Huffington Round Up

Oh dear, I’ve been rather remiss on my website updates recently but I can blame it on being too busy actually writing stuff for publication. My Huffington Post column has been a hive of activity so if you haven’t seen them be ready for a lot of reading. Trust me though, they cover lots of topics and are all a fun read.

I say fun, but the first is more serious. As part of the Huff’s campaign to get more disabled people in modelling that they have run throughout February together with Models of Diversity, a campaigning group I wholeheartedly support, I wrote something exploring how the lack of representation in the media and fashion worlds mirror a wider issue around inclusion. While a serious story it included a snap of me modelling way back in 1996, when I was the first disabled model to do catwalk at LFW. Enjoy – Have We Really Said Goodbye to the Back of the Bus?

Following in the more political vein, I next explored my worries about the government’s proposed Housing Bill and how some elements of it might negatively impact on disabled people. It followed some rather unpleasant exchanges on Twitter, but then what do you expect from a society that has painted disabled people as scroungers? What was most funny was I was raising an issue around Pay To Stay which only effects those working, yet my concerns led to Twitter Twats going for the old “you disabled people with all your benefits” line. I won’t say much more, as you can get the full skinny from reading the article – Is It Really So Hard To Understand?

After so much serious stuff I needed a bit of light relief. So after a wonderful night at the launch of Graeae Theatre Company’s new artistic collaboration with the Central Illustration Agency (yes they are called the CIA!) I felt the need to tell the world about – Reframing The Myth. Hope the review drives you to see the exhibition as it is wonderful.

Talking of wonderful, another event that I just had to tell the world about was my taking part in the Southbank Centre’s Dahl In A Day reading of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, as part of their Imagine Kid’s Festival. I total joy to be asked and to see so many children transfixed as I told Miss Honey’s Story.

Lastly I had the honour of getting a sneak peak at the new Gary Numan documentary, Android In La La Land. As a life long Numanoid, it was a real joy to see the human side of Mr Numan. It’s going to be a must see for any music fan, but as it explores his recent diagnosis of Asperger’s it also will be o much interest for anyone who has been touched by Neurodiversity. Or if you just like great, up beat, life affirming music docs.

So that was it. I’ve also had loads published in other outlet’s but that’s another post. For now, enjoy reading and I promise to be more conscientious on the website from now on. Is that a resolution for 2016? Yes!

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#2fingersto2pounds Twitter Campaign!

Mik tells Lord Freud exactly what he thinks of his comments!

Mik tells Lord Freud exactly what he thinks of his comments!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a stone, or just don’t own a TV, radio or computer, you must know about the government welfare minister Lord Freud and his recent comments about some disabled people not being worth the National Minimum Wage. In response to this Shape Arts have started a Twitter campaign called #2fingersto2pounds, and I wholeheartedly support it. So here is my contribution, which I created using Photoshop. I only say that as it is another skill that I would charge considerably more for per hour than the NMW, let alone the £2 per hour that Lord Freud stated could be paid to some disabled people.

I also wrote a column in the Huffington Post which has been setting Twitter alight it seems. Always nice when something you write is so well received. Here is a transcript of it…

How It Feels To Be Worth Less

On the day that the Labour party are calling for Lord Freud to either resign or be sacked, and when the campaigning groups DPAC and Occupy are holding a rally asking for the same in central London, a rally that ironically I cannot attend as I am working, I felt I needed to write something about the whole affair. At first I found myself writing just about the events of last week but I expect that if you don’t know them then you won’t really care about the ramblings of one wheelchair using writer, so instead I will try to explain how I have been left feeling and what I see as the truth is behind the headlines.

I should explain that I have experienced the attitude that my work is worth less than non-disabled people in my own professional career. Back in the late 1980s I broke into the television industry as a presenter. Very soon I was being hailed as the first of a new generation of disabled talent that was highlighting how forward thinking the industry was, and by the early 1990s I had been hired to front a TV series for Channel 4. My wages did not turn out to be anywhere near as huge as I expected, and I put this down to the media hyping how much TV personalities got paid. To a working class boy from Luton my wages were great, as I was bringing home three times the pay packet my father earned at his job in a factory. The series was a smash hit, acclaimed all over the world and even won an Emmy, with my input being hailed as one of the reason for this award by the committee who voted for our little show. Everyone involved was over the moon. At a party to celebrate a Channel 4 exec let slip how much the show’s director was being given as a bonus for each of the shows in the series. It worked out that I was being paid 0.1% of this bonus. So the next time I met with the production company I raised the issue of a raise in my fee, and was promptly let go. The very next show I worked on I was paid four times as much per day and I earned per week on the award winning show, and the company involved in that show told me that even this was cheap. So I had basically been screwed and while it could be laid at the feet of my useless agent, I am sure it is also because there has always been at attitude that disabled people are worth less.

My good friend actor and presenter Julie Fernandez, the first disabled actor to play a long term character in a UK soap, also had this experience but her’s was far more blunt. She also discovered she was on a lesser rate when working on a TV drama. When she raised the issue she was told, “well you are lucky to be in work”. So no raise for Julie either then! In fact, I know for a fact that since I was hailed as the next big thing on the disabled star front there have been at least three more such fledgling disabled celebs. All of them also tell stories of their star falling as soon as they began asking for the usual level of pay a non-disabled person might receive.

