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Sunday, 5 June 2016

Me before you ? Are disabled lives worth less? #liveboldly

So there has been a lot of controversy over the new film by Warner Bros “Me before you”, especially over the pond. I haven’t seen anything on the news about it but plenty over social media and not so many complaining from the UK either. Now I can’t comment on the film as I have not seen it, nor do I intend to see the film it’s a chick flick and not my thing, but I have seen the trailer and the various points made by the disabled community.
Follow the link to see a video from center for Disability Rights

I can honestly say I can see where people are coming from regarding how it portrays disabled people, it basically says one of two things from what I have seen. The first being someone who is disabled needs an abled bodied person to make their life complete and show them how to live and secondly that if you are disabled then your life is over, you’re screwed and it’s not worth continuing with. I do think that some of the comments regarding it sending a message of just kill yourself might be a bit extreme but again I can see how it would seem that way. From as far back as I remember Hollywood has always used the infirm, disabled and disfigured as victims, evil villain (apart from Denzel Washington in The Bone Collector, but that was so ridiculous in my opinion don’t get me started on that one), or a figure of ridicule, needing rescuing or /and unable to do anything for themselves, the feeble side kick. Black actors complain about being left out of the Oscars but disabled actors are left out of the film industry.

I think, for me personally, the biggest issue I have is the fact that there are so many actors out there who have a disability, but Hollywood still pick abled bodied actors to play the roles. Why? Is it as simple as big names draw people and up the coffers in box office sales? Too scared to try an unknown?  I am a member of Amputees in Hollywood and a few years ago I answered a casting call to play Gazelle in The Kingsman due to being a double knee amputee and that was the criteria they were looking for. Lo and behold they picked a perfectly healthy and fit dancer who had both her legs and green screened the running blades. Now fair enough am no stick thin, sporty type far from it,( in fact weebles wobble but don’t fall down would better describe me) but like other people before me the weight could have been lost, I could have worn the running blades and the stunts still would have been carried out using stunt doubles or green screen and wires. However this said I may not have fit the director’s image of how she would look facially or age wise. Each director/producer has an idea or image of how their characters look or sound before casting begins so we can’t just say “you must pick a disabled person to play a disabled role” it’s not that simple, but it would be nice if they looked more at disabled actors first and not just automatically count them out.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see someone who was disabled being the hero for once? Or save the day? Ones I can think of is Rear Window with Christopher Reeve and Dare Devil. Win the girl because of their charm and sex appeal not out of sympathy or compassion. When I do reviews at Film conventions, one of the reasons I try to talk to the actors is to find out how they feel about things like this in the film industry including mental health.

I hope these people that are posting it all over social media and protesting against the message the film is sending, realize that all they are doing is helping fill the film companies’ coffers. As they say in Hollywood there is no such thing as bad publicity. All this is going to drive people who otherwise would not have bothered with the film to go and see what all the fuss is about. However I cannot see the film industry or Hollywood changing the way they act any time soon just because people are protesting, personally I think they will rub their fat, greedy little hands together and pat each other on the back at a job well done and about how the critics and the protesters are lining their pockets. Well played Hollywood, Well played.

Saturday, 4 June 2016


Review by Darren Green photography by Annabelle Clark.
Written by Jennifer Clark

Yet again Event City played host to Showmasters Film and Comic Convention in Manchester.  We sent down two volunteers to scope the venue out, review the event and talk to the cosplayers, attendees and the guests. So off went Annabelle and Darren on the Megabus early on a Saturday morning at 6 am to spend the day at the convention.
The venue was very spacious and easy to navigate for someone in a wheelchair. There where spare wheelchairs near to the entrance of the venue along with the toilets which were very spacious and also extremely accessible. For a change at an event like this there was also plenty of room in the aisle to access vendors, making it relatively easy for wheelchair users or families with prams to move around and view the wares on display.

As usual Showmasters offer free carer tickets upon application (good idea to send a copy of a carer’s letter for proof) for their events which allows one person to access the event for free when accompanying someone who needs assistance to attend an event like this due to ill health or disability. Like other events Showmasters have ran there was no area where someone could take a break if over stimulated, over stressed due to sensory overload and no changing facilities were noticed for older children or adults who may need personal care other than the standard baby changing facilities. Also there was no indication of anywhere for someone in a wheelchair or unable to stand for long periods to obtain a slip giving them preference or return time for autographs and pictures.
This ever popular event was very busy with queues lasting all day for guest’s autographs with the line-up including Michael Biehn best known for his role as Kyle Reese in Terminator and corporal Hicks in Aliens, Ken Kirzinger from Freddy Vs Jason, Noel Clarke from Dr Who and Star Trek and Dave Prowse best known as Darth Vader in Star wars along with many others. Staff where plentiful and available at all times coming across as very calm being able to direct you to where you needed to be and how to help with any issues you might be experiencing. Everything at the event was very well signposted so easy to find and as cosplaying is becoming ever more popular Showmasters had set aside an area for people to change and store their bags and was easily accessible for any one in a wheelchair. Both Darren and Annabelle got changed at the venue into their cosplay outfit and set out to brave the  crowds to look into every nook and cranny, interview attendees cosplaying and non-cosplaying and hopefully some guests to find out what they thought of the event, cosplaying and services on offer.
So Darren managed to talk to some fellow cosplayers regarding their views on the event.
He asked what people liked the most about cosplaying and attending the event and the general consensus was the atmosphere and how friendly everyone was, meeting new people who like the same things. Darren then asked how cosplaying made them feel. Again there were mixed answers to this but feeling that they are popular and people like them, giving them the confidence to approach people and ask questions were some of the most voiced reasons. Encouragement all round from cosplayers that he spoke to on anyone who is thinking of attending a Showmasters event in or out of cosplay and for those people who have always wanted to give it a go a resounding try it. I myself have attended conventions ran by Showmasters in cosplay in my wheelchair and have felt part of one big family where you are accepted no matter what.

