Memories of Representation!

On Friday August 22nd I took part in the monthly BBC Ouch Podcast, with presenters Simon Minty and Shannon Murray. It was great to be back at the BBC, to be in a studio covering stories about disability and to be working with such great people. However the whole experience did leave me a little saddened.

Mik outside New Broadcasting House

Outside the Beeb

I was filled with the memories of a time when disabled people were featured on radio and TV so much more often. It might sound crazy to any body who is young reading this, but when I started in the media over 25 years ago disabled people appeared regularly on both TV and radio. All of the TV channels had a regular show dedicated to disability, fronted and made by disabled people and in radio we not only had a dedicated show but disabled people worked in the mainstream all over the air waves. I myself started out in mainstream TV, working on prime time on ITV, before going over to Channel 4’s “yoof” output. I was also picked up the the BBC’s disability show One In Four which was reaching the end of a highly successful run, featuring a team of disabled presenters that were minor household names. When the show ended, the BBC created the Disability Programs Unit, which ensured that all disability based TV was made by entirely disabled production staff as well as being fronted by disabled onscreen talent. They made the series From The Edge, which ran for 10 years, and Over The Edge as well as other award winning shows such as Disabled Century. All made by a team of talented disabled people. The other channels also had specialist disability programs too, but the BBC was most committed to ensuring a visible disabled presence within their output.

In The Studio

In The Studio

What is most important about having shows about disabled people being made by disabled people was the representation was fair and truthful. We made sure no one was exploited and that we always covered a story in such a way to empower those involved. Sadly the landscape of the industry changed as the century came to a close and by the year 2000 all disability TV had been canceled. At the BBC all of the onscreen talent were told we would be “integrated” into the mainstream, but what actually happened was we pretty much all ended up on the dole. After that disabled people disappeared from our screens, and so we ended where we are today. With the exception of The Last Leg and ParaSport I would say disabled people are either invisible or the object of “freak TV”. We now hear that the industry wants to increase the numbers of disabled talent on our screens, but will these moves get anywhere near to the level we once had? I doubt it. Even if they slowly do, will this talent have the ability to control what they are expected to do and be involved in shaping the output as not to create exploitative or unrepresentative programs? I hope so, but I would say that if the programming that has been produced in the last ten years is anything to go by my hope may be misplaced.

Recording in the Bag!

Recording in the Bag!

While it is great that disabled people still have somewhere to go to find out about news that impacts on them, thanks to the podcasts of the BBC, Disability Now and Disability Horizons, it is a real shame that these are the only resources. Especially in a media that has now proliferated and grown in a way we could never have imagined way back when. If there had been a real integration of both the disabled talent and the stories that are of interest to the disabled community then I doubt we would be needing yet another big push to increase disabled people in the media. Instead of creating a representative media back in the late 1990s, we were written out of the industry, with only few people like those at BBC Ouch and the ubiquitous BBC Radio 4 presenter Peter White remaining. So we end up where we are today, with the industry acting like they are doing great things by trying to increase the numbers of disabled people in the media, while not admitting that they are only trying to correct mistakes made decades ago. Disabled people can be great on our screens and working behind the action, and anyone of my age will know this to be true. I mean, without blowing my own trumpet, I won an Emmy in 1992 and was voted Children’s TV Presenter of the Year in the same year. Not disabled presenter, just presenter! To think that back then there were so many disabled faces on our screens your needed both hands to count them! We must get back to those days and keep it that way.

Will Disabled Talent Always Be On The Outside?

Will Disabled Talent Always Be On The Outside?

Right, rant over. One last thing…. of you are a media exec looking for disabled talent…. gizza a job! (Shameful I know…. but if you don’t ask, you don’t get!)

The Podcast is available from the BBC Ouch website now!

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BBC3CR Xmas show now Online!

BBC3CR Xmas 01

Just about to go on air

For everyone who missed my BBC3CR Xmas show, Mik Scarlet’s Festive Fun, here it is.

I would like to thank Ben and Sarah who worked with me in the studio to make everything go so smoothly. A big thank you goes out to my guest in the studio, future Paralympic star George Barnard, who was great to chat with and made it even more fun in the studio.

BBC3CR Xmas Mik&George 02

George, Ben and Mik in the studio

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BBC3CR Xmas Radio Show 27th December 2013!

Yes, it’s nearly time!

On December 27th I will be presenting and DJing on my Xmas radio show Mik Scarlet’s Festive Funtime on BBC 3 Counties Radio.  From 11am to 1pm I will be playing the best in festive tracks, plus some party faves top get you in the mood for NYE, and chating about memories of Christmas past & present, family Xmas traditions, New Years resolutions and hopes for 2014 amoungst other things. It will be the usual Mik Scarlet waffling and fun but with a festive twist.

I will also be joined by local Luton teenager future Paralympian George Barnard, who will be telling me what it’s like to train to be a top level sporty type and giving me the round up of festive sport. As I know nothing about sport I am relying on George to help me through this sports mad time of year.

