Accessible Tourism Films

I’ve let my website slide recently, mostly as I’ve been really busy with work. Alongside my usual stuff, I landed an amazing job working with Martyn Sibley, Sophie Morgan and Chelsey Jay as part of a presenting team fronting a series of videos about accessible tourism for the website Britain Is Great.

I was lucky enough to be sent to the Norfolk Broads, a region I have always wanted to visit and it fell in love. Stunning countryside with so much to do and such a dedication to making it accessible. I can’t wait to go back. In the meantime here is the film I made.

As well as going yachting I also got to try something else I’ve never done before, going up the Shard. Now I’m afraid of heights but this was something I had to do, and boy was it worth it. To be so high above London was breath taking and yet again the access was second to none. Here’s that film.

On top of these great films I did two on using Scotrail trains to get around Scotland. As soon as they are live I’ll put up the links.

I am really proud of these films, and to have worked for the production company Geocast TV. A great bunch who shoot superb films. I really hope they have me back.

 

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Wright Stuff – Tastic!

I did it! I went on The Wright Stuff! A show I’ve watched since it started way back when almost every day, and I’ve been in it! OK Mik, calm down dear. In fact way back when the show first stated I was in talks to come on, but as  I was very ill with an undiagnosed spinal injury at the time so couldn’t make it. Since then I have watched jealously as different people appeared on the show, but now I am one of those faces who got the chance to air their views on the news of the day!

Mik holding up a Wright Stuff mug with panel members behind him

It went really well and allowed me to explain both my views on many of the issues facing disabled people today but highlight the Scope campaign End The Awkward, which I have written several blogs for and appeared in a couple of short films. More than that, I then proved that disabled people are more than their disability by having opinions on other subjects! Yes, I know.

Mik with the Wright Stuff panelIt was  real honour to appear on the show, especially with the panel of the amazing columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and poet Murray Lachlan-Young, who I worked with oh so long ago on Wham, Bam, Strawberry Jam. Matthew Wright is such a professional, as he was fighting a real pig of a cold, and he was a real joy to work with. Watching him work makes it look easy, but trust me his job is one of the hardest in TV. Live, every day, chatting with the public? All he needs is a load of kids and animals to put the cherry on the tough job cake. Of course I’d love to give it a try, hint hint! (If you ever need a stand, or sit, in Matthew I’m in!)

Mik Scarlet wit Matthew WrightYou can watch the show until Monday on Demand 5 here, with a little taster clip being found here

All I hope now is that they ask me back. Hint, hint… again!

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The Wright Stuff

The Wright Stuff LogoOMG! This Monday, November 2nd, I will be appearing on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff as a panelist. Debating the stories of the day hosted by the amazing Matthew Wright, I have wanted to appear on this show ever since it started. During the first series I was in discussion with the production company but sadly I was too ill to make it when they wanted me. It later transpired I had broken my back again, so it was a good excuse. Anyway, I then underwent loads of treatment, my career did a tumble and ended up healthy but no longer well known enough to go on the show. Boo! I’m not sure I’m anywhere near the level of fame I was back then, but whatever the reason I am going on The Wright Stuff. (Mik now does a little dance). So tune in from 9.15am to 11.10am on Monday and see what happens! If you can’t see it in person then Channel 5 on demand or Sky+ it. Can’t wait! Wish me luck!

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What’s the weather like Mik?

Is the BBC ready for Mik?

Is the BBC ready for Mik?

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?

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Photos on Flickr.

Just uploaded some photos to Flickr. The first set of the rehearsals for the up coming Model’s of Diversity fashion show, Catwalk 4 Change.

Then there’s some taken from behind the scenes at my appearance on ITV’s This Morning, where  I was debating Assisted Suicide (again). Video to follow soon.

Lastly I’ve put up photoset of the TV shoot for the pilot of Mind the Gap. So great to get back behind the camera. Let’s hope the show gets commissioned and goes to air… with me as presenter please folks.

Right that’s enough photos for now…. but they’ll always be more….

 

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Whatever next?

I just had to put finger to keypad to express my feelings over a phenomenon that has recently appeared on the nation’s TV screens… adverts featuring disabled people!

During my career in the media, which will enter it’s 25th year in 2013, I have discussed the lack of disabled people in advertising with several ad execs, normally at boozy media parties. They all told me that the industry was all about image and impression. The big worry was that if they used disabled actor or models it might create a subconscious association in the public’s mind between the product being advertised and disability, thus making people feel the product might be sub standard or in some way less. Invalid you might say. Whether it’s true or not, in the advertising world the product’s the thing so anything that might damage the product’s image is a no no. So hence no disabled people.