So With the thumbs up from the cosplayers it was the turn of the general attendees and what they thought.  There was a mixed reaction regarding Cosplayers ranging from families who attend to see the costumes and the children who look forward to coming face to face with their heroes and posing for a picture and think they add to the event to people who thought that showmasters aimed to much towards the cosplaying community and not enough in providing bigger named stars outside of London or getting comic book artists to attend.
They managed to grab two minutes with legend Dave Prowse before leaving for the long lonely ride home on the mega bus. He was asked his opinion on people cosplaying as Darth Vader and cosplaying in general, if he thought it added to the conventions, “Yes it’s great to see someone dressed as Darth Vader and it is very flattering. Makes me feel like I have achieved something if I have instigated them to cosplay as a character I have played. Cosplaying is an accepted part of these conventions and I love seeing all the different costumes people attend in and all the hard work that has gone into making them.”

So as the sun sets over another successful day for Showmasters in Manchester our two intrepid reporters get changed and wearily tread off for the bus leaving fame and their adoring fans behind them to return to real life. When asked their personal opinions of the convention, services, staff and venue it was a huge thumbs up and well worth the early start.  So still room for some tweaking here and there and work on coordination, but definitely on the right path to make these shows more accessible to everyone.

Saturday, 21 May 2016



I have seen a lot of posts by people lately regarding how to address some one who is disabled or what to say /not say to them

 To be honest I find it all a bit silly

 Am not the most Politically correct person out there but as far as am concerned calling me by my name is fine. Honestly I will even answer to "thingy" or "you" even "Fred" just try not to use Jennifer too much as when I get my full name it usual means am in trouble.

I get it, some people feel that being called "wheelchair bound" "disabled" or "handicapped" (too be honest although am not fussed I try to refrain from the last one as it seems a bit degrading). They feel that these terms and others define them or that they are being defined by their disability. I am an amputee because I have had an amputation, but that does not define who I am. Am lots of things (play nice now), am a mother, wife, daughter, student, blogger, Therapist as well. I am however bound to my wheelchair to some degree, without my wheelchair I would not get very far at all or get out so the term "wheelchair bound" is accurate as far as am concerned. Disabled to me is accurate as well there are lots of things I can not do and I am not abled bodied either.

why do people get so bent out of shape by these terms and the use of them?

I have a theory ( and no its not about bunnies! and if you get that reference high five.).

From most (not all and am by no means taring every one with the same brush here), of the articles I have read there seems to be three types of people that find this terminology offensive:

"The do gooder" - People who have never suffered any kind of disability or health concern in their life but think they have the right to voice an opinion on this subject as an expert.

"The world owes me" - People,  who for what ever reason,  have become more and more bitter over time due to their disability or illness. They feel, rightly or wrongly,what has happened/wrong  to/ with them that it is every bodies fault ( I get this to some degree, its not easy to keep a positive outlook going every single day when you feel so useless and / or limited by whats wrong and the world will not accept you for you and most activities or places are not accessible, every one has their off days). But really? The world doesn't owe you jack squat mate! Yes maybe a helping hand now and then to do things or access places.  Use what you have to your advantage, make the most of it and start living because before you know it life has just passed you by.

"My life is over or why cant this have happened  to some one else"  -  People who have ended up with an illness or becoming disabled later in life through no fault of their own. Again I understand. One minute being healthy and able to do any thing or go any where, your future looking bright and shinny and the world at your feet, to within 24 hours having all this ripped away from you. It is a hard pill to swallow. It is also a bloody hard thing to get used to and come to terms with -  fighting pain, depression, friends walking away because they don't know how to react or cope, people staring, suddenly having limits put on as to what you can do, places you can go or even things you can wear.  ( I went through all of this for nearly a year and a half then decided I had enough. Now I wear what I want, I pimp my prosthesis and rock Darth Vader on one of them, wear shoes that make people stare and generally make the world bend to me.) I understand that this takes time , but some people just never adjust, adapt and learn to live with it they are too busy lamenting what they have lost.

How about instead of trying to define what we should and should not be called or what "boxes" "abled" bodied people put disabled people in, or in fact whether or not people should or should not help us with bags or opening bloody doors for us , why don't we just agree that we are just people with a difference? What terminology is used really doesn't matter does it? not unless it is meant in a bullying, nasty, creepy kind of demoralizing way. Unless some one is deliberately putting you down you define who you are, you put the limits on yourself its not a "us" and "them" thing, or at least it shouldn't be. The government have already tried to turn society against us people do not need to be helping them to do that. The next time some one asks what you like to be called make a joke or light of it , it an only offend if you choose to let it. The next time some one offers you help be grateful and smile, the next time some one opens a door for you say thank you you ungrateful git. The barriers are there and they will never go if people start to make other people feel uncomfortable to approach or help, terrified to say anything to us or engage with us or even invite us some where in case they offend, upset or seen to discriminate.