Tune in… or it will be available on iPlayer and then on this website. No escape then….

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80’s Music show Online

Are you ready to be taken back in time? To a golden age of synth pop, men in make up, big hair, women in suits, lots and lots of hair spray, aftershave that was so strong it knocked your socks off, and parents who just didn’t get it? Well then you’ve come to the right place?

If any of you missed my 80’s music show on BBC 3 CR earlier this year, I have put it online at Tin Decks. So you can listen away or grab it to play on your MP3 player at your leisure. Or you can listen below. I’m so good to you lot.


Upload MP3 and download MP3 using free MP3 hosting from Tindeck.

I just want to say a big thank you to everyone at BBC 3 CR, Howard Jones, Derek and Adrian from Click Click, everyone who sent in messages and requests and of course my amazing wife who danced her way through the show next to me. Also a shout out to Tasos and his film crew who caught the whole thing on video for a documentary. more on that later.

Here’s the full playlist for the show:

First Hour –

New Life – Depeche Mode (3.47)

I Die:You Die – Gary Numan (4.40)

Love Action – The Human League (5.01)

Howard Jones Interview Part 1

What is Love? – Howard Jones (3.40)

Sweet Dreams – Eurythmics (3.57)

Don’t Go – Yazoo (3.08)

Howard Jones Interview Part 2

Things Can Only Get Better – Howard Jones (3.56)

Quiet Life – Japan (4.52)

Planet Earth – Duran Duran (4.01)

Second Hour –

Click Click interview live in the studio

Perfect Stranger – Click Click (4.01)

Follow The Leaders – Kiling Joke (5.38)

Alice – The Sisters Of Mercy (3.35)

Underpass – John Foxx (3.53)

Bedsitter – Soft Cell (3.36)

The Walk – The Cure (3.33)

Ccan’t You See? – Vicious Pink (3.17)

All Stood Still – Ultravox (3.40)

Dynamo Beat – Shock (4.31)

Nowhere Girl – B Movie (4.41)

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80’s Music show this Monday!

It’s getting closer. This Monday, from 2-4pm I will be playing the best in 80’s music and waffling about the fun I had back then. I also have a great chat with Howard Jones and have the Luton based indie synth kings Click Click coming into the studio. So if you fancy some great music (that you don’t usually get to hear on the radio), fun stories and other fun tune in by clicking here – BBC3CR

And if you have any stories from that time I’d love to hear them. So if you do have something to say or a tale to tell, contact the show by either ringing in – 08459 455 555, texting – 81333 – Start your message “3CR”, on Facebook – BBC Three Counties Radio or at Twitter – @BBC3CR.

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Thank Heavens for Hair Dye!

This weekend I finally cracked and reached for the hair dye. Late last year I had a meeting with a BBC exec who advised me that I should update my look, and cut out the peroxide hair. The bleached Billy Idol thing dated me and might put producers off asking me to work on their show. I took the advice and have spent the last 6 months au natural in the barnet department.

At first it was a relief to no longer have to battle to home dye, which can a real pain when you’re a wheelchair user with a metal rod supporting your back. Rinsing the dye off can make you swear never again every time you d it, only to be forgotten when your roots get too much to bare. (I stopped getting my hair dyed at a salon after a disaster so terrible I shall not scar you by recounting it) I must admit I found the colour of my natural hair a bit of a shock. Instead of the colour I remember from when I was a teenager, which was the last age I had natural hair, it transpired I had a much lighter shade of sandy brown. There was a little grey, but not much. In fact I was let down by the amount of grey, as I had always wanted to go white grey like my Granddad. Imagine how much effort I would have saved if under the bleached blonde was a shock of pure white hair! But alas no. My head was topped off with a light brown mop with a smattering of ginger. Where that had come from I had no idea.

I gave the natural thing a go, and hoped that this new look might lead to some work on TV. As I waited by the phone and scanned my Inbox, I found that who I was started to change. I felt my confidence draining away, and the very thing that made me so good as a TV and radio presenter drained away with it. Slowly the desire to get dyeing grew inside me. I began looking at the hair dye section when visiting Superdrug or Boots, and gazed enviously at my wife’s dark purple razor cut. After six months I had heard nothing from the wonderful world of the media, and no longer felt like I was still Mik Scarlet either. Then while my wife was getting some photos ready for my next article in Disability Now, she altered my hair colour using Photoshop. She showed me what I might look like with a selection of different colours and the red won out. The very next day I purchased a box of Live Colour XXL Red Passion.

After some hilarious activity washing the colour off, which did end up with me having an accidental shower over the kitchen sink, I found myself feeling like myself again. Sure I no longer have the peroxide do that I sported through out my earlier career, but having tried the natural experiment coming back to unnatural hair is just so great. So my advice to any of you out there is sod conforming. Be yourself. I know now I have a huge selection of vibrant colours to try out, this period of being boring is over for good.

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