Occasionally someone in the industry decides to buck this trend and we have popped up in an ad. A big one was the advert for a brand of trainer (I can’t remember which one so that didn’t work eh?) which featured a group of wheelchair racers. Sure it was great to see disabled people in an ad and it was everywhere, but I always felt that the exec who had the idea kind of missed the point. As a wheelchair user I still own shoes and boots I purchased over a decade ago and they look like new. As training shoes are designed to make running easier, safer and more comfortable the idea of using wheelchair users to advertise them just can’t make the viewer focus on these selling points. It was obviously done to gain publicity, which it did very well. Doubt it old more shoes though.

I have even auditioned for parts in adverts myself, but I only ever landed a part in an ad for transmission in France. I have no idea what the ad was for as I don’t speak French. The most recent rejection was for a major department store and instead of a real wheelchair user the part of “father in wheelchair” went to a non-disabled actor who had his leg put in plaster. This clearly demonstrated that the condition the character was in was temporary, was something most people could identify with and so would have no subconscious impact on the advert’s target audience.

So I was stunned to see not one but TWO television adverts that feature disabled people hit our screens in short succession. Just like buses, you wait for ages and then two come along at once. The first is a Barclay’s Bank ad which features a wheelchair using amputee. It makes no mention of his disability and he is just a typical bank customer, which is really refreshing.

Without being too criticial, I am unsure why an amputee who has such a high tech and expensive prosthetic leg would use a wheelchair to visit his bank. I do wonder if someone in a brainstorming session said “we need a wheelchair”, and so any one with a wheelchair would do. The guys chair is obviously a sports chair, so if he was playing basketball in the ad it might makes sense. I do wonder if having the guy walk in on his new robot leg would have made an equal impact. But hey, this might just be soar grapes as I didn’t even hear about the audition. What is my agent doing? Whatever the nuances of the ad, it’s a big step, or wheel, forward.

But the advert that makes me smile every time I see it, and that fills my heart with a feeling of hope, is the superb Dove shampoo ad “Feeling is believing”. This is everything that adverts should be and more. The most amazing thing about the ad is that it uses the featured lady’s disability as a vehicle to demonstrate the USP of the product. She’s blind and so she can’t see her hair but she knows how fantastic her hair looks by the way it feels. This ad uses disability as part of the selling process which is a massive leap forward.

I am sure that some visually impaired people out there might worry that it does play into the stereotype that of you loose your sight your other senses become better, but I don’t know if I would agree. To me this ad marks a change that I hope carries on forever. Maybe we’ll see a wheelchair user advertising hand soap next. Let’s face we always end up with dirty hands with all the filth that is on our streets so if a soap gets my hands clean it really works. It’s that kind of thinking that makes the Dove ad stand out to me and long may it continue.

But why have things changed suddenly, in such a short space of time? Well firstly let’s keep our fingers crossed that it isn’t a flash in the pan. Hopefully we now start seeing disabled people in advertising, both as part of the real world and as models and featured characters. I know that many in the Paralympic movement claim that this year’s games will change the way society thinks about disability and perhaps this is the first sign that they are right. Maybe the advertising industry has just decided the time is right to be more inclusive. Whatever the reason, if we want this to mark a change in the way advertising works then all disabled people can do is go out a buy the products. Actually I should take this opportunity to congratulate the people involved in both of these adverts. Keep up the good work and don’t let anyone in your industry tell you you’ve made a mistake. No one will associate your product with negativity. In fact I am sure that the Dove ad will actually make the product fly off the shelves.

Remember this moment folks. It might be the beginning of a real change and be one we talk about to our grand kids. I’m off to buy some shampoo and I know which product I’ll be purchasing!

Before I go I just had to show you an American ad from Nike that just shows how far ahead they are in the US. Disability, product placement and HUMOUR! And it makes me want to go out and Just Do It!

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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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What The F**k? or Has The World Of TV Gone Mad?

I have just seen an advert for a new Channel 5 show featuring Tamara Ecclestone Billion Dollar Girl and find myself mystified as to who the hell watches this crap. At a time of recession, where the government is slashing the services and benefits of those at the bottom of the heap, who really wants to see a “reality” show about a spoilt little rich girl? Why would any TV company think that this is the right time to make such a show?

