Busy, Busy, Busy!

At the launch of Disability Sheffield

At the launch of Disability Sheffield

It’s been a crazy couple of months. It started with a trip up to Sheffield to speak and compere at the launch of Disability Sheffield. It’s really great to see so many of these disability led organizations springing up all over the country, giving disabled people a real voice and ensuring we support each other as we fight to achieve equality. Met some great people and hope to go back in 2014.  The Midlands is a hot bed of disability activism for sure.

Telling it like it is at Imperial College

Telling it like it is at Imperial College

Next I gave a speech at Imperial College London as part of their Disability History event. We tend to forget that alongside disabled students, colleges and universities have many disabled staff and this event was to launch the Imperial’s disabled staff forum. Another superb event, run by some really committed people for the benefit of everyone at Imperial. It made Diane’s day as she always wanted to go to Imperial to study Physics. I hope that in the near future I will get the chance to work the Diversity team there, both with the staff and students. One of their big aims for next year is to get more people to identify themselves as disabled and you all know what a fan of disability pride I am… so watch out.

Waiting to see Mr Jones

Waiting to see Mr Jones

Then Diane  and me took some time out for some fun, and went to the 02 Shepherds Bush Empire to see Howard Jones. I was invited by the man himself after we got on so well when I interviewed him for my BBC3CR radio show. I was really looking forward to it, both as we deserved a bit of fun and as it was Howard’s 30th anniversary in the music biz. Synthpop heaven! Sadly the Empire access is pretty poor and before the show got the hits section we had to leave. I won’t bore you with the exact why, but I do wish venues wouldn’t just sit on their laurels and think that temporary access provision that made them legal when the DDA came into effect nearly 20 years ago will suffice forever. I have heard from loads of other disabled gig goers that they also have had problems with the venue. Come on 02, you could make this venue amazing. I am available if you need any advice!

Outside the SIA offices in Milton Keynes

Outside the SIA offices in Milton Keynes

The crazy thing is that only a few days earlier I popped up to Milton Keynes to attend a training session on taking out Equality Act cases. Run by the Spinal Injuries Association and given by disabled lawyer Jonathon Fogerty, it gave everyone who took part the knowledge of how to use the Equality Act to our advantage. I plan to write a fuller blog about what I took away from this day later on, but for now all I can say is The Equality Act – Waste of Space! I am also unsure if you can sue a venue like the 02 Empire as they do have access, it’s just crap.

All smiles at NCCA Xmas drinkies

All smiles at NCCA Xmas drinkies

We were then invited to a Christmas Drinks party at the Langham Hotel on Regents Street for the NCCA as they celebrated the cycle ride across the country by their special Santas, delivering presents to children currently fighting or who recently fighting Neuroblastoma. As this is the type of very rare cancer I had as a baby, and as the charity is also based in Camden, it seemed we were destined to work  together. It was an amazing night, made even more magical when the Santas delivered presents to one survivor and her sister.  It was blissful to see two wonderful little girls (pictured) tearing open the wrapping paper to get at the gifts within, and even more joyful to see their happiness at what they got. And it was only December 2nd! It also made me remember how lucky I am to have beat this cancer, especially as I did it back in the late 1960’s!

Outside the Beeb

Outside the Beeb

Lastly I learned my lines and got myself all ready to attend a special casting even for disabled actors at the BBC. Organised by the Equity Deaf and Disabled Members Committee, the Creative Diversity Network and the broadcasters, it brought together disabled actors and casting directors in an attempt to show how much great disabled acting talent there is out there. It’s a common claim from the broadcasting industry that there isn’t enough disabled talent, and so the DDMC decided to show that was not the case. With the help of Equity staff and the CDN we put this event together so hopefully in the future we will start to see more disabled people in TV dramas. Maybe even me eh? I should also say I am very proud to be the chair of the DDMC at the minute. Another passionate group of disabled people trying to make the world a more equal place.

With Christmas coming up, I doubt things will be letting up either. I do have something else to announce to the world, but that will happen on Monday.

And with that I am off to put my feet up, before it all goes crazy again…..

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Mother’s Day Thanks

I just wanted to go on record as saying thank you to my fantastic Mother, Joyce. She has always been a wonderful mum, loving, caring and supportive. She has always been there for my brother Steve and me, and I am sure that growing up with the knowledge that we are loved unconditionally helped us become the people we are today. This is a photo of all three of us on holiday in Somerset, back in 1980. This is actually the last photograph of me (I’m the one in the middle) walking. The following year, my spine collapsed and I ended up using a wheelchair.

It’s funny, but as you get older you gain an understanding of your parents that was beyond you when you were young. Recently I suddenly grasped how much strain it must have been for my Mother, having me as a son. Not only did she have to cope with her first child being born with cancer, but she was also told that she should not expect him to live beyond the gage of five. I obviously blew that prognosis out of the water, but it did mean that she brought up a child that might die at any point. Not only that but I did seem to keep being quite ill at key stages. Being clear of cancer for 15 years means you are totally cured, so when I was rushed off to hospital a few months after my 15th birthday it must have seemed like a cruel cosmic joke. Luckily it wasn’t cancer, but it did mark a huge change in who I was and how I lived. Time and time again, life does seem to have thrown a spanner into the works whenever it seemed that my Mum could stop worrying about me.

So, even though my Mum won’t see this (She is totally technophobic and has no computer) I felt I should tell the world that I am eternally thankful to my Mum. Through out my life I have had many people tell me that “It’s all right for you” when talking about that apparent way I cope with my disability. I am always mystified by this, and even get quite cross as I do not see that I have some secret trick that makes a disabled person who actually loves what disability brings to my life. However maybe I do. Maybe being raised by someone who made me feel special for being me gave me the ability to feel good about myself all the time? That’s my secret, the strength and confidence that my Mum gave me.

Thank you Mum.

Here’s a poem I wrote for her. It’s called “For Mum”, and the photo is of her holding me while I was in hospital as a baby.

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