not only was she my mental fit, but we clicked in the sack too. But we both had partners. Well I did for a few more days, and then she was dumped. Diane took a while longer but she lived with him. Within a month we were finally together. Yeah! The rest is history… a very happy history.