Last weekend I compared at the Hardest Hit Rally in Brighton, where a large number of disabled people came out to make their voices heard about how the government’s policy of cutting benefits is really effecting them and making their lives incredibly difficult. I heard many people talk about their worries and panic regarding how the cuts and changes will make it impossible continue to live independent and happy lives. Speaking to many of the people there I discovered facts about the proposed changes to those benefits awarded to disabled people and some of them made no sense. One shocking change is that the Mobility part of DLA, or the new PIP, will stop at the age of 64. Now what actually happens to people with mobility issues at the age of 64 that means they no longer need help with getting around is beyond me. I would have thought that many people, even non-disabled people, will end up becoming worse at getting around as they get older and so be entitled to more financial help not less… or none.

But then that is what is really behind these changes and cuts. It’s not making the benefits system fairer or target those who really need it, it’s just a way of saving money. As we now live in a society where the number of older people is growing massively, any payment that goes towards helping people who develop problems with mobility will end up being paid to more and more people who really are entitled to it. Oh dear, that will cost us more… what shall we do? Just get rid of the benefit, not caring if this means more and more people are left in real financial difficulty and loose their independence. (I feel at this point I should mention that many people who receive the mobility payment put it towards getting a Motability hire car. Motability is one of the biggest fleet car companies in the UK and plays a massive role in keeping the UK car industry afloat. With out it countless jobs will go, damaging our economy hugely) And that’s just one of the changes that will have a real effect on people who do not have much money to start with.

Now maybe that would be OK if we lived in a society where everyone was poor or at least feeling the effects of recession, but it is criminal that while some are living in fear about how they will be able to afford to live others are so rich they can throw money away. How can it be OK that billionaires are out buying massive yachts, ridiculous sports cars and house after house costing huge sums that they only live in for a few days a year when others are terrified about being able to heat their home this winter? Ms Ecclestone is currently redecorating a mansion in Kensington that is worth 45 million pounds, so she will never have to worry about making ends meet will she? Yes I know I’m a rabid lefty, and so obviously this huge disparity in wealth offends me but even if you don’t think there is something wrong with the rich being so rich while others freeze, surely you do see that making a TV show about the rich spoilt daughter of one the those billionaires is in bad taste?

As well as the timing and subject, the thing that really grinds my gears is that the star of this show is already super wealthy, yet she will be getting paid for the show and will earn even more money because of the publicity she will receive from it. We already have the awful Made In Chelsea on Channel 4, filled with vacuous rich kids hamming it up for our “entertainment” but Billion Dollar Girl is a step too far. I for one will not be watching this waste of time and have no idea who will.

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Showreel-tastic

I spent the weekend encoding and uploading a pile of old video clips from my TV presenting career, as well as editing a new showreel. I’ve now got that online too, and here it is….

What was really weird was having to sit and watch myself presenting, especially as the clips span a period of nearly ten years. I normally never watch myself, but I’m kind of glad I did. Not only because there is no way I will ever get any work with out a showreel but because it gave me a chance to actually realize I wasn’t half bad. Now I won’t blow my own trumpet too much. Just not me, but I do think that perhaps I was a bit too British in my past reticence at actually watching to work I did. Yes, of course I was a bit embarrassed at seeing yourself the way others see you and as I am always sure I am in need of a diet, I thought it was easier to do the whole “I never watch what do darling” thing that so many media types do. Now I have had to watch myself back as I coping hour of VHS tapes onto my computer, not only did I like what I saw but I also could see what I was doing wrong. If only I had made myself watch in the past I would have got even better at my job.

But this isn’t what I wanted to blog about. Something that struck me while I watched the most recent of my box of VHS tapes was how almost all of it revolved around disability based stories. Yes of the stuff I did with From The Edge had to be, as it was a disability magazine program, but also the news stuff, and some stuff I didn’t upload. But it was really good stuff. Fun items that would have been enjoyable to watch whether or not the viewer was disabled. Some pieces were thought provoking, some just light, some campaigning and some very political. All really good. Well written, filmed, edited and presented… watch it, don’t get too big headed there. But most of all what struck me was the language. It was so great to watch a good few hours of TV about disability and not hear “brave”, “courageous”, “tragic” or any other of the standard disability words… other than in the two items on the use of language of course.

It crazy to think that the oldest of these items was filmed in 1999, yet the media industry has gone backwards in it’s portrayal of disability. With the Paralymics coming up, and all the media gearing up for a frenzy of coverage I just hope they remember how well it used to be done. Whatever each Paralympic sports person achieves, they aren’t brave or courageous. Just bloody good at sport, after years of training and effort. Let’s hope we manage to get to enjoy coverage that avoids the standard clichés in 2012. And if anyone involved in making that coverage needs any help or guidance, take a look at my showreel. And if you need a presenter, give my agent a ring… please!

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