I had hoped that this attitude had died out in 21st Century Britain, but the last week has proved this not the case. While this really did sadden me, it was the fact that as I added my voice to the #2fingersto2pounds Twitter campaign started by Shape Arts I began receiving tweets from disabled people in support of Lord Freud that broke my heart. I read each of them with a growing sense of sadness. I know that many parents of disabled children might think they understand what is means to be disabled, sadly a large number of them cannot shake the impression that disability equals being worth less. It always cuts me to the core when I see that concept has rubbed off on their children. Society has always made us feel lesser and excluded, but our parents should give us the tools to know this isn’t true. My Mother raised me to not only feel equal to my “able boded” school mates but to know I was superior, as I fought and won many battles that they could never even imagine let alone triumph over. It might sound rough blaming the feelings of inferiority of many disabled people on their parents, but remember this whole affair began after one such parent asked Lord Freud a question about paying learning disabled people less than the National Minimum Wage.

Disabled people must not believe that taking less than the NMW will give them a “step up on the ladder”, as expressed by @BhalaSadaBlog in one twitter discussion. Instead it will turn us all into cheap labour, and if we ever dare to ask for what we are worth, even after we have proved ourselves by working to the highest of standards, we will be let go and replaced with another younger disabled person also keen to grab that first step. This £2/hour approach will also devalue all disabled workers, as why pay full whack for a disabled employee when you can get one of the same for so much less? We must not believe what we are told by nearly everyone around us. We are not lessened due to our impairments, we are as good (if not better) than those who have yet to experience disability. Our labour is worth just the same as anyone else’s. Don’t let society carve into to stone what we know to be wrong by allowing this opinion to go unchallenged. So if you agree with me, join the campaign and stick up #2fingersto2pounds.

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Huffington Frenzy and other stories.

 

Mik Scarlet sitting at his desk

Chained to my desk

I have been a busy boy recently.

As August drew to a close, I found myself reflecting on what it means to be getting old. I had just celebrated my 49th birthday, and as my parents were told I wouldn’t make it past the age of 5 the fact that I am nearly 50 really hit home. So I wrote it all down in a piece called Aren’t You Lucky? or Another Birthday, Another Miracle.

Something that I really enjoyed was reviewing some of the shows put on as part of the Unlimited Festival at London’s Southbank at the start of September. In case you missed them here they are;

The Dinner Party Revisited – Katherine Araniello’s fun filled anarchic video performance show.

Guide Gods – Claire Cunningham’s exploration of religion and disability using dance, music and spoken word.

Let Me Stay – Julie McNamara’s one woman show about her Mother and the impact that Dementia has had on her the wider family.

I’ve also written a round up review for PosAbility magazine, that will be in the next issue.

My monthly column in Disability Now covered a recent trip to sunny Margate, and I had another arts review published on the Huffington about the wonderful Penny Pepper’s show Lost In Spaces.

Just as I thought it was time to focus on a series I am currently writing on the topic of bionics (perfect for someone who dreamed of being the Six Million Dollar Man as a child) I found that I had to put finger to key board in reply to an article in The Guardian called “Don’ts aren’t working: Here’s five things you can say to someone with a disability” as I so disagreed with it. As I run training sessions which revolve around techniques for both discussing disability and how to talk to disabled people I thought the piece was troublesome to say the least and so I gave my views on the issue in Cute… But Wrong!

On top of that I carried out some training for Network Rail up in York, and shall be back in October.

Phew, it’s been a busy few weeks. But there can be no rest for the freelancer, and so I shall leave you and get back to work!

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Out of Hospital & Better Than Ever!

Sorry for the radio silence but to be honest I’ve been crazy busy since coming out of hospital.

Luckily everything went well with my surgery and my scar is healing so quickly it already is hard to see. Nice! As part of my recovery I have had to stay in my wheelchair for ever longer periods, and so Diane and I have been going out enjoying the weather. This means I haven’t been focusing on work so much. I should say this is also because my injury was caused by working so hard, so I did find going back to work a little off putting.

Having said that my time in hospital did lead me to write two articles for the Huffington Post, both on the subject of Assisted Suicide. Very current with all that is going on recent;y and as anyone who reads my stuff will know, something I am passionate about. I hope you’ll take the time to read my articles as I think they raise important issues on the subject and give an insight that can often be overlooked in a debate fueled by emotion and fear.

So the first is called When “No” Means “Yes” For “Your Own Good” in the political section of the Huffington. It explores my views on my fears around some of  the medical profession’s attitude towards sick and disabled people and how they might impact on the concept of allwing them to assist those very people to die.

Then I had Assisted to Die or to Live? in the Lifestyle section. This article stemmed from the other disabled people I met in hospital who I feel had not been helped to cope with their new abilities. They were mostly depressed about being disabled. I asked if more focus should not be placed on helping people like them to live happier fulfilling lives and not on helping them end their lives?

I am back to work finally and there should be more to tell you about soon. Next week I am working on a music project with Drake Music, and I even get to sing. Can’t wait. as soon as the project goes live all info will be here!

Right, off to do my vocal exercises.. Meeemeee. Mooomoooo. (Poor neighbours eh?)

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